As a graduate student at McGill, I began working with Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) as a Student Skills Assistant, facilitating workshops on study skills. While preparing for a workshop, I discovered a strategy called SQ3R, which stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review. As an avid fiction reader, I was resigned to the fact that I would never be as engaged with research articles and theory-heavy textbooks, but this strategy revolutionized how I approached my academic readings. In discovering this strategy, I realized that I had, for the most part, been trying to read academic texts the same way I approached novels: diving right in with little to no preparation – but with the addition of highlighter in hand.
With SQ3R, I previewed the content by looking at headings, getting a sense of the chapter ahead (survey), and asked myself questions before reading (question). Then, after reading each section, I wrote a brief summary of the content and how I thought it related to my research. The day following a reading, I would ask myself the questions I wrote and talk through the answers to myself (recite and review). Come class time, I felt like I could better discuss the readings from a point of understanding, rather than a point of trying to remember what I had even read two days prior.
Since that experience, I frequently come back to the question, what if I had learned this strategy sooner? How many more strategies were there that could have made my experience easier? How much content do I no longer remember from my favourite courses because I was studying for my short-term memory, rather than for long-term learning? Perhaps most importantly: how can we ensure students today know about these strategies and don’t face similar barriers to deeply engaged learning?
I discovered the SQ3R method through a co-curricular work experience just as many students learn, discover, and explore learning strategies outside of the classroom. While some students are reached this way, some also do not have significant time outside of their courses to attend workshops or independently research effective learning strategies. So what are other ways for students to discover these strategies and resources? And what resources even exist for McGill students?
As a start, TLS has several resources to support a students’ academic success journey, but students must first be aware of the resources. TLS offers a suite of academic skills development workshops, as well as a Learning Resources web page. The workshops and resources cover a range of topics, like metacognition, effective reading strategies, collaboration practices for successful group work experiences, and more.
Instructors are experts in their field and trusted sources of information about the university for many students, and there is opportunity to support students’ learning and academic success. While it can be challenging to find time in class to present learning strategies, instructors could help provide awareness of these resources to their students.
How could you use, share, or discuss learning strategies with your students?