A history of study skills: not hot, but not forgotten.
Let's face it: the topic of study skills is not glamorous! Jack Cassidy, who has offered a list of "What's Hot, What's Not" since 1997, notes that none of his lists have ever included study skills, although he agrees that this topic ought to be included (personal communication, February 8, 2007). The closest the "Hot" list comes to mentioning study skills is with the topics "technology" or "informational texts" (Cassidy & Cassidy, 2007; Cassidy, Garrett, & Berrara, 2007). Yet, study skills may be the "premier practical attainment" (McBride, 1994, p. 461) of schooling. In this article, we present a brief history about study skills. We posit that, while much has remained consistent, the explosion of computer-based tasks have greatly influenced the behaviors students use, or ought to use, while studying.
What are Study Skills?
Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary (2007) defines study skills as the "application of the mental faculties to the acquisition of knowledge." Study skills are the "techniques and strategies that help a person read or listen for specific purposes with the intent to remember" (Harris and Hodges, 1995, p. 245). Lenz, Ellis and Scanlon (1996) distinguish between study tactics, a sequence of steps or procedures, and a study strategy, which is the learner's overall approach to selecting the best tactics for a study task. Gettinger and Seibert (2002) elaborate: "A strategy is an individual's comprehensive approach to a task; it includes how a person thinks and acts when planning and evaluating his or her study behavior" (p. 352). Those who read to learn are employing study strategies/skills. Learners may use different behaviors/tactics to accomplish their study goals. Such an interpretation is important, as it helps explain how study skills/strategies can remain constant over time while study behaviors/tactics may change as the environment for study changes.
Lists of study skills, consistent over many years, usually include creating and understanding visual representations of information, previewing a text before reading, locating information, taking notes, taking tests, listening and reading with attention and intention to learn. For instance, McMurry (1909) proposed as the domain of study skills:
(a) setting specific purposes for study
(b) identifying supplemental information
(c) organizing ideas
(d) judging the worth of the material
(f) keeping an open attitude
(g) relying on self-direction in learning
Sixty-one years later Dechant (1970) listed study skills in five categories:
(b) location and reference
(c) use of graphics
(d) use of library resources
Moore, Readance and Rickelman's (1983) historical review of the literature about content area reading noted that study skills included organizing skills, such as note-taking, underlining, outlining and summarizing. Blai (1993) identified comprehension of main ideas, self-monitoring, physical setting, organization, goal-setting and pacing as crucial to effective studying. Gettinger and Seibert (2002) contributed a significant perspective by proposing that study skills be grouped into four clusters.
(d) metacognitive skills
Study skills, according to these authors, contribute to academic competence because they are cognitive skills and processes for effective learning, requiring that one acquire, locate, organize, synthesize, remember and then use information learned. Study requires specific techniques, intent and individual decisions, as well as the self-regulatory process discussed by others cited above.
A Brief History of Study Skills
Our review of the literature included searching reading journals and related data bases (ERIC, Google Scholar Search, and InfoTrac). We looked for any mention of study skills that, in our estimation, contributed significantly to the base of knowledge and research. For instance, we reviewed comprehension studies that related to reading and thinking specifically for study/retention purposes (This category is consistently listed among study skills from the early 1900s on). Our review is presented by decades from 1970 onward, with a concise summary of the time span from the early 1900s to 1969.
A Summary of Study Skills from 1900-1969
According to Moore, Readance, and Rickleman (1983), study skills was an important issue in the early 1900s. As evidence, they cite many works such as Supervised Study (Hall-Quest, 1916): and Directing Study of High School Pupils (Woodring & Flemming, 1935). In 1908 (reprinted in 1968), Huey stated that "Study skills such as library skills and note taking should be taught as early as possible in the elementary grades" and "in high school, students should be given free reign to read widely on subjects of interest. This is preferable to a focused and analytical study of a few texts and authors" (Huey, 1968, p. 6-7). Gray (1919) was very interested in the relationship between study and reading. Gray stated that, "pupils should be trained to study effectively as they read" (Gray, 1937, p. 580).
Strang (1928, 1937, 1962) published several texts and articles in the 1920s1960s about improving reading and study in high school. Robinson's introduction of the study strategy SQ3R (1946) is historically important because it was designed to put readers in charge of their own study of content material. Students were to Survey the material, create Questions to guide their reading, then Read, Recite, and Review. Robinson led the way to other similar study strategies presented over the next several decades, such as Preview, Question, Read, Reflect, Recite, Review (PQ4R) (Sanacore, 1982).
