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Program provides study tips for struggling students

(MARVIN FUENTES / THE STATESMAN)
Randy Thomas, the assistant director of Academic and Transfer Advising Services, gives students tips on proper note-taking and study skills. (MARVIN FUENTES / THE STATESMAN)

The Academic and Transfer Advising Services at Stony Brook University is expanding its program by providing students with a series of study skills workshops in the spring and fall semesters.

Randy Thomas, the assistant director of Academic and Transfer Advising Services, and his colleague Kristin Hall, started the program two years ago when they felt students were increasingly seeking information to improve their test-taking and study strategy skills.

“We can’t necessarily solve students’ problems, but we can provide suggestions to address those concerns,” Thomas said.

In Tuesday’s study strategies workshop, Thomas focused on three components of strategies: listening, concentration and note taking.

According to Thomas, active and critical listening are the two most important listening strategies for students’ purposes. Active listening requires in-depth concentration.

“Critical listening is active listening with the goal of understanding, interpreting, analyzing and critiquing the information,” Thomas said during his lecture.

He also said that, in a class where it is difficult to engage in course material, it is important to keep an open mind and ask open-ended questions. “It’s important to ask why do we need to know this information,” he said.

“If I’m interested in what I’m learning, I won’t check my phone as often as opposed to a class that I’m not engaged in,” sophomore psychology major Haley Jahrmarkt said.

Thomas has found that many students are reluctant to ask questions in class in fear they will sound unintelligent. Some students have said professors do not invite questions during lecture, and others refrain due to cultural submissiveness.

Another effective component of study strategy skills is concentration.

“Achieving deep concentration while studying is hard to get, but once you arrive it’s a wonderful place,” Thomas said.

Students will most likely lose track of time and retain the most information if they can achieve 40 minutes of concentration without distraction. Unfortunately, several students never reach a level of deep concentration and it is important to set up a good study environment in order to avoid distractions, Thomas said.

When reading class material, it is important to read and highlight information as well as take notes, predict test questions and quiz yourself on the material you learned. Just reading the information or highlighting what you think is important in a textbook is not an effective strategy, according to his lecture.

It is vital to reflect and review class notes within a few hours of lectures.

According to the Cornell note-taking system, students should first record notes in the right column then reduce notes into the recall column on the left, including the most important points such as definitions. Next, students should recite notes out loud from the recall column and then reflect on the information. Lastly, students should review notes within six to eight hours of class lecture.

“The system of the 5 R’s is important in successful note taking. The most important is to recite the information you’ve written,” Thomas said.

“I’ve learned about the Cornell note-taking system before, but I’ve never used it. I’m going to try it with my note taking in the future,” junior biochemistry major Stephanie Ng said.

Thomas said the Academic and Transfer Advising Services office is working to add an accredited study skills course at Stony Brook University in the future. “This program will provide a service to students that wasn’t previously available,” he said.

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