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Study skills

Overview

In university teaching, there is a strong focus on academic content. What often tends to be forgotten is the focus on how to work with the academic content: how to read, write, argue and work within the subject field. In other words, the skills required to study the subject. These skills do not just develop spontaneously, so teachers need to teach their students not only subject knowledge, but also how to achieve this knowledge.

 

Study skills – a joint responsibility

Academic ways of expressing oneself, thinking and working are familiar to the teacher, but new to the students. Therefore, the students need the teaching to also focus on how to develop the skills required to study the subject in question. Every university student can read, write and make a presentation; however, great differences exist in how this should be done, depending on whether they are studying comparative literature, geography or medicine. Working with the development of study skills as part of academic instruction is therefore important. The development of appropriate study skills is a joint responsibility which both students and teachers need to consider. Of course, the students must work independently with the material, but they need guidance in how to do so. For instance, they need questions guiding them in how to read complex academic texts. And they need to work on argumentation and writing methods within their subject.

Explaining the study methods of the subject

Many of the students’ study activities take place between teaching sessions; they read, write, reflect, solve tasks – independently or in groups. Skills are required – when working with complicated academic material, when collaborating in study groups, and when managing long independent writing processes. Some students learn this by just being plunged into the work, but most students develop study skills faster and better when working consciously with the skills in connection with the academic content. When the study methods of the subject are articulated and explained, the teaching is lifted to a meta level at which it becomes visible to the students what they should study in this course – and why and how. They then develop an awareness of study skills and other academic competences which they can transfer to new texts, new tasks, new learning situations.

The teacher's expert knowledge

Your expert knowledge on how to work with the subject – how to read, write, think, calculate and argue within the subject – form the basis of the students’ development of both their academic competences and their study skills. You may for instance support the students’ study skills by identifying their major challenges in the subject and basing your initial instruction on these. What are the difficult aspects of the subject? Look inward and identify how you as an expert work with exactly these aspects. If, for instance, the students find it difficult to read academic tests, you may guide their reading activities based on your own reading methods.

Teachers should ask themselves the following questions:

  • How do scholars work within your subject: What do you pay attention to when reading texts? How is your own writing process? How do you argue?
  • Which activities may assist the students in applying some of the same working methods?
  • What is particularly difficult for the students within your subject? And why is this difficult – how can you help them through this bottleneck?

 

Activities

    Examples of practice