Even though study skills were an early and important topic in reading, research declined markedly in the 1950s-1960s. Teacher-preparation textbooks continued to discuss study skills (Dechant, 1970), but Tierney and Cunningham (1980) found almost no studies about how to retain information in their history of research on comprehension. An information side-bar in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (JAAL) (Sebasta, 1997) notes the "Hot literacy topics of the past" decades at International Reading Association conventions from 1960-1990s. Study skills are nowhere on this list.
A Summary of Study Skills from the 1970s to the New Millennia
As we reviewed the literature from the 1970s to the current decade, several themes emerged including:
(a) motivation and affect
(b) activities described
(d) programs described
(e) assessments created
(f) the use of study skills in electronic environments
These themes and the research conducted in relation to them are described in Table 1. The role of motivation, discussed from the 1980s, has been embedded into the discussion of self-regulatory behavior since the late 1990s. Activities for study have always been popular. The search for a perfect study skills program and perfect activities will most likely continue, but our comprehensive view of reading processes indicates that attention must be on strategic reading versus activities or programs or a simple discussion of motivation. Strategic reading demands the construction of models that raise literacy to a high standard, or a high literacy (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1987). Applefield, Huber, and Moallem (2000) have stated:
The field of education has undergone a significant shift in thinking about the nature of human learning and the conditions that best promote the varied dimensions of human learning. As in psychology, there has been a paradigm shift in designed instruction: from behaviorism to cognitivism and now to constructivism. (p. 36)
In a constructivist model, the reader actively constructs meaning by relating new material to the known, using reasoning and developing concepts (Applefield, Huber & Moallem, 2000). While some programs and courses can be effective, a number of students don't want to change their study skills, while others do not believe in the concept of study skills at all (Yukel, 2006). In some cases teachers may not realize which study procedures their students use, nor which could be effective behaviors. For these reasons, a constructivist approach is beneficial for students.
Assessment of study skills has been primarily in the form of checklists and interviews. Since the 1990s, it appears that instruments to assess study skills have not significantly changed, not keeping pace with the role of electronic study behaviors, or with metacognitive practices.
A major change reflected in the literature and in instructor observations is that computer-based study behaviors are needed in today's world. While the literacy skills required in the technological age are not new, the way that electronic materials must be read is new. As Reinking (1997) noted, although technology itself is neutral, the way we use it to learn enables learners to be more creative and engaged. A reader still must use comprehension, vocabulary and study skills to construct meaning, but the behaviors that students must use are different than those required for a paper-based environment. For instance, when reading from a textbook, one may write notes on index cards or sticky notes. When reading on a computer, one may take notes by inserting remarks into the document with red font, or by using track editing or footnoting. The age of multiliteracies is helping to reintroduce study skills, an area dormant since the early 1900s. Readers must now be "information literate" (Henderson & Scheffler, 2004), that is, able to find and use information in any form, including paper or electronic forms. "New Literacies" (Alexander, Kulikowich, & Jet ton, 1994) emphasize the importance of media other than the paper-based book as ways to gain knowledge.
New Directions for Study Skills in the Twenty-first Century
Before discussing new directions, we must note that our review of the history of study skills indicates that almost all themes we have cited are "recycled"! The earlier decades discussed many of the same issues we are discussing today. However, study skills have now been imbedded into discussions about information text, new literacies, reading to learn, and high literacy. Models such as EXIT (Wray & Lewis, 1999) have "absorbed" specific and selective attention to study skills. We would argue that explicit attention must be paid to study skills. For instance, Wray and Lewis (1992) note that children often do not transfer what they know about a study skill such as using an index to what they do when they turn book pages versus using that index. Because students must make "conscious decisions about which reading strategies to adopt" (Wray & Lewis, 1999, p. 9), it seems logical that we pay attention explicitly to study strategies rather then simply wrapping them into theories and models of constructivism and self-regulated learning.
Study strategies/skills require intensive reading and thinking; the more complex the strategy, the deeper the processing will be. If several tactics or behaviors need to be used, more energy is expended. For instance, to study, one needs to read the information and repeat the reading via note-taking, highlighting, mapping or other means of learning the information. Then one needs to organize that information by schematizing it and decide how the information applies to the learning goal, perhaps by generating questions and linking answers from the organized notations. All during this time of study, the learner must be planning, monitoring and assessing how the study is progressing and when to alter a tactic for more effective and efficient study to occur. This entire study process is based on an information-processing model, well explained by Gettinger and Seibert (2002).
As Hubbard and Simpson (2003) suggest, we also recommend that assessments of study skills for today's students must find out if the strategies students create and use are task-appropriate and deep level. Just asking students to complete a checklist won't discover students' personal theories and applications about learning. Further, assessments have to consider both the paper and the electronic contexts for study, and what tactics a student would self-select to study in either environment.
