Hi, I’m Dr. Stephen Chew. I’m a professor of psychology here at Samford
University in Birmingham, Alabama. This is the first in a series of videos on
how to study effectively in college. Attending college is a huge transition, and
the academic challenge of college-level course work is a big part of it. We made these videos to help students to make
that transition; the information will be helpful, though, to people in almost any learning situation. I’m a cognitive psychologist, which means
I study how people learn and think. I’m going to be explaining to you the basic
principles of how people learn best. And you can use those principles to increase
the effectiveness of your study. I’m not pedaling any quick fixes or magic
products that are going to make you an “A” student overnight with little effort. Such things don’t exist. The bottom line is this: if you use ineffective
or inefficient strategies, you can study long and hard and still fail. But, if you use effective learning strategies,
you can get the most learning out of your study time. In this first video, we will examine your
beliefs to see how accurate an understanding you have about how people learn. All students base their study behavior on
their beliefs about how they best learn. Do I need to go to class? Do I need to read the textbook? How much do I have to study material before
I’ve mastered it? The more accurate your beliefs, the more effectively
you will learn. Let’s start with some common misconceptions
about how people learn that I call, “Beliefs That Make You Stupid”. If you hold these beliefs, chances are they’re
undermining your learning. Most first-year college students grossly underestimate
the time required to complete assignments or study materially effectively. I hear students say things like, “Dr. Chew,
you’re going to be proud of me. I read 8 chapters last night.“ And I’ll think, “No you didn’t. You skimmed 8 chapters, but you learned virtually
nothing.” Truly comprehending material takes careful
reading and, more importantly, review. Always plan for assignments to take longer
than you think, and always plan to have your reading finished for an exam well enough in
advance to give yourself multiple days for review. A hallmark of students who are struggling
is that they study by trying to memorize isolated facts. Unfortunately, many textbooks encourage this
by putting key terms in bold print and listing definitions in the margins. So students get note cards, write out the
definitions and memorize them. The problem is that good teachers test for
comprehension, how well you understand the concept. You simply don’t get that if you memorize
isolated facts. Many students believe that people are naturally
good or bad at a subject, and nothing can be done to change that. But, academic success is much more a matter
of hard work than inborn talent. Students say to me, “Dr. Chew, you don’t
understand. I’m really bad at math.” I tell them, “No, Tyler, you can do it. You just need to really work hard at math.” You have to commit the time and hard work
necessary to succeed. Now I recognize that people have jobs, families,
and other obligations, but you have to recognize that the time you have will limit your likelihood
of success. But time and hard work alone do not guarantee
success. A lot of students believe they are good at
multitasking because they do it all the time. So they study while texting, checking social
networks, e-mail, and having other distractions. The problem is that these students never compared
their performance while multi-tasking to their performance when they focus on one task without
distraction. The research evidence is overwhelming that
we are bad at multi-tasking. We are bad especially if one of the tasks
involves concentration and effort, like studying. What we are good at is fooling ourselves into
believing that we are good at multi-tasking because all those distractions are more fun
than studying. But in order to succeed, you need to reduce
or, even better, eliminate all these distractions. For every distraction you have, you reduce
the amount you learn, increase the time it takes to understand the material and increase
the chance for a bad grade. So, those are the beliefs that can sabotage
your learning. Now I want to introduce a new concept that
can have a huge impact on your learning. It’s called “metacognition”. Metacognition refers to your awareness of
how well you truly understand a concept. Accurate metacognition is one of the key differences
between successful and struggling students. Weaker students are grossly overconfident
in how well they understand the material. As a result, weaker students don’t study
as much as they need to truly understand the material. They take an exam. They’re confident they have done well. Then they are stunned when they find out they’ve
done poorly. Let’s see how this works. A few years ago in my General Psychology class,
I did the following. At the end of the first exam, I had students
estimate what percentage of the questions they got right from 0 to 100%. I then created this graph of everyone in the
class based on their actual exam performance, and how they estimated they did. Each point represents a student. If students had an accurate view of how well
they knew the material and how well they did on the exam, their estimate should match their
actual performance, and they should score on the diagonal. If they did better than expected on the exam,
their points will fall above the diagonal. If however, they were overconfident in how
they did, their point would fall below the diagonal. Look at the results. There are a few students who scored above
the diagonal and did better than expected. But most students scored below the diagonal,
showing they thought they scored better than they actually did. Now, look at the upper right-hand corner of
the graph. These are the students who did best on the
exam. Notice how most of these students are clustered
around the diagonal. Now, look at the middle of the graph. Here are the students who did poorly, and
most of their points are far below the diagonal. It was the weakest students who were the most
overconfident. They had poor metacognition. After the exam, I’ll have students who did
poorly tell me, “I felt so confident after the exam.” Or, “I thought I really knew the material.” These are all signs of poor metacognition. These students were underprepared, overconfident
and completely unaware of those facts. The problem for college freshmen is that they
spent years honing their sense of metacognition for high school. Now they come to college and their sense of
metacognition is all wrong. A big transition in the freshman year is developing
a more accurate sense of metacognition. The problem with poor metacognition is that
it may indicate that you have poor study strategies. The hallmark of a poor study strategy is that
it builds over-confidence without increasing actual learning. So, therefore, you have poor metacognition. In order to improve your study effectiveness,
you need to improve your study skills. That will be the topic of the next video.