Families are strengthened when students develop good study habits and take responsibility for doing their own school work. There is far less stress in a home when parents are a resource and teacher rather than an enforcer. I am grateful that my own children developed good study habits and accepted the responsibility for their own school work. Some of them were better at organizing themselves and completing homework than others – or at different times – but all of them received good grades.
The familiar advice to parents in my day included having a specific time and place for homework, setting goals, sticking to a homework schedule, etc. Apparently, this was not the best counsel. Cognitive scientists realized in recent years that students learn more by following some simple techniques that can help any student at any age. These techniques and principles have not caught on because they contradict previous ideas about good study habits.
For instance, a team of psychologists found no evidence to support the ideas that children have specific learning styles (auditory learner versus visual learner) or are left-brained or right brained. Psychologists discovered in a 1978 experiment that a variety of study places and a variety of topics helps to increase knowledge gained. College students studying 40 vocabulary words two times in two different rooms did better than students studying the words twice in the same room.
In another study elementary school students were taught four equations, each of which was for a different dimension of a prism. While part of the students practiced calculating repeated study problems of one type, the other students practiced with mixed problems. The students were tested the next day with new problems of the same type. The students doing mixed problems did twice as well as the group doing a single type of problem.
Adults, young and old, were better able to distinguish the painting styles of twelve unfamiliar artists after viewing a mixed assortment than when studying one artist at a time.
“Cramming” helps a student do well on a test, but gradually “packing” the information in the brain improves later recall. Practice tests and quizzes help in the process of remembering because the simple act of recall helps to “store” the information in a more accessible manner.
Parents and teachers can help children study better by putting variety in study places and material. Families are strengthened as students gain more information from their studies and more self-esteem by becoming better students.