To rely only on demonstrations and lectures about study skills, to assume that students can put them into practice independently, or that students will see their importance, is a fallacy. Purdue and Hattie (1999), after analyzing 52 studies about outcomes of and relations between study skills, concluded that when students learn effective study behaviors and incorporate them into a meaningful approach to learning, they experience academic and affective results. Self-directed learning, as Sobrol (1997) noted, benefits most students.
Gee (2000) cautioned that working class teens see uses of literacy differently than do upper middle-class teens immersed in a more academic world. If we are to help all students study in the age of multiple literacy experiences, we must enable all students to find the value of study skills and their own way of accessing study in the electronic age. Students today are learning increasingly complex literacy practices and navigating increasingly complex technologies (Moje, 2002). Are we ready to help them with study tactics that work in today's world?
To remain competitive in a global economy, students must know how to study in a different environment than they have in the past century. Web-based reading and study is different than paper-based study, and sometimes produces less efficient study and resultant learning (Eveland & Dunwoody, 2002). It is not the study skills that are different, though; it is the tactics that a learner must use to study in a computer-based environment. Studies conducted by Eveland and Dunwoody (2002) and Anderson-Inman, Knox-Quinn and Szymanski (1999) show that learners can adapt to computer-based study tactics.
We suggest some possible topics for future research on study skills:
(a) What is the impact of self-regulating behaviors on study skills in electronic environments?
(b) What are students' attitudes and feelings about study in electronic versus paper-based text?
(c) Do younger students employ study skills that are similar to those of older students?
When we consider the students of this millennium, and the themes identified within an historical perspective, the possibilities for study that is refreshing, challenging, exciting, and learner-controlled all contribute to the makings of a "hot" topic in the field of reading.
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JUDY S. RICHARDSON
VALERIE J. ROBNOLT
JOAN A. RHODES
Virginia Commonwealth University
Table 1 1970s to the New Millenia: Trends over Time Trend 1970-1979 1989-1989 Motivation * Learner should * Japanese and Affect practice students' autonomy and motivation and inquiry creativity were (Knowles, improved when 1975) they were encouraged to * Self- use study skills monitoring Sakamoto, changes as a 1985) result of study behaviors * Processing and Richards, using good 1975) study skills reduced anxiety * Attitude was and enhanced linked to test academic performance aptitude & (Tobias, 1985) study skills (McCausland & Stewart, 1974) * Short and long term retention are related to study processes used (Briggs, 1979) * Relationship between test anxiety and study skills predicted GPA (Kirkland & Hollandsworth, 1979) Activities * REAP (read, * SQ3R was encode, found to be annotate, neither more ponder) was nor less proposed effective than a (Eanet & student's own Manzo, 1976) techniques (Graham, 1982) * Note-taking & rereading were * Semantic found to be mapping effective (Dyer enhanced study & Riley, 1979) skills (Schewel, 1989) Metacognition * Pupils did not * Focusing on the use study skills organization of when necessary text helped with (Gardner, recall (Meyer, 1979) Brandt, & Bluth,1980) * Study techniques can help students achieve academically (Armbruster & Anderson, 1981) * Summarization skills improved when students were instructed with both inductive and deductive approaches (Hare & Borchardt, 1984) * Different study tasks caused different thinking pattern and learning (Langer, 1986) Programs * Study skills initiatives work best when taught by subject bymatter teachers (Tabberer, 1984) * Compuser- assisted study skills program increase dstudy habits and attitudes (Gadzella, 1982) * A behaviorally oriented study souls program could significantly improve grades of college students (Prather, 1983) Assessments * Informal checklist to assess study skills was developed (Rogers, 1984) * International Study Skills Inventory (Sakamoto, 1985) * Learning and Study Strategies Inventory (Weinstein Zimmerman, & Palmer, 1988) Electronic Environments Trend 1990-1999 2000-2007 Motivation * Students adhered and Affect to specific strategies when motivated to study but they, did not practice high level decision making to match study requirements (Barnett, 2000) * Students who cram and procrastinate seem to lack motivation and cognitive awareness (Brinthaupt & Shin, 2001) Activities * Semantic webs * Seventh graders (Hoover & were much less Rabideau, proficient in their 1995) note-taking practice than what * Portfolio they self-reported writing (Brown, 2005) assignments (Sweidel, 1996) * Modifications to note-taking techniques for special needs populations were established (Boyle, 2001) * Providing partial notes, such as a graphic organizer or