We are incredibly proud and excited to announce that four psychology students were recently accepted as new members to Phi Beta Kappa, the United State’s most prestigious honor society for the liberal arts and sciences.
When asked how they felt, two students replied:
“I’m so honored to be accepted into Phi Beta Kappa and be recognized for my accomplishments at Roanoke!” – Megan Miller ’18
“When I found out I got Phi Beta Kappa I was very excited and proud of myself. I have worked very hard over these past years and it’s an honor to be recognized for it.” – Taylor Kracht ’18
Congratulations to Megan Miller ’18, Laura Sullivan ’18, Taylor Kracht ’18, and Sabrina McAllister ’18! We are incredibly proud of you and look forward to seeing what you will accomplish in the future!
As this is the beginning of the first official week of Hell (in other words, midterms; the second official week of Hell being finals), we thought sharing some tips on how to survive would be helpful.
In Part I there were tips about starting the semester off to a good start and what to do in preparation for classes. In Part II, we will cover what cognitive research and educators* recommend for learning in class during and after, and, most importantly, how to study for those exams you’re dreading.
Before we begin, here’s a picture of a bunny:
Do Not Skip (Unless You Absolutely Have To)
Simply put, you won’t learn if you don’t go.
Even if the lecture is essentially a review of the material you already read, just by showing up and hearing the material again will allow the information to more easily become part of your long-term memory.
Furthermore, teachers will often explain the material in different ways, so if the way the book describes a concept does not make sense, the teacher’s description may help clarify what you did not understand. Teachers also tend to add additional information that they believe is relevant to the class that is not included in the book but most likely will be on the test.
Take Notes By Hand
There are exceptions to this as students become more accustomed to taking notes with a laptop than with a pen and paper. Even so, the use of a laptop could distract both you and your neighbors as the temptation to look on social media and the internet is tempting, so be careful in how you use your laptop and where you sit. The authors of the study suggest turning off your WiFi so the internet and social media will be less tempting.
The reasons behind the insistence on using the traditional method of taking notes is related to the lower levels of information processing generated when using a laptop. Students take notes with their computer mindlessly, while those who use a pen/pencil and paper must process the information and convert it into something that is not word-for-word, but will make sense to them in the future.
In other words, those who write on a piece of paper know that they cannot copy everything down and therefore have to pick and choose what is the most important information to write down in a concise manner. This method of note-taking therefore leads to greater comprehension of the material.
Obtain Slides Before Class
That way, you will not have to write everything down that your professor talks about, but can add to the information already shown. You can pay more attention to what the professor is saying instead of madly trying to copy everything down before they go to the next slide.
Most students leave immediately and focus on whatever they have to do next, but the authors of the article recommend going back over notes from your lectures later on in the day. By doing so, you can fill in whatever information you remember but did not get a chance to write down, as well as to find where you need more information on a topic.
In addition, write down whatever questions arise from your studying and try to answer them yourself before turning to your book. The authors say just spending fifteen minutes looking over your notes can help you better understand and remember what you learned that day.
By studying this way, you don’t have to re-learn everything the night before the test but can instead simply review the easier concepts and focus more on what you really struggled with.
Preparing for Tests
Advice for this section is essentially what has already been discussed. Research shows that students tend to study at the last minute by looking over notes and rereading material paying close attention to highlights, but that these methods do not work as well as one might hope. Instead, the authors recommend studying over a length of time and using active studying techniques (Putnam et al., p. 656).
Don’t cram everything at the last minute, instead, space out your studying over the course of several days. You’re still spending around the same amount of time, but you are learning much more from these study sessions than from one gigantic cramming session the night before (or day of).
Cramming may seem to work in the short-term, but for long-term memory retention, spacing out your studying sessions will drastically help your performances on tests.
The authors also make note of how rereading should be for when you are confused about a topic after quizzing yourself, not when you want to remember something. If you want to remember something, quizzing will help much more than simply reading over what you’ve already read before.
Reasons of Quizzing
This emphasis on quizzing yourself is based on a learning tool called “retrieval practice.” By quizzing yourself, the authors point out, you are literally doing what you are going to have to do for the test: retrieving information from memory.
The authors also provide a few more ways to improve results from study sessions. Besides the read-recite-review method and other methods discussed in part I, the authors also recommend the use of flashcards. Use memory retrieval and do not look at the answer side when trying to answer the question; also, make sure you keep using the card until you have gotten the answer right at least three-to-four times. Also, don’t just define the term, but try explaining the term to a friend; this method also helps retention.
Some Other Tips
The authors provide a helpful link towards balancing studying and retrieval practicing through suggesting looking up something called successive relearning (Putnam et al., p. 656).
Continuing on, if there are a lot of terms you need to memorize, using mnemonic techniques can be useful. Mnemonics are probably familiar to you; teachers use them often, such as when you are learning the order of operations in math. Teachers will probably use “PEMDAS” to help you remember, with each letter corresponding to something else: Please (parenthesis), Excuse (exponent), My (multiplication), Dear (division), Aunt (addition), Sally (subtraction). You can use mnemonics to help you in college as well, either through this particular way or through loci, which are mental associations formed with objects or buildings familiar to us in order to help us remember harder things.
