The emphasis at Samford University is on excellence in undergraduate liberal arts education, and the videos are meant to help accomplish that. As a cognitive psychologist and teacher, I have long conducted research on cognitive basis of effective teaching and learning. My goal has been to help teachers improve instruction and to help students learn more effectively. In 2006, Dana Basinger, then dDirector of freshmen, asked me to make a presentation to the entire freshmen class on how to study effectively. The presentation was a big hit with both students and faculty. I’ve given the presentation every fall since then. In 2008, Heather Mitchell asked me to do a more hands-on follow-up workshop for students who wanted extra help. I’ve done that workshop every year since then.
Although the feedback from the presentations was very positive, I wanted to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the impact on student thinking and study behavior. In 2008, I conducted an assessment of the presentation with the help of instructors in Samford’s Foundations course. I found that the presentation had a significantly positive impact on student study behavior, but the effect diminished over time. As students forgot the presentation and came under the stresses of the semester, they tended to revert to their old bad study habits. The findings led directly to my desire to create these videos, which will help remind students of the principles of effective study or supply information they might have missed. Students can view the videos whenever and as many times as they want.
I created a script based on the presentation and the workshop. I chose to break the information into five short videos so that students could focus on the specific points they wanted, and watching any particular video would not take too much time. I handed the script over to Nathan Troost, Samford’s videographer, and I give him all the credit for making the videos visually appealing and interesting. We recruited the help of several students who happened to be taking summer classes, and I am grateful for their participation; especially to Rebecca, who did a great job with her role and provided her own note cards, and to Tyler, who, as a chemistry major, is not bad at math.
The videos represent both the latest in cognitive research on how people learn and my many years of experience teaching undergraduates. My approach is different from the popular collections of tips, gimmicks and folk wisdom one sees in most books and videos on studying. I present basic principles of how people learn and I try to correct counterproductive misconceptions so that students can improve their learning by devising their own effective study strategies. These videos should help students identify effective and ineffective study strategies so they understand that, although there is no magic bullet, they can learn to get maximal learning out of their study time. Although the videos are aimed at students, I believe they are a valuable resource for teachers as well. My hope is that teachers will use them to work with students to improve their learning.