Using Factual Study Questions to Guide Reading and Promote Mastery Learning by Developmental Students in an Introductory Psychology Course
Brothen, Thomas, Wambach, Cathrine, Journal of College Reading and Learning
Skill at reading textbooks is clearly important for academic success. For example, a study of university teaching by Wambach (1998) found that 85% of beginning college courses required textbook reading. In his classic book on teaching, McKeachie (1994) characterizes textbooks as central to the teaching/ learning process. He notes that, to avoid confusion and frustration, students need their learning to be organized by some frame of reference and that textbooks provide it. But informal discussions with colleagues have impressed us with the consistency of their concerns--that students don't do the assigned reading on time or even at all. This is a special concern for those of us who teach developmental (or under-prepared) students. These students are not qualified for regular college admission because of previous academic insufficiency as reflected in high school grades or low test scores. They need to get on the right track early if they are to become successful academically.
In a recent article, Beyeler (1998) described the results of a study "to assist under prepared college students for college study ..." (p. 5). In the context of an introductory psychology class, she examined student study strategies, the effect of reciprocal teaching, transfer of strategies to other classes, and students' changes in study strategies. The students' psychology course instructor gave them a set of learning objectives. In addition, the author conducted a study strategies class for them one hour two days each week of the term where they learned and practiced various study techniques (reciprocal teaching, creating multiple-choice items) and goal setting. Contrary to the study's intent and instructors' efforts, the students actually used surface level learning strategies (e.g., reading only textbook summaries, learning only bold face print material, or memorizing class notes) to study for their psychology class. Further, when students changed strategies they changed only to another surface strategy. They skipped difficult textbook sections and memorized the terms, learning objectives, and class notes they thought would be on tests. In summary, the students did not make full use of their textbook and did not utilize methods designed to help them read it. The common suspicion among college instructors is supported by Beyeler's study; many college students simply don't read their textbooks.
Perhaps students don't read their textbooks because, as McKeachie (1994) points out, textbook reading does not always go smoothly. As a solution he recommends instructors apply research findings on study questions as study aides. This research concludes that higher level questions that get students to "think" are most effective at promoting learning. However, he points out that there is "ample evidence that students benefit from specific instruction in selecting main ideas, asking themselves questions, looking for organizational cues, and attempting to summarize or explain what they've read" (p. 132). These specific suggestions are fairly concrete and may suggest something less complex than the "higher level" thinking processes implicit in McKeachie's analysis.
Wambach (1992) analyzed the difference between factual study questions and student journals and pointed out that "deeper" (that is, higher level) strategies (analysis, synthesis, interpretation, and application) "are generally more difficult for students to use and faculty to evaluate" (p. 43). In addition, while perhaps more effective for long term retention, they are most relevant for advanced courses. She reviews evidence suggesting that developmental students need to begin with factual study questions to build the academic base that will allow them to be successful in later advanced courses. Developmental students prefer factual study questions, are more likely to complete them, and because most introductory courses in social science and natural science stress …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Using Factual Study Questions to Guide Reading and Promote Mastery Learning by Developmental Students in an Introductory Psychology Course. Contributors: Brothen, Thomas - Author, Wambach, Cathrine - Author. Journal title: Journal of College Reading and Learning. Volume: 30. Issue: 2 Publication date: Spring 2000. Page number: 158. © 1999 College Reading and Learning Association. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.