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Metacognition: The key to success?

Anxiety reduction tips and techniques

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The research basis for the strategies, tips, and techniques presented

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Frequently asked questions (FAQs)



Often subjects or concepts may be difficult or frustrating when you have little knowledge or experience, or have had previous problems understanding new information. Acquisition is gaining an understanding of the new information being learned. New information typically will be from the textbook, homework, activities, or presentations. Strategies for success in acquisition of new information include study-reading, note-making, and/or connecting new information to previous base of knowledge (constructivism).

Strategies (numbered, but not sequential): Pick one or more that you wish to implement and assess any effects.

  1. Effectiveness in acquiring new information can depend on the similarity of background and experience you have (readiness for the information). Some strategies to help prepare yourself to be more ready for the new information include:
    • pre-read material before a lecture
    • read the preface in a book or the introduction to a chapter
    • identify and review supplemental instructional resources available (e.g., CDs/DVDs, web resources, practice tests)
  2. Assess your knowledge base in this area and work to fill any gaps, add background information, and feel more able to understand how the new information to be learned will fit into your current knowledge framework.
  3. Identify depth of learning you are striving for. (Is it a required course not in your field, a foundational course in your field that others will build on, or part of a sequence you need to complete?)
  4. Identify information support systems for acquisition of new information for the course(s) you want to focus on.
    • instructor's office hours (or grad assistants)
    • tutoring (formal or informal):
      First check with your Learning Support Center for free tutoring options i.e., drop-in, study groups, appointment, supplemental instruction, or online tutoring options.
      You can also check campus bulletin boards or publications or even advertise for help (be sure it is someone who knows the content and can present strategies for success).
    • set-up a study group of peers from the class (peer study groups of three to five can be very effective in making learning easier for all--maybe meet before or after class, or on "off" days)
    • mentor (an expert in it who can explain it and make it easier to understand)
  5. Acquiring new knowledge involves time with the new information to understand it and a context for it. Understanding where and how to fit the new information into a contextual framework can make learning it easier and less frustrating. Try to anticipate how and where the new information fits and how you will be able to apply and use it.
  6. Use study-reading techniques (i.e., SQ3R below, SQ4r, PREP) to learn the new information. Study-reading techniques usually include some or more than the following steps:
    • Survey or preview the material to be read, setting a purpose and context for the new information.
    • Identify or anticipate Questions to be answered as you read.
    • Read each chunk (a paragraph or other logical chunk information) and identify at least one question and answer for that chunk. (Note: In concept dense subject matter, each chunk may contain and need multiple questions and answers).
    • Recite and mark or write the questions and answer within each chunk.
    • As you complete each chapter or section assigned, Review your questions and answers and make sure they are connected and make sense.

    Study-reading is a slower process than simply reading the material, but it can be effective in helping you to identify new information, set a purpose and context to connect it to your own knowledge and experience, and practice it in context while learning it.

  7. In addition to study-reading, another powerful technique for learning and understanding new information is what we will call "Note-making" (Christ, SRSEII), instead of note-taking, because when you make notes, you organize information to be able to understand the new information in its context. If you take good notes that allow you to identify the new information and its relationships to the other information presented, then skip this one. If not, following are some tips to help you be more effective in Note-making:
    • Use ink for a higher contrast with the paper, to make it easier to see and read (pencil can smudge).
    • Leave lots of space that may be needed later in case additional info is given or you choose to fill in additional notes later.
    • Leave a wider margin at the left (maybe twice what is there). The expanded left margin space is where you will add margin notes of key words or phrases that describe what that section of notes is discussing.
    • Make notes in an outline or concept mapping format (whichever works for you), but make sure you can see the relationship of ideas to one another.
    • After each session, take a few minutes to finish filling in your notes as soon as possible after a class. Use this time to also identify key words or ideas in the margin (if not already done) to provide a cue to the information in that section.
    • Review your notes before starting the homework or the reading assigned. Make notes about any connections or relationships you identify.
  8. Use your textbook effectively. Many of today's texts have glossaries, help, tips, margin notes, intros, summaries, practice questions, or applications. In addition, many come with CDs, DVDs, or websites for practice or assistance. Identify and use textbook helps appropriate for you in this subject.
    • Do not be afraid to write in your textbooks. Add notes of your own in the margins or highlight any appropriate notes provided by authors in your textbooks.
    • You can add information from the textbook, websites, CDs, or DVDs into your notes or make vocabulary cards.
  9. Plan extra time for the study-reading and notemaking activities. Give yourself the time needed to learn successfully. Use your daily study time (#13 under motivation) to assess your study needs, review your notes, and do your study-reading.
  10. Assess any areas of concern, identify additional resources needed, and decide how and when you will use them. (You might contact the Learning Support Center for a list of drop-in times for a tutor in this subject.

Acquisition can be the key to enable retention, and performance. Try one or more strategies above. As you become comfortable with one or more, feel free to try any others from above that seem logical and usable.

NEXT-->Retention Strategies

Last update: July 15, 2007
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