Teachers are using every tool available to help students improve their academic outcomes. However, US students rank 20th in English, 23rd in Science and 28th in Math in comparison to other nations (according to the 2012 PISA scores). Even the best educators are failing to see significant results in the classroom, despite their best efforts.
The way teachers teach is not the issue; the real problem is that students do not possess the study skills to achieve their academic goals. Research has shown that when teachers use an effective, evidence-based study skills curriculum, students learn better, retain more, and improve their academic outcomes.
The Excel Study Skills Curriculum takes into account the latest research and evidence in how students learn and recall information. This comprehensive study skills system teaches students Goal Setting, Task Prioritization, Time Management, Problem-solving, Decision Making, Memory Skills, Note-taking, Active Listening, Reading and Writing Strategies, Stress Management, Emotional Intelligence, Test Preparation, Test Taking and other critical skills. This evidence-based study skills system has been successfully integrated into numerous school curriculum and yielded positive qualitative and quantitative results.
|Set SMART Goals||The Power of Emotional Intelligence|
|Effective Methods to Prioritize for Results||Active Listening Skills|
|Efficient Techniques to Beat the Clock||Noteworthy Note-taking Principles|
|Decision Making Frameworks||Homework Tips and Tricks|
|Stress Management||Highly Effective Study Strategies|
|Memory Skills and Techniques||Test Preparation Techniques|
|Leveraging Learning Styles||Test-taking Success Principles|
|Expert Problem-solving Strategies||Optimizing Study Environments|
|Reading for Results||And much, much, more|
|School Wide Programs||Academic Probation Programs|
|Pilot Programs||Individualized Tutoring Programs|
|Freshmen Orientation Programs||At Risk Student Programs|
|Before and After School Programs||Gifted Student Differentiation Programs|
|College Preparation Programs||Career Readiness Programs|
|Study Hall Programs||Summer Enrichment Programs|
Time and task management may sound like skills for the workplace rather than the classroom, but in reality, they are two of the bestacademic study skills students can possess. In fact, a 1991 study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology revealed that time management skills may be a better predictor of college success than SAT scores! Unfortunately, like many of the most effective studying tips, learning how to set goals and manage one’s time are skills that students often have to learn on their own if they learn them at all. More...
The Need for Time and Task Management Studying Tips
Although time and task management is not often addressed in school, studies have shown it to be one of the most in-demand academic study skills for students. The American Psychological Association surveyed 342 college students and found that nearly half (46%) procrastinated on term papers. A significant percentage of participants (27%) also reported procrastinating for exams. Researchers observed that these same participants procrastinated less on easier or more mundane tasks such as administrative and attendance tasks, suggesting that the areas in which students procrastinate the most are the very areas that will significantly impact their grades. Clearly, one of the best studying tips teachers can share with their students is how to manage their time effectively.
Time Management Studying Tips Allows for Strategic Study Sessions
When students have strong academic study skills like time and task management, they are empowered to use their resources more effectively. For instance, research has shown that distributed practice (i.e. the practice of breaking up study sessions into shorter chunks over longer periods of time) facilitates learning much more than long study sessions. One of the most convincing studies on distributive practice involves a four-year study on foreign language vocabulary retention. Participants were asked to learn 300 foreign terms and were tested for recall. Results indicated that 13 study sessions spaced 56 days apart were just as effective in facilitating recall as 26 study sessions spaced 14 days apart. To take advantage of the long-term retention benefits of distributed practice and other similar studying tips, students must have solid academic study skills, including time and task management. Studying tips like these can help students achieve more and see results quickly.
Managing Time Boosts Student Confidence
Academic study skills such as time and task management contribute to a students’ confidence because they put students in control of their learning, including how and when they apply the studying tips they’ve acquired. This perceived time control, as researchers refer to it, reduces academic stress and allows students to perform at optimal levels. A 1998 study of 164 college students revealed a significant correlation between perceived time control and academic performance and problem-solving ability.
