March 20, 2010

Why I Don’t Hand Out Study Guides

Posted in Helpful Hints, teaching revelations tagged , , , , , , at 2:39 am by profart

The great debate rages on: to give study guides, or to not give study guides. That, my friends, is the question.

Dear students, I don’t do study guides for one simple reason: you should be creating them yourself.

That’s right. A key skill in college classes is understanding what concepts, terms, objects, items, etc. are important, and be taking notes about them, both in lecture and while reading. If you didn’t pick up this skill in high school, I’ll give you some hints:

Lectures and reading usually have some thread of connection. If you hear of something in both places, write it down.

If the professor writes about it on the board, write it down.

Listen to the inflection. Is the professor stressing words, concepts, terms with their voice? Write it down.

Is it bolded or italicized in the text? Why?

Does it appear on quizzes, reviews, or other assignments? Probably important.

Just give it some thought: its all important, or we wouldn’t be wasting time presenting it to you. Your job is to understand the material enough to pick out what is absolutely vital, and be prepared to discuss it intelligently.

After all, real-life is often closed-book analysis, not open-book regurgitation. When your boss is droning on about a project, what information do you actually need? How do you know?

I have discovered the hard way that if I hand out a study guide, the students memorize that, and nothing else. If anything strays from that “guide”, the whining is incredible. You get positively trashed on your evals. Nowadays, the dean will get an earful, too. Grumpy deans are no fun.

Next time, don’t ask about study guides. Bring your notes to the review or the office hour, and ask questions about material you don’t understand or connections you didn’t quite see for yourself, even after they were explained. Make your own study guide.

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