How to Improve Students’ Attitudes Towards Study Skills
Study skills have earned a bad “rap” over the years for many reasons:
- Students think they are “boring” because many boring things are lumped together with study skills.
- Students think they mean a lot of extra work because many of the “free” study skills online are very labor-intensive and time-intensive.
- Students think they must be “stupid” if they need study skills because most schools do not teach students how to learn until there are at-risk and remedial situations. (DON’T GET ME WRONG…I’m not calling any students “stupid,” I’m simply saying this is the perception from students.)
So, it was no surprise when we received this question from a teacher:
I have been using the SOAR® material for about four weeks to teach “study skills” to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. Personally, I love the information and the materials. I find everything very useful and it all has a purpose. However, I have a big challenge getting my 8th graders to buy into the class; they don’t feel as though they need the class. Any tips or ideas that you have for that would be greatly appreciated!
I understand Jennifer’s concern. When I teach study skills classes, my students often come to the first class complaining that “study skills are boring.” They sit with arms crossed, their heads down, backs sunk into their chair. Everything about their body language says…”There is NO WAY you are going to teach me anything!”
I can appreciate where the students are coming from; their parents (or counselors) made them attend the class, they didn’t have a choice in the matter, and they don’t want to be there. I get it. So, I don’t fight it.
Instead, I acknowledge it.
I begin by asking, “How many of you are here because your parents are making you take this class?” Most hands go up.
I respond, “Okay, I understand. So, this is my promise to you. I am not going to stand here and tell you that you have to spend several hours studying every night so you can get better grades. I wouldn’t that for myself and I sure as heck am not going to ask that of you. Instead, I’m going to show you STRATEGIES that will help you be more efficient so you can get better grades, in less time.”
I wish I had this on video tape because, like clock-work, the body language slowly starts to shift in the room. Little by little, heads perk up. Bodies stop slumping. Arms start unfolding. Students start leaning forward. Some remain closed off, but most students become visibly more relaxed. I’ve started to speak their language and I’m slowly earning their trust. Now, I have to keep it.
Of course, keeping their trust is easy to do because I wholeheartedly believe in that message. “Better grades in less time” is not just a catchy jingle…it’s my mission. When I conduct my classes with the belief that students NEED “fun time” in order to have the motivation for school work, they eagerly respond.
Real World Connections
I also believe it is important for students to see the real-world connections to what they are learning. There has never been a time that study skills have been more needed. Our current Information Age is putting us all on Information Overload. To become employable adults, students will need to know HOW to learn.
Statistics are a good way to introduce this point:
- 1 out of every 2 students who enroll in college…do not graduate.
- 2 out of every 3 “honor roll” students in high school…fall behind in college.
- Studies show employers are desperate for workers who know HOW to learn! (See The Cost of NOT Teaching Study Skills)
- Study skills are proven to improve college graduation rates by 600%!
Wrap It Up With a Powerful Video!
If you want your students to understand the competition they are up against in the 21st century, share this video with them:
This video was originally created by a teacher as a back-to-school slide show for his fellow staff members, but it quickly went viral through email. It is so powerful that Sony BMG created a video of the information…then shared it at an executive meeting.
I’ve been sharing this with my students for several years and they GET IT! The video makes a powerful point about our global economy. If students want to compete, they will have to keep up with exponential information; they will need to know how to access that information very quickly, make important decisions about it, and learn how to organize it for later use.
One Last Thing
Be sure that your school is not inadvertently positioning “study skills” – or the class in which they are taught – as something that is juvenile or remedial. All students, of ALL ages, can benefit from study skills. Most adults tell me they did not learn how to study until college (if ever), yet they wish they had learned them much earlier!
Overcoming the bad history of study skills is not so hard…it just requires a little bit of “perceptual engineering.” A positive and empathetic attitude from you, real-world connections, and a 4-minute video will work miracles to repair study skills’ bad reputation.