Microbiology for Teachers
Study Tips For Active Learning
Learning involves not only memorizing, but also or
understanding the subject matter, especially at a conceptual level.
Effective learning is active learning and requires that one employ
critical thinking, which is an active, sustained, cognitive
effort directed at solving a complex problem. Critical thinking
requires integration of different sources of information,
considering alternate perspectives, making critical judgments, and
developing and testing hypotheses.
The following study tips will help you develop your
capacity for critical thinking and therefore for active learning.
- Familiarize yourself with the material to be covered
during lecture. Look at the syllabus, then skim the
pertinent portions of the textbook. As you skim, jot down a
map showing the major concepts that are covered and
a vocabulary list of terms likely to be important to
understanding these concepts (especially terms new to you). These
activities will make you think about the topic and help prepare
you for constructive listening and participation during
- Take class notes, being sure you write enough detail to
follow the logic and capture the concepts that form
the basis of the lecture or discussion. Don't try to write down
everything; this will just get in the way of your listening and
- Read the relevant pages in the textbook. This
time, you are going for content, so it will help to generate an
outline of the material, basing it on the concept maps you began
when you skimmed the material before class.
- Write new notes based on your concept maps, vocabulary
lists, class notes and reading outlines. The object is not
neatness, nor is it just reorganizing or
categorizing the material (although these are important
parts of the process); rather, it is the integration of
this material and synthesis of concepts and models that
allow you to truly understand the material. Write these
notes in your own words, because that makes you assimilate
the material and reflect on it, thus fostering
understanding by building neural pathways with links between
things you knew before and new things.
- Analyze your notes rather than trying to just memorize
them. It will, of course, be very important for you to remember
the content, but that is not sufficient. Critical thinking about
the subject material is needed to allow you to truly understand
it. To do this in a more effective manner, try these processes:
- Be curious ... seek to know as much as
possible about the topics at hand.
- Look for connections among facts, ideas and
- Visualize the concepts, inking them to images
will help you remember concepts and grasp both individual
concepts and connections among them more easily.
- Generate analogies to couple new material to
things you knew previously.
- Form a study group of five or six people to use as a
source of alternative perspectives, "sounding boards" and study
partners. Keep "on task" when studying and remember to apply the
principles of critical thinking throughout.
© 1998-2002. John R. Stevenson. All Rights
questions and comments to:
R. Stevenson, Ph.D.
Department of Microbiology
Oxford, Ohio 45056
This document was last modified on Sunday, 09-Jun-2002 19:14:38 EDT