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Research Highlights
Consolidated Research in Study Skills

Research Highlights

What is study skills instruction?

  • Study skills instruction involves teaching students to utilize a process for thinking about thinking, usually in steps. It requires students to "recognize, recall, and execute" the particular steps in the study skill or strategy. By mastering these skills, students are equipped with the tools to ‘learn how to learn.’ This is called metacognition.
  • Study skills encompass the capabilities for acquiring, recording, organizing, synthesizing, remembering and using information and ideas.
  • Study skills include many behaviors that pertain to various school- and home-related situations. These include preparing to learn (e.g., personal discipline, organizational skills, attitude, ability to self-monitor), how do learners acquire knowledge (e.g., listening, note taking, outlining, and organizing), and applying knowledge (e.g., test-taking, writing, remembering, and self-monitoring).


Why is study skills instruction important?

  • Education researchers such as Gordon Alley, Candace S. Bos, and Donald Deshler, have found that in order for students to achieve in the classroom, they must use effective strategies for learning and retaining information.
  • Not surprisingly, students with learning and behavior problems have difficulty developing these skills. They often use a limited range of strategies, are inflexible in their approach to studying, and fail to make the connection between using effective study skills and academic achievement.
  • Too often students reach high school with very limited internal resources; often they lack the ability to learn how to learn.
  • Students with effective study skills are more likely to feel competent and confident about their ability to learn. This leads to better attitudes about schoolwork.
  • Study skills help prepare students for lifelong learning — not just academic learning. Specific skills such as organizing, listening, and retaining information can be applied in a variety of settings and situations, such as when applying for a job or planning errands. It is therefore important for teachers to make students aware of the various types of study skills and their benefits.


What type of student can benefit from study skills instruction?

  • Those students who are most in need of study skills are typically those with mild disabilities or learning problems. These students often have difficulty monitoring their study habits and staying organized.

  • Students who are transitioning into middle or high school, and must adjust to a new workload. They may find that their previously-used skills are not sufficient for their new learning tasks.

What obstacles have kept study skills from being taught explicitly?

  • Ironically, middle school teachers face their own time management challenges when they wish to fit instruction regarding study skills or learning strategies into their already busy schedules. Often teachers are pressed to meet state and district curriculum standards and objectives, which may not include study skills instruction. Understandably, many focus on teaching content rather than strategies, hoping or believing that their students have either already acquired such skills, or that they will somehow learn them as they go along. This is rarely the case.
  • Many teachers and parents assume that students acquire effective study skills either on their own, or through schooling. Unfortunately, while most researchers agree that study skills are prerequisites to school success, they are incorporated into a formalized, structured curriculum infrequently.

What does research tell us about effective study skills instruction?

  • In addition, teachers can use the Principles and Tips outlined in this link to help students assess their skills, plan and monitor goals, and develop a system for improving study habits.
  • It is important for teachers to provide explicit instruction regarding learning strategies and study skills to students with learning and behavioral disorders. Such instruction may be woven into content-based lessons. The most effective strategies for these students are general, can apply to a relatively broad spectrum of learning contexts, and are straightforward.

What are the goals for teaching study skills and other strategy instruction?

Strategic study skills training will help students process information. There are four desired goals teachers should keep in mind when teaching and using these interventions.

  • To improve background knowledge
    This will help students because a key component in the learning process is connecting new ideas to what one already knows. The more familiarity a student has with a subject or concept, the larger is the foundation for building new knowledge. Also, the better students become at reflecting on their prior knowledge, the more active they become in the learning process.

  • To develop or enhance schemata
    This will help students by assisting them in building frameworks and structures for learning. These organized learning methods help students obtain knowledge by empowering them to create space for new information that connects with previous concept and a student's experience. This way, information is clearer and easier to process.

  • To increase metacognition
    This will help students become actively and consistently involved in their own learning, by engaging in planning, monitoring, and controlling the learning process. Learning is very personal, and students must reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses as learners in order to develop effective ways to improve the process. (Wood, Woloshyn, & Willoughby, 1995).

  • To implement learning strategies
    Students will benefit most from study skills and strategy instruction methods when they have opportunities to apply them in their learning at school and at home. Learners must generalize the use of learning strategies across a variety of environments and situations if they are to become active and independent learners.


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