Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The Microblog | For a change of pace, professors discuss the way they want their students to study

With midterm season upon us, students across campus are feverishly reading textbooks, some for the first time this semester. While some will swear by the near silence of the library, others will passionately defend their choice to study with the sounds of Blink-182 and Jay-Z blasting in the background.

While the debate about how, where and how long to study could rage on forever with no conclusion, in some ways, the best people to talk to are the very professors whose assignments are at the root of academic marathons.

Most answers confirmed students' suspicions. For one, cramming the night before an exam — probably not such a good idea. Preparing for class on a regular basis by keeping up with readings and practice problems is likely most effective.

There were also some rather unconventional responses that might bring a cheer to students' overworked mentalities: "Sleep," Sociology Professor Paul Joseph said. "If you sleep then you're relaxed and more alert. So what I say is to simply get enough sleep."

So to contribute to the great studying debate, the following is a collection of professors' pointers.

"Taking notes in class is important. Students should also review the chapter in the textbook and do the problems in the book and study guide. It is also important to read a good newspaper on a regular basis. I would expect students to spend about four hours on my class a week … The library is a good place to study."
—Siddiq Abdullah, lecturer in economics

"I think it really depends on the style of the person. For some people I know, it's really helpful to work in groups, but some people really need quiet space and alone time, so it's about figuring out what works for the individual. I don't really have one strategy I would mandate for everyone [but] I guess students should spend about 4 to 5 hours preparing for class each week."
—Amy Finnegan, lecturer in political science

"As psychologists, we recommend distributive practice as opposed to massed practice — or what students know most commonly as ‘cramming.' Distributive practice means that you study in several different sessions distributed over time … How you are going to be tested for the material is how you want to learn the material — in a quiet, well-lit room, sitting up at a desk."
—Haline Schendan, assistant professor of psychology

"I think that the best way is to have courses with a lot of discussion and group projects. I think that it's enriching to read collectively, and active discussion is probably the best way to learn. Outside the classroom, I think that they should probably have an hour's preparation per hour of classroom. Certainly don't study in the dorms; those are places that are very noisy and it is impossible for students to study."
—Ina Baghdiantz-McCabe, professor of history

"I think they should keep up with the work: that's absolutely the first critical issue. They should come into class ready to learn by knowing the facts. Then we can talk about the deeper concepts when we're in class. When you're studying, we like to see you not just learn material but own it [in] a way that lets you use it innovatively. I think group work is terrific, particularly in large lecture classes."
—Juliet A. Fuhrman, associate professor of biology

"Sleep. If you sleep then you're relaxed and you're alert. So what I say is to simply get enough sleep. In my field I encourage my students to take an active stance toward the reading. The reading I would say takes about 10 hours a week. I like the library; I like sitting down, not lying down. Quiet or easy music, no visual stimuli. Television and studying I don't think works."
—Paul Joesph, professor of sociology