What are Good Homework Habits?
Graciela used to do her homework stretched out on the sofa or sitting on her bed. On warm days, she sometimes leaned against a tree somewhere on campus or even lay on the grass. It was very relaxing but she never seemed to get much work done.
Her roommate pointed out that she would accomplish more sitting at a table or desk. Graciela thought it would be easier to study when she was comfortable but she tried sitting at a table.
She was surprised at what a difference it made. She uses her desk when she’s in the dorm and often studies in the library during the day.
Now her written work is done more nearly. She makes fewer mistakes in math problems. She feels just as comfortable and gets more work done, often in a shorter time.
She asked her roommate what other suggestions she had for doing homework.
The Best Ways to do Homework
1. Start with a wall calendar.
List important dates such as tests, dates when assignments are due, meetings, school holidays, and even plans to go out with friends to dinner or to a movie. At the beginning of each week, check the calendar, add new dates, and plan the week. This way you will get assignments done well and turned in on time.
2. Do homework soon after class.
Graciela has several hours free right after Calculus. She and her “Study Buddy”, Federico, always go straight to the student union. They find an empty table and do their homework. Each works separately until one or the other gets stuck. Then they try to help each other. Later they compare answers. When the answers are different they do the problem together trying to find the error.
When you do homework soon after class, you have time to get help if you are having problems. You can call or talk to a classmate. You can also find the professor and explain that you need help to understand what you are supposed to do. Students who wait until the last minute, may run into problems and they can’t finish the assignment on time.
3. Work with a Study Buddy or small group, only if you learn more this way.
Working with a “Study Buddy” is usually the most helpful for math but I remember a very difficult physics class. There were eight of us that got together after dinner and worked for about 3 hours. We’d begin by discussing the problem and try different ways to draw a picture or image to work with. Then, we worked separately, to solve the problem. Gradually most of us would reach a dead end… our strategies wasn’t working. With this many students, there were usually one or two who had some progress. They’d share what they were doing and the rest of us would use that and see what we could do.
By putting out minds together, we sometimes solved one or two problems in an hour. None of us would have succeeded working alone. Our professor knew how we were working and strongly approved. It was good to learn how to work together. Our final exam was a take home test and the professor suggested that we work together on the test.
4. Where should you Study?
Most students are told to choose a good place to study and do all their study in that place. Research is showing this isn’t true. If you study math in the student union, study French flashcards on a park bench, study history in the library, and study literature in your dorm room, you might picture yourself studying and find it easier to remember what you learned.
5. When should you study?
Some books recommend scheduling study when you have at least two or three uninterrupted hours to work. They do, however suggest that you take a ten minute break after every 30-45 minutes of study.
Research has shown that most students work better in 20 minute periods, followed by a break. This means that if you have a one hour break between classes, you could study for 20 minutes, take a ten minute break, and study another 20 minutes.
I would suggest that the best answer is that people are different, and we can concentrate for different lengths of time when studying different subjects. Each student should try longer and shorter study sessions and test themselves. Learn what works best for you and your classes.
6. How do you Study?
Begin by planning what you intend to accomplish in the given time period.
When you are reading, take notes on the main ideas or concepts and important details.
Stop after finishing each section to test your understanding and memory. Research shows that students who read once and self-test remember more than students who read the material twice.
For more information: Study Habits, Skills and Strategies
You might also read Four steps to Effective Study Methods