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A look at the model

Metacognition: The key to success?

Anxiety reduction tips and techniques

Assessing preferences

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

About the author

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)



Motivation can be influenced greatly by your purpose in learning this concept/subject. Often difficult subjects are forced upon us (e.g., math, chemistry, history) as a requirement. Frustration can occur when it is required and it is an area we dislike, feel inadequate in, or have had past failures in. Continuing negative motivators can drastically inhibit learning and success.

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

  1. Identify negative motivators (negative thoughts, negative memories, negative visions, negative attitude towards succeeding). Begin re-programming negative inhibitors with positive ones.
  2. Assess your knowledge base in this area and any gaps, strengths, and weaknesses you are already aware of.
  3. Identify reason for learning and depth of learning striving for. (If it is 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 support systems available for this course/concept/area.
    • 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. Assess your time, looking at time commitments (required), time robbers (optional), and times of opportunity (uncommitted times). We all have 168 hours in a week, no matter who we are, how much we have, or what we do. Assessing time commitments and identifying study times within those commitments can enhance learning and success. (You may want to fill out a time/demand schedule worksheet.)
  6. Motivation can be the key to being able to acquire new knowledge. Often the hardest subjects are left to last when we are the most tired and least likely to be able to assimilate new information.
    • Do the hardest or least liked first and "reward" yourself with more enjoyable studies.
    • Chunk the hard subjects into smaller pieces with frequent breaks, rewards, and affirmations for tackling the worst first. (some subjects you may need to take a break every 20-30 minutes where others may be fine to go an hour or more without a break)
  7. Breaks can be moments or minutes. A quick break may be simply looking up from a text, scanning the room, and focusing on something pleasant or treasured for a few moments to give your mind and eyes a rest. Be careful of the trap of turning on the TV, cleaning, or other tasks that can distract you from your learning/study goal.
  8. Plan your studying, homework, test preparation, and papers to be completed days ahead of deadlines on the hardest subjects to give yourself the chance to get help if needed.
  9. Pre-read and pre-study the harder subjects. Have an idea what the instructor will be presenting to allow yourself a chance to identify questions or difficult areas and be more ready for new information. Maybe even make notes of questions or problem areas before the class.
  10. Use your textbook effectively. Many of today's texts have glossaries, help/tips, margin notes, intros &/or summary of concepts presented, practice questions or applications, CD/DVDs, or web sites for practice or assistance.
  11. Plan an average of 2-3 hours for homework for each hour of class.
  12. Plan extra time for studying for difficult subjects. If possible take a lighter load in number of credits or type of other classes. Give yourself the time needed to learn successfully.
  13. Try to develop a study time that works best for you and begin to build it as a habit. (Some people work best in the early morning; others may be night owls--unfortunately, time commitments and schedules may not give you your preferred time choices.) If you have siblings or children at home, a house-mandated study-time/quiet-time/or reading-time might work (no TV during that block of time). Everyone is required to study or read quietly.
  14. Once a day, formally or informally assess learning/study time needs and plans for amount of time, content, support needed, location, and goals for that day's study session(s). If you use a daytimer or time organizer, actually schedule your study sessions as commitments; if not, consider using one.

Motivation can be the key to enable acquisition, retention, and performance. Try one or more strategies above. As you become comfortable with a new strategy, feel free to try others from above. You may want to start with strategies that seem logical and doable for you.

NEXT: Acquisition Strategies -->

Last update: July 15, 2007
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