How cool would it be if a couple cognitive psychologists decided to write a blog for students on how to study? Megan Smith (Rhode Island College) and Yana Weinstein (University of Massachusetts Lowell) have created LearningScientists.org. Their “[m]ission is to make scientific research more accessible to students and educators in order to increase the use of evidence-based study strategies among students.”
Launched on Februrary 5, 2016, their first blog post, “Communication Breakdown Between Science and Practice in Education,” nicely explains why they decided to create this blog. In short, there needs to be a more direct pipeline between cognitive science and the people who use it, such as students and teachers. Those of us who teach psychology are professional interpreters and translators of psychological science, and as such, we have a responsibility to share what we know. Kudos to Drs. Smith and Weinstein for taking psychology to the streets.
More recent blog posts include information on the testing effect and its benefits, the danger of relying on intuition, how confirmation bias can steer us wrong, and tips on how to study from a textbook by applying self-testing and spacing.
Since their content is directed at students, I just added this blog as a feed to my course announcements. That means that every time a new blog post goes up, it will automatically be sent out to my students as a course announcement. While my college uses the Canvas learning management system (LMS), this ability should reside in whatever LMS your institution uses. To the people who run your LMS write, “I have an RSS feed (http://www.learningscientists.org/) I want to automatically push out to my students through our LMS, say, as an announcement. How can I do that?”
While I love what Smith and Weinstein are doing, I’m not expecting huge changes in my students studying behavior. We know there is a (BIG) difference between knowing what we’re supposed to do and actually doing it. (Do you get as much exercise as you know you should? Do you eat as well as you know you should?) Of course we have to know what we should be doing – thus praise for their efforts – before we can start feeling guilty about not doing what we should be doing. Stephen Chew tackled the how-to-study problem in his 6-part How to Get the Most Out of Studying video series, and I know a number of faculty, in and out of psychology, who use at least parts of his series with their students. A couple years ago I did an hour-long session at my college titled The Science of Being a Student. It was recorded, so I have my Intro Psych students watch it and answer a few questions as an assignment. Students always report getting a lot out of it. But for most students, it has no discernible impact on exam grades. Perhaps for some students, they are looking for a magic bullet where none exists. Learning is hard work, and there is no way around that.
But for those students who are ready to make a change in how they study, let’s make sure they know the best evidence-based techniques. And LearningScientists.org is a great place for our students to start.