In the previous module we addressed self-care – specifically encouraging you to be mindful of your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. In this module we are going to assess your academic wellbeing. We are going to look at how things have been going, what learning strtegies you have adopted, what stregies are you trying to rely on from past semesters. I am going to ask that you take a deep dive in evaluating your academics, because it has to be more than just attending class – to see success you need to be engaged.

Revisiting Learning Strategies

Let’s take a moment to look back at previous modules in this course and assess what learning strategies have you adopted and which ones have you not yet gotten to. We covered some helpful time management tips and strategies in It Begins with Good Time Management. We covered helpful learning strategies in Work Smarter, Not Harder and in Big Brain. If you need to take a moment and look back through these previous modules, please do that now.

In a previous module we covered the Study Cycle in Setting Up An Effective Study Strategy. The second step in this cycle explains that you need to be Engaged in the Classroom. So, how are you operating in this area of your study strategies? Can you confidently say that you have been engaged in the learning process? If so, wonderful! What does that engagement look like? How often are you engaging with the course material, engaging with the class discussion, engaging with your peers and instructor? If you are not engaging (yet), then why not? What is going on in your academics where you are just attending class?

Classroom Engagement

Now that we have started to think about our Classroom Engagement, it is worth discussing what degree of engagement you should strive for, since there are a lot of factors to keep in mind.

Course Material

What does the instructor provide regarding course material? If the class has a textbook, how closely does the text follow the class sessions led by the instructor? Have you been reading the textbook? Ok, be honest – have you been reading or just skimming? Because, I am sure there is a lot (and I mean A LOT) of material to keep up with, so no judgement here if you feel you cannot read every word. But, let’s say you are reading, wonderful! Now, are you also taking notes while reading? Note-taking is highly important, and if you feel like you need some extra support in taking good notes, then jump over to this resource provided by the Division of Academic Enhancement on Note-taking Skills.

What about class slides (like Powerpoint), are those provided for your class? Some instructors will provide these ahead of the class session. If they do that for your class, then please use them! One strategy students use to prepare for class is downloading or printing out the slides and then directly taking their notes on the slides during class. If you handwrite your notes, the printing out option can be extremely helpful. By having the slides in class, you don’t have to recreate what is on the slides but rather are able to listen to what the instructor is saying about the slide – pulling out what is most important for that given slide and taking those notes. In a sense, you are annotating the information already provided on the slide.

If your instructor provides slides after class, that is no problem. You are still encouraged to download/print them out and when reviewing that class session in preparation for studying or homework in that class, you can rewrite your notes from class directly on the slides and annotate/supplement the material after the fact.

If your instructor does not provide class slides, or does not use slides, that is not a problem. You can still learn a lot during each class session, your preparation strategies may just look a little different. You may need to rely on the textbook a little more prior to that class session – where you can preview what you are going to address in class. The instructor may provide other course materials on eLC for you to engage with prior to class (i.e., online modules, audio or video recordings, etc.). Again, check out the strategies covered in Note-taking Skills to see which method may be best for you and your classes (depending on what course resources are provided).

Structure of the class

How comfortable are you to engage with the instructor and/or your peer during class? Is this something that is required or encouraged by the instructor? As more and more classes are seeing an increased presence of Active Learning techniques and strategies being interwoven into the curriculum, it is important to remember that you are still learning how to be an effective student in this learning environment. You may be hesitant about speaking up or engaging in the class environment because you are embarrassed (or don’t want to become embarrassed), are shy or more introverted, had a negative experience in the past, because you are not feeling as prepared, … and the list can go on. There are a multitude of reasons why you may not feel comfortable engaging in the class learning environment, but if your learning and your grade is negatively impacted then we need to address it and help you overcome these barriers to your success.

Classroom Environment Space

Sometimes how you engage in a class depends on the literal design or infrastructure of the classroom itself. Some classes have small enrollment capacities and therefore meet in smaller room spaces that typically have moveable chairs and desks. This allows for a variety of classroom configurations that can encourage or promote discussion. In medium and large classes, the furniture (typically) becomes less flexible and instead is fixed (i.e., bolted to the floor or has limited mobility). Some of these medium and large class sizes meet in classrooms that have stadium seating to allow for better viewing of the front of the room (whiteboard, projection screen), and therefore limits the number of ways a student engages with the class content and/or their peers and instructor. So, think about how your classes are physically setup and begin to identify how the physical landscape of the classroom is promoting your learning and engagement.

The People

Yes, the people in the class can influence how engaged you are in the learning environment. If your instructor is welcoming and promotes different ways in which you can engage in the class material, that can have a noticeably positive impact on your willingness to participate and engage back. And the converse is also true – if you do not feel your instructor is welcoming or seeks out your engagement, then you are likely going to be less engaged in the class.

If you know other people in the class (for better or for worse), that can also affect your willingness to participate and engage in the learning experience. So, are you mindful of who you know in the class or how comfortable you feel in front of them to put yourself out there to ask questions, participate, engage, be an active learner? Remember, this is your learning experience and you are here to learn – so don’t limit your potential.

In order to be engaged in the classroom environment we discussed how the course material, structure of the class, physical setup of the classroom, and the people in the room can all influence your learning. All of these in combination will establish how you engage and the degree to which you master the material. So, don’t let one (or more) of these hinder your potential. If during this module you recognize an area(s) of concern, then let’s talk about ways to address it and remedy the problem.

Patterns and Learning

I have asked you to assess your learning and engagement in the classroom, but it is also important to assess your engagement with the course information – when you are reading, studying, working on homework, etc.

When enrolled in UNIV2800: Returning With Strength, you will have access to the chapter reading on Patterns and Learning from The New Science of Learning you will be guided through some effective strategies to recognize how you are learning the information in your classes and what patterns you could be using or developing as you are exposed to new content.

Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension may not be the first area that comes to mind when you think about academic strategies propelling you into success, but this skillset can also help you improve time management and general study skills! Experts agree that adopting an active reading mindset is key to maximize your understanding of texts. Key research-proven strategies include a quick pre-reading activity, annotating, outlining/ diagramming, analyzing, identifying patterns, and more. To best utilize this section, start with the featured checklist of a Harvard librarian’s 6 key recommendations for undergraduate students. Next, peruse additional tips or view sample annotations and diagrams. Finally, put your new skills into practice with the help from apps like Notability and Exam Vocabulary Builder.

Additionally, these strategies on Reading Comprehension can be helpful.

Writing Skills

Strong writing skills are crucial to student success. Honing your writing skills can help you to leverage active voice, differentiate commonly confused words, and properly cite sources to avoid acts of plagiarism. The writing skill building activities and apps within this section can improve your overall academic standing, advance your communication skills, and lay the foundation for strong writing in the workplace after college. Moreover, tutors are available to help not only with proofreading and strengthening an argument, but also development of essay and paper ideas.

Visit Milledge Hall to schedule your FREE writing services with peer tutors from a diverse set of majors and nearly every college on campus.

Additionally, these strategies on Writing Skills can be helpful.

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