When It Comes to Studying Tips, Goal-Setting Reigns
Perhaps one of the most under-used and underrated academic study skills is that of goal-setting. Of the studying tips available to students, setting clear and challenging goals is among the most effective, according to studies. An extensive meta-analysis of research conducted on goal setting from 1969 to 1980 reveal that 90% of all studies showed a positive or partially positive relationship between goal-setting and task performance. Of course, students must be taught the proper way to set goals in order for them to yield results. Vague, unrealistic, or easy goals should be avoided. Instead, students should be encouraged to develop clear, realistic, and challenging goals in order to boost grades as well as overall academic performance.
Teachers who want to see their students perform better faster would be wise to teach academic study skills such as time and task management. Though the effort may initially take away from the content objectives of the class, overtime, the instruction will pay great dividends. These essential skills will help students make the most of other studying tips as they become more effective and efficient learners.
When educators discuss study strategies, they often talk about the way students review their notes but fail to address the note taking process itself. The body of study skills research suggests that the way students take notes is just as important than their later review of these notes. Thus, students benefit when educators take time to teach not only review strategies but also note taking habits and methods that produce optimal results in terms of comprehension and recall. More...
Note Taking Instruction Is Important, According to Study Skills Research
When addressing effective learning and study strategies, teachers frequently direct students to take notes, but too often, they fail to instruct students on proper note taking strategies. Unfortunately, this omission leads to students feeling frustrated, missing out on important information, and ultimately failing to acquire and retain the course content they need to perform well on assessments and make better grades. There is a solution to this widespread problem, however. Study skills research reveals that when students are taught to take notes strategically, the outcome is very different. A 2011 study published in American Secondary Education measured the impact of strategic note taking instruction on 76 middle school students. Those who were trained in strategic note taking recorded 53% of all possible lecture points whereas students in the control group recorded an average of just 39% of the total possible lecture points. According to the study skills research available, teachers would do well to teach students effective study strategies such as strategic note taking.
Study Skills Research Supports Non-Linear Note Taking
When note taking is taught in school, it is usually presented to students as a linear function in which students record the information in the order in which they hear it, usually from the top of the page to the bottom and often across several pages. Study skills research suggests, however, that this linear type of note taking is ineffective compared to other, nonlinear types of note taking such as mind mapping and clustering. Nonlinear notes such as these are usually taken on a single sheet of paper and allow students to record notes in the way they understand the material best. A 2009 study published in the British Journal of Educational Technology examined the effect of linear versus nonlinear note taking on participant recall and comprehension. Participants engaged in two different activities representative of traditional note taking scenarios: a lecture and a panel discussion. Those who took nonlinear notes scored 15% better on a measure of comprehension than participants who took linear notes. In addition, nonlinear note takers were more confident about their performance on the assessment, estimating their achievement at over 70% compared to linear note takers who predicted their scores to be approximately 50%. Study skills research implies that when students learn study strategies that work, they achieve more and feel more confident about their performance.
Study Skills Research: Students Must Be Active Participants in the Note Taking Process
Another important piece of study skills research offers an explanation as to why study strategies like strategic note taking and nonlinear note taking work. The 1997 study, presented at the Annual Meeting of the Mid-South Educational Research Association found that students performed better when provided with partial notes on a lecture as opposed to a complete set of notes. This finding emphasizes the importance of active participation on the part of students when engaging with study strategies such as note taking.
Timing of Review Is Critical, Says Study Skills Research
Though students can increase their comprehension of new information by implementing strategic note taking methods, they still need to review their notes in order to fully process and retain the material, and apparently the timing of these review sessions matter. According to Princeton University, students who fail to review their notes within 24 hours of a lecture will forget half of the material presented. Furthermore, studies show that review sessions that are spaced out in intervals are more effective than cram sessions.
