By Daniel T. Willingham for the NY Times
Picture your preschooler’s teacher pulling you aside at pickup time to say that your child was “not taking responsibility” for learning the alphabet. You’d be puzzled and probably angry. It’s not up to a 4-year-old to make sure he learns the alphabet. That’s the teacher’s job.
But as your child gets older, he’ll increasingly be expected to teach himself. High school seniors must read difficult books independently, commit information to memory, schedule their work, cope with test anxiety and much more.
These demands build slowly across the grades, essentially forming a second, unnoticed curriculum: learning how to learn independently.
For most American students, that curriculum goes untaught. In a 2007 survey, just 20 percent of college students agreed that they study as they do “because a teacher (or teachers) taught you to study that way.”
And that lack of instruction shows. Students don’t know much about how they learn.
In one study, researchers asked college students to select which of two scenarios would lead to better learning. For example, students were asked to compare creating one’s own mnemonic with using one the teacher provides. (Creating your own is better, previous research shows.)
For two of the six scenarios, students picked the worse strategy as often as the better one. For the other four, most students actually thought the worse strategy was superior.
How could they be so misinformed? You would think that after years of studying and then seeing their test results, students would figure out which methods work and which don’t.
Students get studying wrong because they don’t assess whether a method works in the long run. Instead, they pay attention to whether the method is easy to do and feels like it’s working while they’re doing it.
Read more here.