Psychology professor discusses studying habits at SOLE summit


Mark McDaniel speaks to the audience at Kent State’s Science of Learning and Education, or SOLE, summit about effective teaching techniques Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014 at the Kent State Hotel and Conference Center.

Alyssa Schmitt

Repetition and highlighting don’t work when it comes to study habits in college. Mark McDaniel, a psychology professor from Washington University, spoke about those study myths Thursday night at the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center.

McDaniel’s speech, titled “Improving Instructional Effectiveness and Equipping Student to Learn Smarter,” focused on the ineffectiveness of common study habits and new techniques that do work. The keynote was part of the Kent State University’s Science of Learning and Education (SOLE) Center’s program, “Improving Student Achievement: A Summit on Learning and Education.”

McDaniel said the two most common study habits are re-reading and highlighting of specific terms.

At Washington University, he said, 84 percent of students re-read their notes or textbook.

“Repeat, repeat, repeat,” McDaniel said. “This is what our students are being told.”

However, McDaniel said that re-reading is “ineffective” and has “no benefit” for the students. A study McDaniel presented showed that there wasn’t a significant change in test scores if students re-read their material.

The next study habit McDaniel addressed was the act of highlighting important information in textbooks.

“Students would highlight and underline things they thought were important in a paragraph,” McDaniel said. “We did this for the students and highlighted what we thought were important terms…Highlighting doesn’t do a darn thing, regarding the fact of the question.”

In another study McDaniel presented, the student’s scores did not improve when terms were highlighted.

So what study habits do work? McDaniel said that transfer-appropriate processing (TAP), the process of learning information and then recalling it at a later time, is one effectively proven study habit.

McDaniel said that TAP was used in a medical school study where surgical residents experienced two different types of intense training.

The residents were broken into two groups, one group continuing the one-day of intense training and the other spacing the training into four separate days.

After four weeks, a test was given to determine which students had the successful training session, McDaniel said. The test was to repair an artery of a rat and if the rat did not survive, that resident failed the test.

In the one-day intensive group, McDaniel said, “16 percent messed up the surgery so badly that the animal cannot be saved.” However, nobody in the space group failed the surgery, he said.

McDaniel said TAP should be taken advantage of by those teaching in the classroom.

Jenna Wall, a graduate psychology student, said she found the information from the speech helpful.

“I teach at the undergraduate level and no one teaches you how to do it,” Wall said. “I need to make it clear to my students that there is a certain way they should study in order to align well with the exam.”

Other students in the audience said they found the information helpful for their own educational career.

“I’m still a student,” said Jeremy Slocum, a graduate psychology student. “If people are telling me ways to learn better, I want to know that to so I can get better grades and retain everything.”

McDaniel said he believes as more time passes, more information will be discovered on the matter and teaching methods can only improve.

Contact Alyssa Schmitt at [email protected].