EducationPop Quiz

Pop Quiz: Study Time!


Why don’t students ever study enough?  Teachers have been asking this question probably since teaching was invented.

I teach college classes across a range of levels and purposes.  Some classes are for non-science majors that they take for general education requirements.  Some are upper level service courses required by multiple programs.  Some are upper level capstone courses for the science majors. The amount of time I expect my students to spend on the coursework ranges quite a bit depending on the student group, but I still expect them to work on the class at least a little every week.  I actually recommend doing some work on the class everyday.

Now, I know they aren’t doing that and they know I know it!  My students range from traditional aged to middle aged and older, almost all of them have full-time jobs, and many have families.  They have to prioritize their lives in whatever way works for them, and many simply haven’t got enough time in their day to spend even 20 minutes looking over their class material. Sometimes it’s a matter of poor time management and sometimes it’s feeding the three kids, doing the laundry, getting ready for tomorrow’s work day, etc. etc. etc.

I also tell them cramming for exams is a terrible idea and it doesn’t work!  Of course, students still cram, because sometimes that’s the only way available to them.  I know this because I have been collecting data on this for several years.  For example, the students have been asked how much time they plan on studying for an upcoming exam.  I have gotten answers ranging from 2 hours to 48 hours (in the 48 hours before the exam)! I worry more about the 48 hour answer than the 2 hour one, because that person may have been keeping up all along and only needs a refresher, but the first one is going to cram all day and all night?!

One mechanism teachers have used to increase study time is having students report how much they study.  When the students are asked to record the time they study, study time increases.  Another is more frequent testing to both even out study time and to increase it overall.  I have regular weekly assignments to make sure students have at least glanced at their text and thought about the material, but I’m thinking of adding a study journal, where I can leave feedback to guide students to more effective use of their limited time (that last link is to a pretty interesting paper comparing study allocation to animal foraging models).

So, how much time do you recommend students study for exams?  Do you try any techniques to get them to study more?

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt.  Look for it to appear on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons (ET).

Featured image: Violet studying by Thiago08

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Apostrophobia is a college professor at a women's college in the US. She teaches biology, does pedagogical research on her guinea pigs (aka students), and has an existential fear of misplaced apostrophes.

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