Study skills research sheds light on not only which study strategies help students learn and perform best, but also how these study strategies should be taught by educators and implemented by students. Clearly, note taking is one of the most effective study strategies available to students and teachers. The effectiveness of note taking is enhanced when students are taught strategic note taking strategies, including nonlinear note taking, and actively participate in the process.
Researchers and educators alike have long been aware of the fact that reading effectively (i.e. to understand and retain information) is not a passive process, but one that requires effective study skills and the use of reading strategies. Students must read actively and strategically in order to make meaning of the words and then apply their learning to academic tasks. Too often, however, teachers expect students to show up to the classroom with the reading strategies and skills they need to be efficient and effective learners, especially in the upper grades. Students who lack these effective study skills often fall behind academically, and not only in English class. As students reach middle school and high school, their reading abilities often determine their performance across the curriculum as they are expected to read more complex, content-rich texts in various courses. More...
Reading Strategies Among Most Effective Study Skills
Fortunately, there are interventions that can assist struggling readers as they endeavor to acquire effective study skills such as reading comprehension. A 2003 study confirmed the effectiveness of teaching reading strategies by evaluating the impact of an elective reading course on the reading comprehension of middle school students. Researchers found that those students who participated in the reading course improved their comprehension scores 14.3 percent more than those who opted out of the class. Furthermore, follow-up interviews with participants revealed that they remembered and applied the reading strategies learned from the course in their high school classes and frequently felt confident about their performance on academic reading assignments as a result of the effective study skills they learned.
Effective Study Skills Research: More Is Better When It Comes to Reading Strategies
Educational research has pointed to a variety of effective study skills and reading strategies that students can use to increase comprehension and retention, including paraphrasing, summarizing, concept mapping, and metacognition. Rather than try to decide which strategy works best, educators should equip students with a repertoire of reading strategies since it appears that when it comes to reading skills, more is better. According to research, students—especially those who struggle with reading tasks—need to learn and implement more than one of these reading strategies in order to fully understand and retain what they read. A 1986 study examined the effects of multiple reading strategies on students’ ability to recall information. Results showed that low-aptitude students who relied only on concept mapping while reading retained 50% of the information they read whereas those who utilized directed reading-thinking activities in addition to concept mapping retained 90% of the information read. As with most effective study skills, reading strategies consist of a variety of techniques that when combined, can help students achieve optimal results.
Reading Strategies and Effective Study Skills Impact Retention
Reading strategies and effective study skills may not only help kids perform better in school, but they may contribute to them staying in school as well, particularly at the postsecondary level. A 1993 study followed 197 freshman university students, including 88 students enrolled in a developmental reading group. Retention rates for students who received reading instruction including reading strategies and effective study skills were 14% higher than those not enrolled in the class. When students are given reading strategies to help them decode, understand, and recall complex information, they perform better academically, feel more confident about their studies, and are motivated to learn more.
Teaching students to read isn’t something that should be reserved for the elementary school classroom. Middle school, high school, and even college instructors can help their students develop effective study skills and reading strategies that lead to a deeper understanding of texts and a greater ability to recall information. As students continue to hone these strategies, they will be able to master more complex texts in a variety of different subject areas and apply what they’ve learned to succeed academically and professionally.
Rote memorization has recently fallen out of favor among top educators who prefer that students employ higher order thinking skills to learn and interpret information. This unfortunate trend has caused many teachers to disregard memorization strategies as effective learning tools. Despite its unpopularity, memorization is still one of the most important study skills teachers can give to their students, especially when learning lists of items, fundamental facts, and new vocabulary words. Research shows that memorization strategies such as the use of mnemonic devices can significantly improve learners’ performance on tests and other assessments, a fact that cements its place in any teacher’s repertoire of learning techniques. More...
