Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

Ideas for effective self-directed study

We all learn differently, and there is a world of resources available on 'effective study techniques' (one just needs to Google). Below are a few core concepts which we think are particularly relevant to the context of this course; we hope these will help draw your attention to how you learn as an individual, and offer suggestions which may aid your studies.

'Study hard' versus 'study smart'

"I spend so much time studying, why are my efforts not reflected in my grades?".

This is a common challenge expressed by many students. There is an interesting table in the study Multiple-Choice Exams: An Obstacle for Higher-Level Thinking in Introductory Science Classes by Kathrin F. Stanger-Hall (2012), showing examples of learning behaviours that are passive or active in the following links:

Some learning behaviours may be physically active (e.g. 'I highlighted text'; 'I rewrote my notes'; 'I made flash cards'), but these are not necessarily cognitively active and do not necessarily help to make new (and long-lasting) connections.

Have you analysed how you spend your study time? Are your study habits cognitively passive or active?


Bloom's taxonomy of learning

A common misconception among students (and other stakeholders too) is that MEDSCI 142 consists only of large amounts of factual knowledge or a mastery of steps, rules, or formulae, and that that to succeed in the course, one simply needs to remember facts.

This is a fundamental misconception. As educators, we want to see students take a deep approach towards learning, typified by an intention to seek meaning (“understand”), and be able to demonstrate such understanding by ‘doing’. The ability to identify, deduce, critically evaluate, apply, and integrate key themes and concepts (or even to synthesise new ones) requires high levels of cognitive processing; we recognise the importance of these skills in the future progress of our students, and aim to develop these capabilities in our students.

What is Bloom's taxonomy?


Source / Credit: Colorado Community Colleges Online

A student proficient in basic-level thinking tasks of knowledge and comprehension should be able to pass the course. In order to earn higher grades, however, students need to master the higher level thinking skills of application and analysis. Even higher thinking skills of evaluation and synthesis are certainly ‘desirable’, but beyond the expectation of the course.

Help... I don't actually know how I learn

Student Learning Services can help! They focus on the core areas of academic writing, time management, referencing, reading and thinking skills, and test/exam preparation. They even offer one-on-one tutorials - so you can get an individual appointment with expert Student Learning staff. Find out more.

You are always welcome to approach your Course Coordinators for advice or assistance.