Study Tip: Making Rehearsal Work for You

Exams are creeping up on some of you. Time to get studying. When you review for an exam, you’re almost certainly going to rehearse the material you learned, which means repeating the information in order to more securely store it in your memory. This makes sure that what you need to know is easy to remember come exam time.

However, don’t think about rehearsal too simply; psychologists often talk about two distinct types of it. Maintenance rehearsal is when you repeat something over and over without giving any meaning to the information. Let’s say you want to remember the definition of the word “axon,” which is a part of a neuron: maintenance rehearsal would involve saying “axon” over and over until you think you can remember it. This is also called rote rehearsal. It keeps information active in your mind, but it typically has limited value if you want to remember it for any significant length of time.

Elaborative rehearsal involves giving meaning to the information you’re trying to memorize. Research clearly shows that when you want to commit things to long-term memory, like when you’re studying for an exam, you need to use this kind of rehearsal. Elaborative rehearsal isn’t only repeating the piece of information you want to remember, but also making it associated to something else you already know. So, going back to the word “axon”: to remember its definition, you can think that an axon takes a neural impulse “away” from the neuron. “Axon” and “away” both start with the letter A. This makes everything much easier to remember.

Here’s another example of how you can use elaboration to improve your memory. Let’s say that you want to remember the names of all five Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. You could repeat the five names over and over (rote rehearsal) or you can think of a more meaningful way to remember them, like forming a word from the first letter of each of the five names (this is called an acronym). This spells HOMES. Using acronyms makes it much easier to remember than five separate words!

Have you ever used elaborative rehearsal before? If “yes”, how has it helped you remember something?

Special Guest Writer–Dr. Jerry Hauselt (Southern CT State University): Faculty Expectations

Professors expect that college students will act differently than high school students. Why? Because college is voluntary and expensive. Therefore, it is expected that students will take their education seriously and take responsibility for maximizing their investment of time and money. Professors expect that students will act like scholars, and come to class ready to engage with the material. You need to have the same attitude towards studying as you’d have toward training: success comes only after sustained hard work. One of my colleagues explains this to her students by telling them that they should come to class prepared to prove that they are the smartest person in the room. Students with this attitude succeed not because they impress her, but because they know the material.

Many students enter college without realizing that THE RULES HAVE CHANGED and they need to change their attitude towards academics. In high school, studying and doing well may not be popular, but in college, it’s why you’re here.

I try to convey to my students that rules have changed with the following elements from one of my syllabi:

Electronics/Facebook Free Zone. TURN OFF YOUR PHONE! NOW! Texts can wait. Also, TEXTING KILLS GRADES. If you want a poor grade, keep texting. Are you paying tuition so that you can text friends in a crowded room? Are you paying tuition to have a comfortable seat in which to make Mark Zuckerberg rich? Please note that your friend’s latest tweet or Facebook post or last night’s basketball scores WILL NOT be on the exam. Put your phone away for an hour. It won’t hurt. If you find this unfair or foolish, DROP THIS CLASS!

Respect, Please. We are here to learn about psychology. We are not here to chat, text, or engage in other behavior that will negatively impact another person’s ability to learn. You are not as quiet as you think when you text or comment to your neighbor. If you must sit and talk to your neighbor, do it outside this class. If you find this unfair or foolish, DROP THIS CLASS!

Another important element of respect for others is remaining in your seat during class. It is disruptive and rude to those around you to leave in the middle of class and return. Please take care of what you need to take care of before or after class. If you find this unfair or foolish, DROP THIS CLASS!

Electronic Access. We will be using the internet and email. It is your responsibility to gain access to both (available free in campus computer labs) and be familiar with how to use them. YOU SHOULD ALSO PLAN BACK-UP ACCESS. Learn where there are other computers you can use if yours fails.

What are your thoughts on Dr. Hauselt’s pointers?

The Importance of Attending Class

Now that you’ve been in college for a short time, you might be asking whether you should attend class or not. It’s an interesting question, especially given that almost all colleges don’t have a universal attendance policy. Moreover, if you’re taking a large class you might reason that no one would even know if you were missing. As a faculty member, and one who teaches large classes at that, I’m going to argue that you should definitely attend class. It’s your individual responsibility; no one’s going to make you go. But if you don’t go, you need to be prepared for any negative consequences.

As far as specific reasons to attend class, here are 6 quick points:

1) Class time should be interesting and fun. You’ll also learn while you’re in class. This is easy for me to say, but any instructor worth your time should be working to make you never even want to miss class. Your instructor should motivate you to show up focused and ready to learn. Although this isn’t always true, most faculty are prepared to work hard to make your class experience something to look forward to.

2) Based on my 27 years of teaching all sizes of classes, I can confidently say that attending class makes you learn more and increases your grade. I’ve found a high positive correlation between attendance and grades—the more students attend class the better their grade.

3) In many classes, like my own, reading your textbook is no substitute for hearing the lecture. Exams are often directly from the lecture and not from the textbook. Therefore, not being in class could significantly impact your grade.

4) Getting notes from your classmates isn’t a good substitute for attending lecture either. The friend you get notes from might take those notes much differently than you, and that might require your classmate to take a long time explaining what they mean.

5) More and more classes are instituting an attendance policy, in-class work (even in large classes), a participation requirement, or all three of these. Every day you might miss means a loss in grade points.

6) When you attend class you are able to interact with others. You get to talk to other students and hopefully make new friends that can last a lifetime. Also, you can talk to your Instructor, finding out more things about the class and what that Instructor is investigating in his or her research.