Classroom Habits of Successful Learners
Michiko is an outstanding student. To begin with, she never misses a class unless she’s really sick, she always gets to class on time, and she always sit in front.
Michiko could answer that question. In her first classes she took a seat near the back of the class. She is shy and thought she’d feel like people were looking at her if she sat in front.
She soon regretted her decision. The students who sat in the back of the room didn’t seem interested in learning. Michiko noticed some students emailing or texting their friends. The boy next to her was surfing the web and kept wanting to show her the funny pictures he found. Other students were talking, chewing gum, and eating snacks. Several students got up and left before class was over. It was hard to hear what the professor was saying and Michiko had trouble concentrating with all the distractions.
The next day, Michiko walked to the front of the class and took one of the empty seats there.
Students who sit it front hear more and see more. They can read what’s on the blackboard or screen. They can see the Professor’s expressions.
Another reason to sit in front is that the Professor can see you. They will recognize you when they see you around campus. They are likely to think of you as a student who is interested in learning.
In discussion classes, it is usually the students who sit near the front who participate most actively in the discussion. They are likely to ask and answer the most questions. Sometimes class participation counts toward your grades. You also learn more when you are actively involved in the discussion.
Having Good Posture improves Learning
Students who sit up straight or lean slightly forward usually learn more and make better grades that students who lean back in their seats. Why should your posture make a difference?
Do an experiment. Listen to a lecture or watch the news on TV while leaning back in your chair, and again while sitting up or leaning slightly forward. You will notice a big difference. Leaning back is what you do when you are tired or bored. It is actually harder to pay attention. You might begin to yawn and feel tired.
When you sit up straight, you actually feel more alert. You have more energy. You look and feel ready to learn. The professor might notice your posture and assume that students with better posture are more interested in learning.
Why should you read the assignment before the lecture?
Students who prepare for a lecture usually learn more and make better grades. What difference does it make if you do the reading assignment before or after the lecture. There are three reasons to read the assignment first.
1. Students who read the chapter in the book first have learned a good deal about the topic. They may have a list of questions and hope to find answers in the lecture.
Students who have not read the chapter might find the lecture confusing. The professor might be using terms or discussing concepts they don’t understand – but would have understood if they had read the chapter.
2. Students who have not read the chapter feel a need to write down everything the professor says because it is all new to them. It is hard to really pay attention and understand the lecture if you are working so hard to write every word.
Students who have already read the chapter will recognize much of the material and concentrate on taking notes on material that is new or that they didn’t understand when they read it. They enjoy the lecture more because the material is now familiar.
3. Students who have read the book have a great advantage. They will be aware of what material in the lecture was NOT in the book. This additional material is something the professor considers important. Questions on this material are likely to be on the tests.
Review lecture notes from the previous class
In some classes this might not be especially helpful, but in many classes, professors will begin where the last lecture ended. They will mention material briefly from the earlier lecture and expect students to remember and follow their thinking.
Try reviewing notes before class several times and continue doing this when you find it helpful. Some students continue because that few minutes before the lecture is the ONLY time they look back at the previous lecture notes. Certainly, if you don’t go back over your notes at this point, you need to do it at some other time.
Students who never review lecture notes tend to forget 90-95% of the material in less than 24 hours. Why take all those notes if you aren’t going to read them?
Get to know your professors
Students who take time to talk to their professors after class or in their offices usually learn more and make better grades. No, it isn’t because the teacher likes them better. Students who know the teacher better often understand what the teacher wants students to learn.
When professors get to know some of their students better, they are often more willing to spend time helping them when the students have questions.
It is especially important to know the professors in your major subject. When you need letters of recommendation for scholarships, for internships or summer jobs, or for graduate school, professors who know you personally are more likely to write that letter. If you let them know you are applying for a scholarship, internship or job, they might tell you about other opportunities you would be interested in.
And why wouldn’t you want to take time to discuss your questions and ideas about the subject with someone who has spent so many years learning in this area. You might learn more in conversations with your professors than you do in class.