The Final Exam
By following the suggestions above and in part I, the Final Exam will not seem quite as daunting as before and you might even be able to get a good nights rest. Be sure to start studying well ahead of time and test yourself on what you recall, reviewing what you cannot and making sure that everything you do remember is correct.
Put studying at the top of your priority list (you and/or your parents are paying a fortune for you to learn), but also remember to have fun with your friends and reward yourself for what you have accomplished so far. Exercising can be a great method of stress relief, as well as getting a regular amount of sleep.
In the end, it’s easy to get caught up in the multitude of activities and assignments we involve ourselves in, but be sure to just take a few minutes for yourself to just… breath.
Everything will be okay.
*The information discussed in Part I and Part II is taken from a study conducted by Dr. Adam L. Putnam of the Department of Psychology in Carleton College and Victor W. Sungkhasettee and
Henry L. Roediger, III of the Psychological & Brain Sciences Department of the Washington University in St. Louis. Their study, published in 2016, is titled “Optimizing Learning in College:
Tips From Cognitive Psychology” and can be found here.
It happens a lot, that dreaded “study-a-day-before-the-test” deal that causes lots of stress and results in multiple brews of coffee.
There might be highlighting.
There will definitely be crying.
Office hours might be a thing and there will probably be some frantic texts and emails sent to both professors and friends, swearing that this will “never happen again” and “when did we even learn this?”
You might look like this:
Even so, you study on and you pray that everything will be okay. You stay up all night studying, maybe getting a few hours of sleep if you’re lucky. You promise yourself that next time, you’ll do better.
If this is something you have experienced, then the information provided in a recent study* published through the Association for Psychological Science will help immensely.
In the study, the authors attempt to provide tips both from research in cognitive psychology, as well as through their own experience as educators. They provide advice for studying before classes, during, and after, as well as a lot of tips for preparing for tests.
In this part, we will discuss methods of studying and preparing before classes. In part II, we will discuss methods of better learning during and after class and in preparation for exams. Finally, parts I and II will both include memes simply for pure entertainment.
Besides the usual “don’t study at the last minute” that a lot of people know about and yet still happens because, well, life happens, there are also a number of other things that contribute to learning effectively.
Rereading textbooks and notes, generally only focusing on the highlighted words, does not work as well as we think it does. For short-term, those tricks might work, but in the long-term, studies have suggested that these methods consume a lot of time without much real output (e.g., Dunlosky, Rawson, Marsh, Nathan, & Willingham, 2013).
Basically? You might be okay on the midterm, but for long-term memory retention, specifically regarding that cumulative final you’re dreading, this method of studying probably won’t work as well as you might hope.
So what should you do according to Putnam, Sungkhasettee, and Roediger III?
Starting the Semester
Most of this is common sense, but try to minimize the late-nights spent studying by getting organized early in the semester so that you can minimize later stress when weeks like midterms come and assignments never seem to end. Starting good habits when stress levels are low can also help immensely during these dark times of never-ending homework.
Organization is incredibly important to maintaining both sanity and grades, while still somehow managing to get sleep and having a social life. Therefore, going to the first day of classes and carefully reading over the syllabus is key to juggling this impossible balancing act. By reading the syllabus, you will know what is happening in the class and when assignments are due, so you won’t be blind-sided by multiple projects hitting all at once. Putting your assignments all into a calendar, an excel spreadsheet, or on your phone and making a habit of checking a month ahead every week can help to maintain a good overview of your classes. This can also help you to know when you need to start studying, like when multiple projects are due on the same day.
The authors also recommend setting calendar reminders a week prior to exams, projects, or recurring assignments and quizzes so nothing gets forgotten (Putnam et al., 2016).
Buy the Books
In order to succeed in the class, you need to have the books. Buying textbooks can be incredibly expensive, but be careful of used textbooks, especially if they have highlighting because the previous owner(s) may not have recognized the crucial parts of the text.
Do Not Attempt Multitasking
Multitasking is bad.
It does not work.
Repeatedly switching attention from one task to another can make learning less effective (e.g., Anderson & Fuller, 2010; Craik, Govoni, Naveh-Benjamin, & Anderson, 1996). Any kind of multitasking, in fact, from having a Facebook tab open to listening to music can impair your ability to learn even if you don’t think it bothers you (as qt. Willingham 2010a). Try to make a habit of turning off your media while studying at a quiet place (meaning, unfortunately, Mill Mountain does not count).
Preparing for Class
Sometimes it’s hard to get all of the assigned reading done before class, but by doing so in an effective manner, you will get more out of the class. Don’t try to read as quickly as possible, even if you feel like you’re getting piled down with homework. As the authors point out, comprehension takes time and while reading quickly may get you through the text, you likely won’t be retaining the information you read (Rayner, Schotter, Masson, Potter, & Treiman, 2016). Try to make sure you understand the material before moving on to the next thing; reading is pointless if you don’t remember what you read.