Method of Loci Among Most Effective Memorization Strategies
A 1976 study published in the Journal of Psychology examined the impact of effective memorization strategies by studying the use of a mnemonic device referred to as the method of loci on participants’ ability to recall a list of concrete nouns. This method, also referred to as the memory palace, has been used since ancient times and employs the use of visualization to enhance memorization strategies. Results revealed that those participants who were instructed to visualize images and associate each word with a location on a map were able to recall a significantly larger number of words than those who simply studied the list of terms. In a test of recall, the mnemonic device group scored 13% higher than the control group. Interestingly, some participants in the study reported using mnemonic devices of their own without being instructed to do so. These students not only scored nearly as well on the test of recall (i.e. 71% vs. 75%), but their GPAs also tended to be higher, suggesting that students who perform well academically regard mnemonic devices to be among the most important study skills and frequently use memorization strategies to improve grades and overall academic performance.
Story-Based Mnemonic Devices = Operative Memorization Strategies for Math
A more recent study published in The Educational Therapist confirms the effectiveness of mnemonic devices as important study skills in learning mathematical facts. This study examined the effect of a story-based mnemonic strategy in which students are asked to associate numbers with rhyming words (i.e three=tree; five=hive) and then listen to stories about the words in order to memorize multiplication facts. After receiving instruction utilizing these memorization strategies, students improved their knowledge of multiplication facts by 46%. Impressively, students not only matched but improved their scores on a delayed post-test, suggesting that the technique has a long-lasting effect on memorization.
Keyword Method Tops Memorization Strategies, Says Study
Other memorization strategies have also been proven effective. A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Academic Research sought to determine the impact of one of the most common memorization strategies referred to as the keyword method by examining its effect on English-speaking students studying foreign vocabulary as part of a beginning French course. Using the keyword method, participants associated the French vocabulary word to a familiar English term and then visualized a related image to enhance their memory of the term. Data from the study revealed that those learners who employed the keyword method of memorization scored significantly higher on a test of vocabulary words. Specifically, the mean rank of the keyword group was 13.21 compared to 11.79, the mean rank of those who used other, more conventional memorization strategies. Furthermore, the keyword method was found to be effective not only in helping students learn the vocabulary words but in retaining this new learning as well. Qualitative data from the study suggested that the keyword method of memorization also improved students’ motivation and interest in the material, suggesting that it’s one of the more important study skills students can learn for learning new vocabulary terms.
Although critical thinking, problem-solving, and other higher order thinking skills certainly deserve a place in the classroom, teachers should not dismiss tried-and-true memorization strategies as important study skills for learning certain types of information. These learning techniques can help students master material quickly so that they can achieve better grades and advance to more meaningful learning tasks.
Despite the widespread implementation of Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) initiatives, many teachers still view writing as an isolated subject meant to be taught, assigned, and assessed within the confines of the English Language Arts classroom. However, there is an impressive body of research that points to writing, and in particular, writing to learn activities, as one of the most effective study skills for better grades. More...
Short Writing to Learn Activities Boost Grades
One of the major obstacles of successful implementation of writing to learn activities is the fear that these assignments will consume too much precious class time. However, writing to learn strategies can be applied effectively in a very short amount of time, making them one of the more efficient options for teachers looking to instruct students in study skills for better grades. A 2010 study published in Teaching of Psychology examined the effects of short, in-class writing assignments on student retention of course material. Over the course of ten class sessions, psychology students at Georgia State University were given approximately twelve minutes to respond to writing prompts in which they were asked to apply the course material they were studying. The students were then given post-tests comprised of fifteen multiple choice questions. Results indicated that the students who used writing to engage with content topics got an average of 10.4 questions right. Students who studied the same material but did not receive the writing assignments answered an average of only 8.58 questions correctly, suggesting that the act of writing can help students learn and retain new information, even when the writing assignments are brief.
