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Three Keys to College Success

A recent study of student performance reveals that thinking skills and work habits contribute to student achievement.  Students and teachers can optimize success by focusing on critical thinking, note taking and attendance!

For Faculty and TAs: Helping students with thinking, note taking and attendance

A student’s class attendance, note taking and critical thinking skills relate directly to the student’s course performance.  In a recent study of the relationship of thinking skills and work habits to student performance, Williams and Worth concluded that “critical thinking was the strongest predictor of multiple-choice exams; attendance was the best predictor of group problem-solving; readings notetaking was the primary predictor for both quizzes and projects; and class notetaking was the principle predictor of combined course outcomes.”   Help your students to develop good learning habits by focusing their attention on these dimensions of college success.

1. Class attendance is prerequisite to a student’s note taking and understanding of a teachers thinking.  Absenteeism often results in missed information and the inability to apply material as modeled by the professor.  When students do poorly because of absenteeism, be explicit that their poor performance is due to missing class.

2. Help your students to take better notes.  There are multiple ways to enhance student note-taking:

• Outline your lecture.

• Fill in a table or a framework on the board as class progresses.

• Tell students when material should be recorded.

• Give students time in class to compare their notes.

• Occasionally distribute copies of your notes for students to compare to their own.

3. Attempt to upgrade your students’ critical thinking.  Try modeling how concepts can be transferred.   Give opportunities for interactive inquiry, and offer plenty of feedback regarding a student’s use of critical thinking.

Read the Article by Williams and Worth

Some Tips on Helping Students Take Notes


For Students: Developing habits for success

Have you ever met a student who makes learning look easy?  We often assume that such people are “gifted” or smart, but these students often have discovered the key habits for college success.  Research reveals that you can increase your college success by practicing good attendance, taking plentiful notes and observing your professors as they work through problems, topics and issues in class.

1. One of the easiest habits to develop is simply attending class.  Class attendance is prerequisite to note taking and understanding your teachers thinking.  Two of the most important days to attend class are on the first day and post-exam feedback days.  These days are critical in helping you to understand the material and the teachers.

2. Taking notes keeps you focused while you are in class, but it is not the only time for note taking.  You should also take notes of your readings outside of class.  The more notes you take inside and outside of class, the better your quizzes, exams and discussions will be.

3. A great deal of learning for any course is figuring out how the professor thinks.  What sort of materials does the professor focus upon?  What types of examples does the professor use?  Does he or she focus on rote memory of facts or application of concepts?  By observing your professors in class, you can begin to get into their way of thinking.  This will help you in exams and assignments.

You can increase your college success by planning to attend class, taking plentiful notes and developing thinking skills that your professor models in class.  Then, people will think you are one of the “gifted” and smart students.