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How to Help Students Remember What They Have Learned

What Teachers Can Do?

  • Start each class with an inspiring prayer, poem, quotation or musical selection. Make sure students have their notebooks and/or textbooks open, ready when class begins.
  • Playing a musical prelude 5 minutes before the start of class can set a positive
    atmosphere.
  • Students solving problem quiz in classroom behind blackboardUse a five-minute outline and review of materials covered in the previous class.
  • Provide about 25 study objectives identifying key concepts for each chapter. Ask if any previous concepts need extra review.
  • As you lecture use visual displays of either PowerPoints, notes on the blackboard or handouts so students can follow along more easily.
  • Try to find an interesting story or clinical vignette to help illustrate the concepts Examples in psychology include Phineas Gage for brain damage, patient H.M. regarding memory loss, Karen Carpenter for eating disorders, Glenn Gould for musical prodigies, Koko the gorilla for language, etc.
  • Briefly summarize concepts taught at the end of class.

Additional Tips for Teaching

  • Walk around while lecturing. After a 10-15 minute lecture, encourage a five-minute class discussion.
  • Keep a class roster with photos so you can learn student names.
  • Short YouTube video clips or Ted Talks can help keep the class period engaging.
  • Present a quick review the night before the exam for students who need extra help.
  • Provide corrective feedback when grading exams. Be willing to review questions missed by many students.
  • Use a cumulative final exam, which focuses more on applications than rote learning. Provide a list of three to four study objectives from each of the previous quizzes for the final exam review. I often use actual questions from each of the previous exams.
  • Students often find some chapters more interesting than others. Remind students that for each chapter in the Intro to Psych textbook they found interesting or relevant, there is an advanced course which covers that material in more detail.
  • Be available during office hours to talk with students.

What Can Students Do?

  • Read the chapter before the lecture so you know what questions to ask in class. Students should write out the answers to each of the study objectives for homework ahead of time.
  • Be prepared to take notes, either from the blackboard or a PowerPoint, to use as a short review before the next lecture.
  • Some students may benefit from transferring notes to 3 x 5 cue cards which can be quickly reviewed.
  • Arrange to get into a small study group, which meets the day before an exam to compare notes.
  • It is best to memorize by standing up or pacing while reciting your notes aloud.
  • Use practice tests when available.

Additional Tips For Students

  • Study habits should include either 30 minutes a night or 60 minutes every other night; this type of spaced practice promotes long-term memory.
  • Use a short 20-minute cram session either the night or morning before the test to strengthen short-term memories of verbal lists and facts.
  • Get a good night’s sleep to help consolidate memory before the exam.
  • Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast before a morning exam.
  • Find a calming technique so you are more relaxed during the actual test writing.
  • Use positive self-talk to become more optimistic.
  • Proofread your exam before handing it in to make sure you have answered all of the questions.
  • Keep all class notes and handouts in chronological order for easy access.

Remind students – studying and learning each year in University can raise a student’s IQ score by 2 points.

John Connors

PhD, R Psych is Chair and Professor of Psychology at Burman University, Canada, where he has taught for over 25 years. Academic training was at Rutgers University and Western Michigan University. He teaches a wide range of courses from Intro to Psych for 1st-year students to History & Systems of Psychology as a capstone course for majors. He is a member of both CPA and APA and a Registered Psychologist in Alberta.
John Connors

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