Writing to Learn Activities Need Not Be Graded to Be Effective
Another barrier to the implementation of writing to learn techniques is the misconception that only graded writing to learn assignments are effective. Despite it being one of the preferred study skills for better grades, writing is time-consuming to grade and can take away from other important tasks such as lesson planning. Research has shown that writing to learn assignments can be effective even if they are never collected by the instructor, however. For instance, a 1989 study conducted at Middlebury College tested the effect of very brief, non-structured writing assignments on the success of students enrolled in vertebrate biology. The course professors divided their students into two comparable groups: a non-writing group and a writing group. The two groups of students received the same class instruction except for in the writing group, students were simply asked to spend five minutes writing in a journal about something related to the course lecture. Students were not given a specific topic, nor were their notebooks collected or evaluated. Even so, at the end of the course, those students in the writing group outperformed the non-writing group by two-thirds of a grade.
Writing to Learn Complements Other Instructional Techniques
Unlike other educational initiatives, writing to learn need not transform a classroom. Educators with a preferred instructional style can use writing to learn as a way to enhance their current teaching practice. Studies have shown writing to learn activities to be good complements to other teaching and learning strategies. In a 2001 study, college students enrolled in a physiology class were divided into groups. Some students received traditional lectures whereas others were invited to participate in peer review and writing activities in addition to class lectures. Students were given a multiple choice test at the end of the course, and those in the peer review and writing group scored an average of 11.8 percentile points higher than those who were instructed via lecture only. In a post-study interview, nearly 40% of students cited the peer review and writing activities as instrumental in helping them master a course topic.
When writing to learn, students engage in complex cognitive processes that enable them to organize and synthesize new information. Integrating writing into the curriculum as a learning tool and study strategy doesn’t have to be difficult. Educators who are looking to teach study skills for better grades should consider writing to learn activities as a solution that requires little class time and minimal effort.
It’s no surprise that there’s more to academic achievement than IQ alone. Although cognitive ability is pertinent to school success, it’s not the only factor that influences students’ grades. A large body of educational research has shown that emotional intelligence can also significantly impact academic performance. Moreover, studies have shown that emotional intelligence is a trait that can be developed and honed through emotional learning skills instruction. More...
Emotional Intelligence and GPA: A Positive Correlation
A study of freshman college students confirmed what many education experts and psychologists suspected—that emotional learning skills (i.e. emotional intelligence)and academic performance are indeed related. Five hundred and thirty freshmen comprised of both honors and non-honors students at a large research university were given emotional intelligence tests. Researchers analyzed the results of these tests of emotional learning skills and compared the data to the students’ SAT scores, high schools GPAs, and first semester college GPAs. The analysis revealed that honors students (who predictably had higher SAT scores and higher GPAs on average than non-honors students) scored significantly higher on the emotional intelligence tests than non-honors students, with an average score of 100.86 versus 97.94 respectively. Furthermore, the researchers found a positive correlation between the results of the emotional intelligence tests and all students’ first semester college GPAs. The implications of these findings are clear: emotional learning skills are instrumental in helping students learn and achieve academically.
Emotional Learning Skills Can Be Taught and Learned
Most educators agree that the relationship between emotional intelligence and academic performance is interesting, but few realize the implications of this fact because they’re unaware that emotional skills can be taught. A study of graduate psychology students found that emotional learning skills and emotional intelligence was positively correlated with graduate GPAs but that there was no significant relationship between personality and GPAs, suggesting that emotional intelligence is not an innate skill, but one that can be learned and applied strategically. The study also revealed a positive correlation between emotional intelligence and internship performance, indicating that emotional learning skills transfer from school into the workplace.
Effectiveness of Emotional Learning Skills Curricula
Other studies have confirmed the theory that emotional intelligence can, in fact, be taught. For instance, a 2012 study of college freshman examined the impact of a social and emotional learning curriculum on college freshmen. This curriculum was designed to help students successfully transition from high school to college by teaching them skills such as self-awareness, self-management, and tolerance. Compared to a control group, the students who were taught social and emotional learning skills had higher GPAs during the two years following the study, despite having comparable GPAs as beginning freshman. Specifically, the average GPA of the students enrolled in the social and emotional learning courses increased from 2.910 during their freshman year to 3.099 and 3.131 during their sophomore and junior years respectively. The comparison group was not as successful. Without the benefit of receiving social and emotional learning instruction, the students’ average GPAs were reported to be a dismal 2.734 on average at the end of their junior year. Furthermore, students’ emotional and social skills increased significantly as a result of the curriculum, as evidenced by a pre and post-test of traits such as awareness, tolerance, flexibility, and self-management. An evidence-based emotional learning skills curriculum can increase emotional intelligence, thereby facilitating academic success.
