Ten Rules of Bad Studying (adapted and plagiarised from Barbara Oakley PhD)

On the back of the document Barbara Oakley used to describe good studying and learning (see previous post) she also described Ten Techniques seen in Bad Learning.  These should “all be avoided as they can waste your time even while they fool you into thinking you are learning”.  You have been warned…

1. Passive re-reading. Sitting passively and running your eyes over a page.  Unless you can prove to yourself that the ideas are moving into your brain by recalling the main ideas without looking at the page, re-reading is a waste of time.

2. Letting highlights overwhelm you.  Highlighting text can fool you into thinking you are putting something in your brain,when all you are doing is moving your hand! A little highlighting here and there is ok but so often I see students who have basically coloured their notes in….  Use sparingly to flag up one or two important points per page, but no more than that please….

3. Merely glancing at mark schemes and model answers and thinking you could do it.  This is one of the worse errors students make while studying according to Dr Oakley.  You need to be able to solve a problem step-by-step (or answer a question one point at a time) without looking at the solution or mark scheme.

4. Waiting until the last minute to study.  Well we are less than 18 hours away from the main iGCSE exam so I hope none of you have done this!  Would you cram at the last minute if you were competing at an athletics event?

5. Repeating solving problems of the same type that you already know how to solve.  I see this a lot in Biology – students repeatedly practising the easy questions on topics they already know they understand. Waste of time!

6. Letting study sessions with friends turn into chat sessions.  Revision with friends can be fun as it allows you to check your problem solving, quiz each other and expose flaws in your thinking.  But there is a risk and that is that the fun can come before the learning and then you are all wasting your time….

7. Neglecting to read the textbook before working on problems/past papers.  I see this a lot too – students dive into past papers from the internet without bothering to read the textbook or try to learn the topics thoroughly. Would you dive into a swimming pool before you learn how to swim?  The textbook is your swimming instructor – so pay attention and work at it.  Past papers are conning you that you are revising if this is the first thing you do.

8. Not checking with your teachers to ask for help.  Teachers expect students to come to ask for help – it is our job to help you prepare for exams after all.  The students we worry about are the ones who don’t come in for help.  Don’t be one of those students.

9. Thinking you can learn deeply when you are being constantly distracted.  “Every tiny pull toward an instant message or conversation means you have less brain power to devote to your learning. Every tug of interrupted learning pulls out the tiny neural roots before they can grow.”

10. Not getting enough sleep.  I have written about this several times before and it is a biggy…. I am delighted Barbara Oakley shares my point of view.    Your brain pieces together problem-solving techniques and understanding when you sleep.  It also repeats and practises what you have put into your mind before you sleep.  Prolonged fatigue builds up toxins in the brain that disrupt the neural connections you need to think quickly and well.  If you don’t get a proper sleep before a test or exam, nothing else you have done will matter.  So please take note and go to bed tonight!


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