Contributions of Study Skills to Academic Competence

Article excerpt

Abstract. Study skills are fundamental to academic competence. Effective study skills are associated with positive outcomes across multiple academic content areas and for diverse learners. The purpose of this article is to describe an information-processing perspective on the contribution of study skills to academic competence, and to identify evidence-based strategies that are effective in helping students to improve their study skills. Using an information-processing framework, study skills are grouped into four clusters: repetition-based skills, procedural study skills, cognitive-based study skills, and metacognitive skills. Key elements of effective study-strategy training are delineated.

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Academic competence is associated with the knowledge and application of effective study skills. Capable students at all grade 1evlevels may experience difficulty in school, not because they lack ability, but because they lack good study skills. Although some students develop study skills independently, even normally achieving students may go through school without having acquired effective approaches for studying (Nicaise & Gettinger, 1995). Implementing study-skills instruction relies on an understanding of the theoretical foundation for teaching and using study skills, as well as knowledge of current research on the effectiveness of study strategies. The purpose of this article is to articulate a theoretical perspective on the contribution of study skills to academic competence, and to identify evidence-based strategies that are effective in helping students study.

Consistent with the model of academic competence for this miniseries, study skills are viewed as academic enablers; they function as critical tools for learning. Study skills encompass a range of coordinated cognitive skills and processes that enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of students' learning (Devine, 1987). According to Hoover and Patton (1995), study skills include the competencies associated with acquiring, recording, organizing, synthesizing, remembering, and using information. These competencies contribute to success in both nonacademic (e.g., employment) and academic settings. Studying, or the application of study skills, can be distinguished from other forms of school learning that occur under more proscribed conditions, such as teacher-led classroom instruction (Novak &: Gowin, 1984; Rohwer, 1984). First, studying is skillful; it requires training and practice with specific techniques that help a learner acquire, organize, retain, and use information. Although students are expected to app ly study skill sin completing homework or preparing for tests, teachers typically devote little time to providing explicit instruction in such skills (Zimmerman, 1998). Second, studying is intentional. Effective studying requires not only the knowledge and application of skills, but volition as well. Studying differs from incidental learning in that it is purposeful and requires a deliberate and conscious effort on the part of the student. Third, studying is highly personal and individualized. Whereas classroom learning occurs within a social context through interaction and guidance from others (e.g., peers, teachers), studying is often an individual activity. Even when learning is fostered through a process of social communication, individual study behaviors still play a critical role in academic competence (Damon, 1991; Kucan & Beck, 1997). Finally, studying involves a self-regulatory dimension. According to Rohwer (1984), "studying is the principal means of self-education throughout life" (p. 1). Self-regu lation (e.g., initiative, persistence, goal setting) is an important aspect of studying, not only during the initial development of study skills, but also during application of skills outside of formal learning contexts (Zimmerman, Bonner, & Kovach, 1996). …