I recently had a conversation with my son who teaches high school math and computer science at a Catholic college-prep girls high school in San Jose, CA about how his students did not realize that they were learning from his innovative standards-based teaching approach. We had already discussed how mindset has a big impact on student learning at an early age; how K-12 students are not taught appropriate study skills for future educational experiences; and how students do not understand how they learn. Thus, I went out looking for resources to help him deal with these learning issues. By searching on Amazon, I found the book Teach Students How to Learn: Strategies You Can Incorporate Into Any Course to Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, and Motivation by Saundra Yancy McGuire with Stephanie McGuire (ISBN 978-1-62036-316-4) which seemed to be just what we wanted. Dr. McGuire taught chemistry and has worked for over 40 years in the area of support for teaching and learning. She is an emerita professor of chemical education and director emerita of the Louisiana State University Center for Academic Success. Her daughter Stephanie is a Ph.D. neuroscientist and performing mezzosoprano opera singer who lives in Berlin, Germany.
The book has interesting and self-explanatory chapters about Dr. Saundra McGuire’s own evolution as a teacher (and as a chemistry major I could really relate to her story), discussions about why students don’t already know how to learn when they come to college, what metacognition can do for students to help them become independent learners, how to introduce Bloom’s taxonomy and “the study cycle” to students, how to address student growth vs. fixed mindset status, and how both faculty and students can boost motivation, positive emotions, and learning. The study cycle learning strategy proposed and used by Dr. McGuire over the years involves five steps for the students: preview before class, attend class and take meaningful notes, review after class, study by asking “why, how, and what if” questions in planned intense study sessions and weekend reviews, and assess their learning by quizzing or planning to teach it to others. Especially helpful for teachers are the actual presentations as three online slide sets and a sample video lecture (styluspub.presswarehouse.com/Titles/TeachStudentsHowtoLearn.aspx), and a handout summarizing the entire process that Dr. McGuire uses to introduce her learning strategies to groups of students in as little as one 50-minute class period. Throughout the book, there are summary tables, examples, activities, and success stories about students who have incorporated the learning strategies.
In Appendix D of the book (pp. 176-177), Dr. McGuire includes a handout entitled “Introducing Metacognition and Learning Strategies to Students: A Step-by-Step Guide” for the 50 minute session.
An abbreviated version of the 15 steps are repeated here:
- Wait until the students have gotten the scores of their first test back.
- Don’t tell the class in advance that there will be a presentation on learning strategies.
- Evaluate student career goals by clickers or show of hands at beginning of session.
- Show before and after results from other students.
- Define metacognition.
- Use exercise to show the power of various learning strategies.
- Ask reflection questions, like “What is the difference between studying and learning?
- Introduce Bloom’s taxonomy.
- Introduce the study cycle as way of ascending Bloom’s.
- Discuss specific learning strategies like improving reading comprehension (active reading) and doing homework as formative assessment.
- Discuss reasons students in the class may or may not have done well on the first test.
- Ask students how different the proposed learning strategies are to the ones that they have been using.
- Ask students to commit to using at least one learning strategy for the next few weeks.
- Direct students to resources at your campus learning center.
- Express confidence that if students use the learning strategies they will be successful.
Currently all of the students that I teach are either advanced undergraduate students planning to go to professional schools or graduate students, so that my current students do not have mindset or motivational issues and have mostly learned how they study best. However after sharing this book review with you, I have convinced myself that I cannot give up my book to my son when he comes to visit next month and I will need to go and buy another one. I hope that this book will help you facilitate the learning of your students too!