Paul Patev

Study Guides as a Tool for Better Understanding

I teach a variety of science courses, some with laboratory and some without. Over the years I have evolved the practice of giving my classes detailed "study guides or learning rubrics" one to two weeks prior to exams. The study guides (I believe) are designed to focus students' learning so that they will better understand the material, improve their study habits, help them retain more information, and do better on the exams. I also believe that exams in general, are poor indicators of what is learned; often testing a student's ability to memorize facts, rules, definitions, their speed of information retrieval or their ability to guess what the instructor feels is important to remember, rather than what and how well material is learned.

A good exam should evaluate learning on all levels of Bloom's Taxonomy in a fairly balanced way. It should ask students to define, list, describe, and explain as well as demonstrate, illustrate, calculate, differentiate, create, and justify. I t should also teach as well as evaluate. Such involved exams, with so many levels of learning, are equally difficult for students to study for. A "guide" is therefore needed to help students to focus and prioritize as they study and as a clear statement of purpose for the instructor to better realize his or her teaching objectives and achieve desired outcomes. I commonly give study guides in all my classes, which are as pedagogically diverse as Environmental Studies (lecture, no lab), Forensic Science (lecture and lab), Introduction to Biology (lecture and lab), Microbiology (lecture and lab), Immunology (lecture and lab), Introduction to Chemistry (lecture and lab), and Advanced Techniques in Biotechnology (mostly lab, some lecture). I feel that they will help my students learn at many levels, but do my students find them as helpful as I think they should?

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Last Modified: 6/10/16