Study skills activities can be described as those which help one to learn more effectively. This requires an understanding of what is meant by learning. That is not such a straightforward task. Many people confuse learning with remembering. They are not the same.

Examinations do not test memory. A student who could remember every word in a book might still fail an examination hopelessly. He might remember long lists of numbers but if he cannot manipulate and use them to solve problems it will be to no avail. The differences between memory and learning are so obvious that it is surprising how often students confuse the two in the heat of preparation for examinations.

Learning is an exciting process because it involves inexorable change for life. Once new knowledge has been acquired and understood it is automatically stored in the memory. As problems arise learning is applied in ways that are different to the way that it would have been applied before learning. For example, a child may know about a bicycle but when he has learnt to ride it he really experiences the thrill for the first time.

The advent of the Internet in the 1990s changed the world forever. It also altered education. Information from the world’s greatest libraries is available now for tween books anyone with a computer who knows how to access relevant information critically. The teacher’s head has become obsolete as a source of knowledge. Now a teacher’s experience and skill may be needed to help students use the Internet critically and effectively, but what he knows will almost certainly be less that is available at the touch of a button.

Reading needs to be improved through practise. The skill of decoding and interpreting signs is complicated and can only be learnt through long hours of practice and interpretation. In fact, the need to improve reading is so great that there should be no time wasted in memorizing lists of facts and figures. Instead time should be spent in studying relevant texts before answering question on them and discussing them with teachers or friends. That is study time well spent.

What has been understood from texts needs to be internalized. This does not happen immediately but needs to be fixed in the mind through writing and speaking. These are learning activities, not ends in themselves. It is sometimes painful to start writing because it is difficult, and requires the exercise of advanced intellectual abilities. However, writing one essay on a topic will certainly lead to more learning than several hours spent ‘going over’ a file of notes.

Practising the essential learning skills with a small group of friends can be the most enjoyable and profitable way of spending study time. Study skills activities should be active, not passive. Even when using a computer to study the emphasis should be on inter active learning. As John Dewey said: learn by doing.


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