What’s Needed in “College 101″: How To Learn

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Most colleges now offer a introductory student-success or “College 101″ course designed to help ease the transition into higher education, reports Caralee Adams on the Education Week website. New research shows students benefit from those efforts, but the impact is not long-lasting:

“The study by the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University, includes interviews with 169 students, faculty, and staff, and observations of College 101 courses in 19 classrooms at three community colleges in Virginia. Researchers found students in the courses did improve their skills and knowledge of college resources. However, there wasn’t enough time in class for students to apply and practice the new skills. (The classes evaluated in the study were one credit and met just once a week.) And the courses were separate from the academic departments on campus so the lessons were not reinforced in other classes.

The authors concluded the courses were too broad and would be more effective focusing on fewer topics in more depth, with input from college faculty and staff. They recommend academic faculty be brought in as instructors in these success classes and weave in some of the skills into their regular courses. The study also suggests that the design of the class be more interactive and include activities requiring students to demonstrate they’ve grasped the concept.” (Read more here.)

I was curious about the content of these courses, so I took a look at the study itself. It noted that College 101 classes cover a wide variety of topics, from time management and goal setting, to financial management and budgeting, to healthy relationships and drugs and alcohol.

No doubt many new college students need guidance in some or all of these areas. But I’m struck that none of these “College 101″ courses address how students will go about learning in college. Research shows that students understand little about how learning and memory work, and don’t know much about practical, evidence-based strategies that will help them do well in their classes. Doesn’t it seem like this information should be included in a course called “College 101″? I sure wish someone had told me about these things when I was starting college—how about you?

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6 Responses to “What’s Needed in “College 101″: How To Learn”

  1. Jean says:

    What would be your top 5 “how-to-learn” skills that you wish someone had told you about???
    Tell us…

  2. anniempaul says:

    Good question, Jean. I’ll have to think about that one. I’ll post my answer here tomorrow!

  3. I have been teaching our course of this nature for a couple of semesters now. We call it College Seminar, and actually, one of the things my school is now doing is focusing on making the course more about content, learning, study skills, and career information and less about basic college information, i.e., not just an extended orientation.

    I specifically cover learning styles, test-taking skills, studying tips, time management, paper writing, citations, scholarly sources, goal setting, long term planning, and resume/cover letter writing.

    Another thing we are doing starting this spring is to offer the one credit course as an 8-week A-term, meaning that it would meet twice a week for 8 weeks instead of once a week for 15 weeks. My course is currently online, so I give lots of links and resources and have the students talk with each other in discussions about what tips and study tricks work well for them.

    I learned a lot of the strategies that I teach now when I was in Grad School taking a required course for TAs about teaching, and I absolutely wish I knew that stuff when I was an undergrad. Now, I get to teach it to our students, so that’s pretty awesome!

  4. Couldn’t agree more, Annie.
    We are hardwired to forget so there are specific things that we need to do, deliberately, in order to retain information. It all comes down to having a good revision strategy. And unfortunately, most people don’t know what to do, so they continue to do what they know, and in many cases it simply doesn’t work.

  5. Bill Goffe says:

    Have you seen the work of Steve Chew on study skills? He’s a cognitive scientist who teaches how to study better. About a year ago was named a “U.S. Professor of the Year”, in part for this work. See “How to Get the Most Out of Studying Video Series” http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL85708E6EA236E3DB .

  6. You said it right here: “…the courses were separate from the academic departments on campus so the lessons were not reinforced in other classes.”

    Also it sounds like “College 101″ is a course created by committee – trying to accomplish too many things and assuming that “if you teach it, it’s been learned”.

    I say dump the financial planning and budgeting, etc. and instead teach (and practice) study and memorization skills. Those skills will be the most useful and will (hopefully of course) stay with the students for a long time.

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