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Students consistently report three types of problems while studying. They report difficulty applying self-motivation strategies in poor situations. They fail to manage time effectively. And they don't know how to learn the content in information dense courses. On the surface, these three difficulties appear to be miles apart. We'll let you in on a well-kept secret. You will be amazed to know that seven common dimensions of behavior underlie these difficulties. See Figure 1. Let's see how these seven dimensions are applied to a studying episode. A studying episode can be broken into three phases- Before Studying, During Studying and After Studying.

Figure 1

Before Studying consists of three dimensions: awareness, self management, and planning. Awareness means understanding the demands of the task and understanding how to manage your personal characteristics. Thus, to be effective you must understand the requirements needed to complete the task successfully. You must also know how to control yourself and how to develop a strong commitment to complete the task. Given this knowledge about the task and knowledge about yourself, the next step is to complete the task. This includes knowing precisely what you want to accomplish, plans to avoid potential obstacles, and plans to create a realistic time-frame to accomplish the task. One important dimension of planning is the selection and prioritization of tasks that need to be completed within the same time frame.

During studying consists of choosing, implementing, and monitoring the plan. Flexibility is necessary. For example, if you monitor your learning and you discover you don't understand the material, you must change your strategies. This sounds like a no-brainer. Of course. But when you think about it - students fail to do this all the time. They continue to employ the same mediocre strategies, and they continue to attain mediocre GPA's. Most people are average; they choose to be. Boston Celtics' coach Rick Pitino says it best: "Success is a choice."

After studying requires effective evaluation procedures. This is done by using measurements such as the performance on a test or a paper. Using these products the learner can evaluate whether or not the strategies he/she has used were effective and what changes can be made to improve future performance. Thus, whether the problem is motivation, time management, or learning difficult content, if you master the seven underlying characteristics of effective performance, you will be well on your way to becoming an excellent student. Return to our web site next week to learn more about how to master these characteristics.




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