The Dead Wrong Strategy

On the preceding page, the author explained the supposed benefits of the study questions in the left margin of this textbook. They tell students what information is required to know for the test, and this should help students check their comprehension, while putting needed information at their fingertips if they need to study it again. For about about a third of first-year college students using this textbook, however, the study questions sabotaged their study efforts by luring them into an ineffective study method.

What is the DR strategy?

The intuitively obvious (and dead wrong) way to economize while studying is simply to look back and forth between the study question and the text, find the answer, stare at it (or if you have a print version highlight it) and spend the rest of your time memorizing the "answers." This is dead wrong! Let's call this the DR strategy. The DR strategy is dead wrong for several reasons:

1. The study questions point to topics. They may ask about information spanning several sentences or paragraphs. They are not meant to confine your studying to a 3- or 4-word memorized answer. (See the page titled Achieving Clarity.)

2. The DR strategy is not really easier than in-depth studying. Memorizing "stuff" you do not understand or care about is difficult! On the other hand, when you get absorbed in what you are reading, you will learn the answers to the study questions automatically and without conscious effort.

3. The DR strategy does not give you what you came to college to obtain: in-depth learning. If you try to memorize short answers, your learning will be superficial, and it will fade quickly.

4. The DR strategy typically results in low grades. The quiz items that accompany this textbook were not written by a graduate assistant; they were written by the author and filtered by using them with thousands of students. Those that were too easy or obvious, or ambiguous and picky, were removed. The result is a collection of quiz items that students agreed were fair. However, they do require you to understand what you read.

The philosophy behind those multiple-choice questions is discussed on the web at this URL: http://www.psywww.com/selfquiz/aboutq.htm. At that site you will find 10 sample questions from each chapter, selected from those actually used on quizzes. You are invited to take the online self-quiz before the real quiz on each chapter, to test your level of comprehension. In my classes, one or two of the items from the self-quizzes turned up on each weekly 20 item classroom quiz for a chapter. If you are reading this textbook for a school assignment, your teacher might use a different testing schedule or a different approach to testing.

If a superficial memorization strategy will not work, how should the study questions be used? The answer is in the next section, but in a nutshell, here it is: The questions allow you to check your comprehension after reading by attempting to answer the questions without looking at the text. That is very different from "looking back and forth and memorizing," as we will see.


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Copyright © 2007 Russ Dewey