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Skills for effective study: A new SKILLS21 workshop for students

McGill’s Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) recently launched a new workshop as a part of SKILLS21, the University-wide skills development program for undergraduates. The goal of the workshop is to build student capacity for identifying specific study strategies to achieve learning goals, both in a course and in a specific study session. Called Skills for Effective Study, this workshop draws from TLS’ years of experience providing support to instructors through the Course Design Workshop and was developed from a workshop previously offered by McGill’s Counselling Services.

Through a one-and-a-half-hour interactive session, Skills for Effective Study covers topics like learning outcomes, the basics of time management, and other tips and techniques, but the primary emphasis is on the notion of self-regulated learning. In brief, this approach encourages students to reinforce their existing study habits by setting goals for study sessions.

By setting goals, a student can reflect on whether or not they’ve achieved them and adapt by making changes for the future, if needed. To support this capacity, the largest part of the workshop is devoted to an activity where students are challenged to work together to match specific study tactics, like concept mapping or keyword mnemonics, with learning outcomes, such as those they would find on a course outline. So far, the feedback from students is positive. They’re finding that incorporating planning into their studying behaviors and using creative study activities are novel and valuable.

All in all, this workshop contributes to helping students find and situate themselves in the learning process. Learning is a process, but not an aimless one. In courses, instructors and students know their goals because they’re clearly articulated in the course outline – as the saying goes, “it’s on the syllabus”. Since these goals are guides in courses, purposeful studying will be better, more effective studying, especially when the goals and tactics to achieve them are aligned. Goal-setting is a generally important life skill, but it’s also a key part of effective studying, i.e., studying to learn.

McGill instructors interested in recommending this workshop to their students can encourage them to get started by registering for SKILLS21.

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