In addition, while highlighting and underlining are popular, studies show that they do not really contribute towards recall later on (Dunlosky et al., 2013). Instead, try these tips:
Answer the Comprehension Questions Prior to Reading
While seemingly counter-intuitive, attempting to answer the questions before reading the chapter can help activate what prior knowledge you do have on the topic and make it easier to connect with the new material. Research also shows that by doing so, you will better be able to remember the material as well (e.g., Pressley, Tanenbaum, McDaniel, & Wood, 1990; Richard et al., 2009).
Ask Yourself Questions While Reading
By actively asking questions about the material you are reading, you will have better comprehension regarding what you read as well as for the future when you make study guides. Potential questions could include defining the topics you are learning about as well as asking yourself “Why is this true?” or “What parts of this page are new to me?” (Putnam et. al., 2016; R. Wong, Lawson, & Keeves, 2002).
“Read, Recite, and Review”
Instead of highlighting or simply reading, read the assigned chapter and then try to recall the major points of the chapter. After that, go back through the chapter and focus on what you missed. This way of studying may take more time, but in the long run, it’s more effective in remembering the material than simply reading or highlighting.
So, what sort of things should you do while in class and what are the best methods of studying for tests (like, say, impending midterms)? Continue on to part II to see what cognitive psychologists and educators recommend doing in order to survive college!
*The study, titled “Optimizing Learning in College: Tips From Cognitive Psychology” was put together by Adam L. Putnam, from the Department of Psychology, Carleton College and, Victor W. Sungkhasettee and Henry L. Roediger III from the Psychological & Brain Sciences Department, Washington University in St. Louis. The link can be found here.
A student assistant for the psychology department was recently able to interview Dr. Travis Carter, a new Psychology professor at Roanoke College this year, as a follow-up interview to learn more about him, his interests in psychology, and other cool things as the semester is now in full-swing. The following is the interview:
So, how do you like Roanoke so far? Is it very different from Maine?
I think it’s great! Everyone I’ve met has been incredibly welcoming, and although we’ve just started to explore the area, it seems like there’s a ton of stuff to do. And yes, it is very different from Maine in a lot of ways, but I think the biggest differences will be apparent this winter. I am not going to miss shoveling 3+ feet of snow from my driveway.
Can you tell me a little about your educational background?
I did my undergrad at the University of Chicago, which has a reputation as a large research university, but the undergraduate population is actually not all that big, so it operates more like a liberal arts college. I received my PhD from Cornell University, and then returned to Chicago for a postdoc in the Center for Decision Research, housed in the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
What classes are you teaching right now and what types of courses will you be teaching in the future?
Right now, I am teaching PSYC-251: Social Psychology and PSYC-204: Quantitative Methods in Psychology. I’ll continue to teach those courses in the future, and will teach what I hope will be a fun INQ-120 course this coming spring, called A Perfect World. It aims to examine past utopian visions through the lens of modern psychological research. Next year, I’ll also be teaching some upper level courses, including a course in Judgment and Decision Making, and one on Social Cognition.
What are your past and current research interests?
I continue to have a diverse range of research interests, examining everything from political attitudes to consumer behavior to a fairness bias exhibited by Major League Baseball umpires. Broadly speaking, I’m interested in the ways that our judgments, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors can be biased by both external forces (subtle exposure to a symbol in the environment, a manager screaming at an umpire about a bad call) and internal motivations (political ideology, desire to gorge yourself on potato chips).
What are some random/cool facts about you?
Just this summer my wife and I had a baby, who I think is in the running for cutest baby of all time. (And as someone who studies biased beliefs, I can comfortably say that my opinion about her cuteness is completely objective.)
Other than that, I love music, technology, and the boring sports (baseball, soccer).
Thank you Dr. Carter for taking time to answer our questions and congratulations on having a baby! We’re glad to have you at Roanoke College!
On Saturday, October 7th beginning with registration at 10 am in the Cregger Center, Roanoke College will be hosting the Out of the Darkness Community Walk to help fight suicide. Following registration, the walk will start at the back quad beginning at 11 am.
If you would like to participate in the walk, then please register today through the link in the flyer. RCPA and Psi Chi Students will also be there to help support the event and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
This event is part of Mental Health Awareness Week sponsored by Roanoke College’s Student Health and Counseling Services.
Other activities hosted this week include a Suicide in the Media Discussion Panel on Tuesday, Oct. 3 from 6:30- 8 pm in Massengill Auditorium which is open to all, followed by a Mental Health Education Fair and Free Depression Screening Event on Thursday, Oct. 5th from 5-7 pm in the WELL (Alumni 216).
For this latter event, students can call Student Health and Counseling Services (540-375-2286) to schedule a screening or they can drop-in. Screenings are confidential.
If you’re interested in any of these activities and want to learn more, there will be a table set up on Monday (10/2) and Wednesday (10/4) outside of Commons where information will be provided and ribbons for Mental Health Awareness will be given out.