'Study Smarter, Not Harder' workshop a resource for the University community

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — First-year students transitioning from high school to college might find that transition particularly challenging, especially when they are faced with learning new material in their college courses.

“There is no time for a professor to teach students about how to learn, in addition to teaching them about what they are learning. There is very little time to address study strategies for college-level conceptual coursework versus high school memorization,” said Tina Thomas, adviser in the Eberly College of Science.

Through interactions with their students, Thomas, fellow Eberly College of Science adviser Sara Roser-Jones, and Division of Undergraduate Studies adviser Pamela Barron, became aware of this issue and were looking for ways to help students develop better study strategies.

“This need was recognized from our work advising students, reviewing the Early Progress Reports received from instructors, and working with students who were experiencing academic difficulties,” said Barron.

From this need, the idea for the “Study Smarter, Not Harder” workshop was born. “This workshop helps students analyze their existing study strategies, understand effective, research-based techniques, and learn how to apply these techniques to their studying,” Thomas said.

Roser-Jones said they searched for faculty members with expertise in metacognition and learning, which led them to Jacqueline Bortiatynski, senior lecturer in chemistry, and Joshua Wede, lecturer in psychology. Both Bortiatynski and Wede signed on to teach the workshop.

“The ultimate goal of any educational experience is to develop self-directed learners who are capable of incorporating new ideas into their current vision of the world and use this knowledge to create new ideas and to solve problems,” said Bortiatynski. “This goal can only be achieved if the student is aware of how to become an effective learner. Unfortunately, most students have never been formally exposed to the strategies that will help them become independent learners, so this workshop is just an introduction to the process.”

The workshop’s primary goal is to give first-year students resources to assist with the transition from high school to college-level course work, but it is open to all students. “It was our hope to help all students gain the tools they need to be academically successful and graduate,” said Thomas.

Because Thomas and her fellow advisers want all students in all majors at the University to be able to participate in the workshop, she and her colleagues try to advertise the workshop in any way they can.

“We accessed advising networks in all colleges to spread the word to students through personal emails and general newsletters,” she said. In addition to advising networks, the team reaches out to Residence Life, first-year seminar instructors, and the University’s Multicultural Resource Center.

During fall 2014, the first semester the workshop was offered, 70 students attended the first workshop. This past fall, the attendance had doubled, with 150 students attending the first workshop of the semester.

The success of the workshop is due in part to student word of mouth, according to Thomas. “Students are gaining valuable information and recommending the program to their friends,” she said.

Because of the program’s success, the workshop will be offered again twice during the spring 2016 semester.

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Last Updated May 12, 2016