outline, was better than providing a full set of notes, but a graphic organizer was preferable to partial notes (Katayama $ Robinson, 2000) * A summarizing activity that used repeated reading and generalizing was explained (Friend, 2000) * A set of activities for previewing were proposed (Garber-Miller, 2007) Metacognition * Viewing * Strategic learning reading as a requires mature transaction and complex rather than knowledge transmission (Simpson & Nist, encouraged 2000) active, not passive, study * The more one feels in control of * The underlying his or her (Smith, 1992) comprehension, competence for the more self- study is regulated about thinkmg study he or she critically should be (Waters & (Barnett, 2000) Waters, 1992) * Students who * Key study performed best on strategies were tests regulated identified as their study important for effectively metacognnton: (Kitsantas, 2002) previewing, attending, * To be successful relating, in school, a activating and student must changing possess beliefs strategies as about learning appropriate and knowledge (Pressley & that are Afflerbach, appropriate (Cole 1995) & Goetz, 2000) * Extending * Students must interaction behave actively in with text their own learning requires the through self- use of prior regulation knowledge and (Young & Ley, reader 2000) interaction Wray & Lewis, * The "deep" and 1999) "surface" strategies that * "Situated biology students cognition" in used was which study investigated skills training (Holschuch, needs to be 200) conducted in the same * When students context that the used task- skill will be appropriate used to promote strategies in self- active regulated involvement learning, deep (Bol, and reflective Warkentin, strategies Nunnery & developed over O'Connel, time displaced 1999; Hattie, surface-level Biggs, & strategies Purdue, 1996) (Hubbard & Simpson, 2003) * Teachers learned to use think alouds to "tune in" to their own study habits (Maria & Hathaway, 1993) Programs * Students at a * Students vocational benefited the technical school most from reported many participating in study strengths the College Skills (Slate, Jones, & Decelopment Harlan, 1998) Program plus tutoring, and * Preventative faculty seemed to intervention see the difference programs were in student study found to be behaviors effective (Carns (Bender, 2001) & Carns, 1991; Dykeman, * Peer mentoring 1993; Lipsky & and discipline- Ender, 1990) based workshop programs were * Training highly valued by programs work: students and Good increased their Information study skills Approach knowledge and (Pressley & El- practice (Durkin Dinary, 1993) & Main, 2002) and Strategies Intervention * A successful Model (Deshler biology course & Schumaker, was designed that 1998) integrated study skills with content (Belzer, Miller, & Hoemake, 2003) Assessments * High school * Approaches and version of the Study Skills Learning and Inventory for Study Strategies Students Inventory (Entwistle, Tait, (LASSI-HS) & MacCune, 2000) (Eldredge, 1990) * Metacognitive Awareness of * Study Activity Reading Questionnaire Strategies (Bol et al., Inventory 1999; Thomas, (Mokhtari & Bol, Warkentin, Reinchard , 2002) Wilson, Strage, & Rohwer, * Time Use 1993) Efficiency Scale (Kelly & * Beliefs about Johnson, 2005) Learning Questionnaire * Revised study (Jehng, skills checklist Johnson, & based on Rogers Anderson, (1984) to include 1993) both paper-based and electronic * A computer- environments based (Rhodes, Robnolt, assessment & Richardson, called 2005) Approaches to Studying Inventory (Tait & Entwistle, 1996) * Study Habits Inventory (Jones & Slate, 1992; Slate, Jones, & Harlan, 1998) Electronic * Use of * The skills Environments computers students need to changed the handle electronic way students information studied became an (Anderson- important topic Inman, 1999a, (Macdonald, 1999b) Heap, & Mason, 2001; Slaouti, * Students need 2002) gpecrftc instruction in * Students must the use of evaluate the multiple quality of on-line technology- material, realize based resources the difference to broaden their between citing perspectives and plagiarizing a when studying source, and apply from multiple complex sources in copyright laws in history (Stahl, the web-based Hynd, Britton. world (Goett & McNish, & Foote, 2000) Bosquet, 1996) * Students can use * The needs of chat rooms to students even discuss their English Second learning students, who (Albright, are studying in Purohit, & Walsh, a distance 2002) learning environment * Students can were researched create a semantic (Bruce, 1992; map on-line Sherry, 1996) (Love, 2002) * Students * Students can use changed their on-line learning discussions to strategies while discuss content within a text (Thomas & based Hofmeister, 2003) messaging environment * Students can learn (Burge, 1994) and study more efficiently when taking notes on a laptop (Anderson- Inman, 2001) * Parallel note taking was suggested to help students take effective on-line notes (Pardini, Domizi, Forbes, & Pettis, 2005) * The use of web- based bookmarks in elementary settings was explained (Forbes, 2004) * Ways for elementary teachers to help their students locate information on the Internet were proposed (Henry 2006)