About 75% of the students in my Human Biology class at WSU are in their first year of college. A key skill beginning students like these need to develop is knowing how to study and learn in the college environment. The adjustment from high school can be very abrupt, and many of my beginning students are surprised that just showing up to class and copying down notes is no longer sufficient to achieve high success. As a result, I use assignments that create a high degree of course structure and incentivize good study and learning habits.
The primary assignment I use to help students develop strong study skills is a daily informal assessment of their learning progress and deficiencies. After every class meeting the students complete a “Daily Reflection” assignment where they briefly describe one interesting thing they learned, something that they still find confusing, and their upcoming study plans. My goal is to give students the opportunity to consider at least one concrete item they might spend extra time reviewing or discussing with classmates, and to show them a running list of their self-described learning and study habits.
These Daily Reflections are repetitious – by design! The assignment serves to remind students to spend small amounts of time studying course material on a regular basis, a much more effective way of learning information than long cram sessions immediately before exams. I get plenty of student push-back, which I address with a lesson on how learning and memory work, and why small, regular study sessions are more effective than cramming.