Traditionally, teaching students how to be aware of and manage their emotions has been left up to the school counselor or deemed the parents’ responsibility. When teachers did address the issue, it was in the context of classroom management and discipline. However, new research suggests that teachers should make room in their curricula for the instruction of emotional learning skills. There’s also an element of common sense in this idea that educators can’t ignore: when students are in charge of their emotions, they become in charge of their learning. What more could a teacher ask for?
School is preparation for life. Thus, as students progress from one grade to the next, teachers expect more and impart greater responsibility on them. Middle school and high school students make increasingly important decisions regarding their academics, social interactions, and future plans. In order to navigate these issues effectively, students need to have good negotiation skills, yet the majority of negotiation instruction occurs at the postsecondary level when students begin to explore advanced topics in subjects such as business and law. Negotiation instruction, when commenced at an earlier age, can empower secondary students to make more logical, beneficial decisions and may even improve their academic performance. More...
Effectiveness of Negotiation Instruction
Many students and even some teachers believe that good negotiators are born, not made. While it may be true that some people have an inherent tendency toward good negotiation skills, these skills can, in fact, = be taught. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Education for Business studied the effects of a typical negotiation training course on graduate students. After completing the training course, 94% of the respondents rated themselves as above-average negotiators even though the majority (61%) described themselves as average or below-average negotiators at the beginning of the course. The participants also reported a positive change in their use of negotiating styles. Results showed that after completion of the course, students used less competitive negotiation styles and opted for compromising and collaborative styles more often. Furthermore, in a follow-up survey, 73% of participants reported using a specific negotiation skills learned in the course in a real-life scenario, citing examples of successfully negotiating job opportunities, severance packages, and home and automobile purchases. Many students reported that the training course in negotiation skills affected them long-term as they continued to adapt their negotiation styles to the skills learned in class a year or more after receiving negotiation instruction.
Not All Negotiation Instruction is Equal
As is the case for most academic topics, there are various approaches to the teaching of negotiation skills. An emerging body of research suggests that some forms of negotiation instruction are more effective in improving negotiation skills than others, however. For instance, a 2003 study examined the effects of an instructional technique referred to as analogical encoding on MBA students. The students were given two case studies involving successful negotiation techniques prior to engaging in a mock negotiation scenario with one another. One group was asked to analyze the case studies separately, and another group was instructed to compare the two case studies (i.e. engage in analogical encoding). Results indicated that those students who compared the two case studies were nearly twice as likely (i.e. 40% vs. 22%, respectively) to successfully negotiate a contract than those students who had reviewed the case studies separately. Furthermore, the contracts the comparison group generated had more value than those forged by the separate case group.
A separate study published in the same year evaluated the effectiveness of different negotiation instruction styles and found analogical and observational learning modules to be more effective than didactic and information revelation modules. Researchers found that participants who observed a model negotiator (observational) performed approximately 41 points higher than average on a negotiation skills assessment whereas those who compared two negotiation scenarios (analogical) scored approximately 63 points higher than average. It stands to reason that teachers who are aware of the effectiveness of certain techniques in negotiation instruction can enable students to become better negotiators.
Negotiation skills top the list of qualities employers are looking for in successful job candidates. Students who begin to hone their negotiation skills in middle school and high school through effective negotiation instruction will not only benefit academically; they’ll also be better prepared to compete for jobs and perform better in the workplace.