At the end of this section, the learner will:
- Identify success strategies useful for the classroom.
- Describe strategies for use outside the classroom.
- Formulate a plan to designate and improve a study space.
IN the classroom
Attend Every Class
Attending each and every class requires a lot of self-discipline and motivation. Doing so will help you remain engaged and involved in course topics, provide insight into what your instructor deems most important, allow you to submit work and receive your graded assignments, and give you the opportunity to take quizzes or exams that cannot be made up.
Missing class is a major factor in students dropping courses or receiving poor grades. In addition, students attempting to make up the work from missing class often find it overwhelming. It’s challenging to catch up if we get behind.
Sit Front and Center
Even if your faculty says, “Sit wherever you want — sit where you are most comfortable,” think about where you would want to be if you were to attend a concert for your favorite artist. The answer is most often in front of the stage, because the best experience is closest to the band. That’s why front-and-center tickets are the most expensive. There are some reasons sitting in the back works for some students, but you run the risk of sitting behind someone you cannot see over. And if you’re sitting in the back so that you can send text messages without being seen, work on something else or so that you can disengage (not pay attention without the instructor noticing), then you’re sitting in the back for the wrong reasons. Rather than hiding, you want to create the best learning environment, from both a visual and auditory perspective.
Many students feel like they are the only one that has a question or the only one that doesn’t understand something in class. Ask questions during class, especially if your instructor encourages them. If not, make the effort to ask your questions before or after class or during your instructors’ office hours.
If you take a class offered online, ask a lot of questions via the preferred method your instructor recommends. Since the delivery method is different to what most students are used to, students in online courses tend to have more questions. Online students may ask questions to understand the material and to be able to successfully navigate through the course content.
Outside of the classroom
Be Prepared for Each Class
Complete your assigned reading ahead of the deadline. Follow the syllabus so that you’ll have familiarity with what the instructor is speaking about. Bring your course syllabus, textbook, notebook and any handouts or other important information for each particular class along with a pen and a positive attitude. Become interested in what the instructor has to say. Be eager to learn. Sleep adequately the night before class and ensure you do not arrive to class on an empty stomach. Many courses, both in person and online, use digital platforms called Learning Management Systems (LMS). Examples of these are Canvas, Blackboard, and Moodle. It is important for students to check their e-mail regularly as well as announcements or notifications from their instructor through the LMS.
Read and Retain Your Syllabus
In addition to acting as a contract between the instructor and you, the syllabus is also often the source of information for faculty contact information, textbook information, classroom behavior expectations, and attendance policy and course objectives. Some students make the mistake of stuffing the syllabus in their backpack when they receive it on the first day of class and never take a look at it again. Those who clearly read it, keep it for reference and review it frequently find themselves more prepared for class. If there is something in the syllabus you don’t understand, ask your instructor about it before class, after class or during their office hours.
Use Your Calendar Wisely
Place all of your assignments for all of your classes with their due dates in your calendar, planner, smart phone or whatever you use for organization. Successful students will also schedule when to start those assignments and have an idea of how long it will take to complete them.
It’s easy to put off studying if it’s not something we schedule. Block specific times and days for studying. Put the times on your calendar. Stick to the schedule. (Refer to Chapter 2 for more time management tips.)
Complete All of Your Assigned Readings & Assignments (On Time)
There will be things that you are more interested in doing than your assignments and unexpected life happenings that will come up. Students who earn good grades have the motivation and discipline to complete all of their assignments.
College courses have a significant amount of assigned reading and it can take a while to become comfortable with the workload. Some students fall behind early in keeping up with the reading requirements and others fail to read it at all. You will be most prepared for your class and for learning if you complete the reading assigned before your class. Staying on top of your syllabus and class calendar will help you be aware of your reading assignment deadlines. (See Chapter 3.2 for more help with pre-reading).
Know What the Campus Resources Are and Where They Are, and Use Them
There are many campus resources at your college or university and it’s likely that they are underutilized because students don’t know they exist, where they are, or that most of them are free. Find out what is available to you by checking your school’s website for campus resources or student services, or talk to an academic advisor or counselor about what resources may be helpful for you. See Chapter 8 for a list of resources here at UTA.
Review for Exams
Preparation for an exam should begin on the first day of class, not when the exam is announced nor the night before an exam. Review your notes frequently to keep material fresh in your head. See Chapter 3.3 for additional tips.
Have Someone Read Your Papers Before You Submit Them
You might be surprised to learn how many students turn in papers with spelling, grammar and punctuation errors that could have been easily corrected by using a spellchecker program or having someone read your paper. Many schools offer writing centers or tutors who will read your paper and give feedback, make suggestions, and help shape ideas. Take advantage of these services if they are offered. Another strategy is to read your paper aloud to yourself. You may catch errors when you read aloud that you might not catch when reading your writing. Remember that it is always the students’ responsibility to have papers proofread, not someone else’s.
Your Study Space
Study At a Time and Location That Is Best for You
Some students study best in the morning and some at night. Some excel at a coffee shop, and others at the library. The place and time in which students often study is usually the most convenient for them. Students often find convenient places and times may also be full of distractions and thus are not good choices for them to study. It’s worth the effort to study at the time and place that will be most productive for you. For most students, it is best to turn off the cell phone and TV and to keep off the Internet (and social media) unless it directly relates to your work.
Tips for Effective, Individual Study Spaces
Most students take what they can get when it comes to study areas. Schools usually offer a variety of nooks and crannies for students to hunker down and get their assignments done. The school library is a good (and quiet) place. Many common areas elsewhere on campus have tables, chairs, couches, and lounges to accommodate learners. But most students end up doing the majority of their out-of-class work at home.
Home environments may be limited in terms of providing all of the recommended aspects of a good study space, but many of the recommendations can be either implemented or adapted from what a student has on hand or what can be improvised no matter what environment they are living in. Elements conducive to a more effective study/homework experience include such things as good lighting, ample supplies, comfortable seating, adequate space, and personalizing the study area to add a touch of inspiration and motivation.
Activity 3.1 – Improving Your Study Space
Think about your current study area at home–the good, the bad, the ugly. Be thorough. List as many ways you think you can realistically improve, change, (or start over…) your study area. Remember, you might not have the advantage of a whole room, or even a corner of a room, but there are still some changes you can make to create a more effective study environment.