Using the SQ3R Study Method
A. Kent Van Cleave, Jr., Ph.D.
Why use a study method? Perhaps you have noticed recently that everyone, especially in the news media, is talking about something called the information revolution. This term refers to some profound changes that have affected most aspects of our lives and that have been caused by computers.
In the workplace, information technology has caused many work organizations to completely restructure themselves. Electronic data interchange has helped companies closely link themselves with their customers and their suppliers. Computers have made mass production obsolete by giving manufacturers the ability to customize the product exactly the way the individual customer wants it. (Look for the big auto manufacturers to have Websites soon where you choose nearly every feature on your car, apply for a loan to buy it, and then specify where it will be delivered, all without having to go to the showroom.) Computers have also automated many jobs, including those of many middle managers. The result of this has been fewer levels of management in large organizations and higher productivity in the production facility. For most products, the cost of the goods on store shelves has dropped dramatically over the last ten years.
But this explosion of information technology has its challenges in the workplace, too. Because of it the pace of change has increased. Work organizations find that they must continually adapt as technology progresses. And workers find that they must adopt a new way of approaching what they do. In order to survive in the workplace, everyone, from the CEO on down to the newest employee, must be continually growing and learning.
Educators today refer to this demand for continual growth as lifelong learning. In business, it is beginning to be called learning on demand. Those who make a commitment to lifelong learning get ahead, and those who do not get consigned to the less skilled, less interesting jobs such as flipping burgers in fast food restaurants or bagging groceries. While these are important jobs and we believe that all work has dignity and worth, these are jobs which offer little in the way of pay and benefits, and these are not jobs that afford much opportunity for growth. Moreover, because knowledge changes at such a fast pace, the lifelong learner will need to be able to learn very efficiently and very effectively. Now and in the future, the good jobs go to the committed, effective, lifelong learners.
Given that you will need to be a lifelong learner and you will need to be able to learn efficiently and effectively, the reason SQ3R is important is that it can help you be an efficient, effective learner.
Efficient, effective learning in the information age, where new knowledge is obsolete in as little as six months, requires that the lifelong learner become very good at the four A’s:
• Access--finding information independently,
• Assess--deciding what is important in it,
• Assimilate--learning it rapidly, and
• Apply--using the knowledge in her/his job.
So we are going to spend a little time on just how to be an efficient, effective learner, discussing briefly some learning strategies that can help you get a leg up on your classmates.
Starting Well to Finish Well. One of the things that cognitive psychologists have learned that can be of use to you in this course (and others) is that we learn knowledge-based material best—most efficiently and effectively—when we first build a cognitive framework (outline), then fill in all the details.
You might think of learning complex cognitive material as being like building a jigsaw puzzle. Just plunging in and memorizing facts without first learning a framework is kind of like putting a puzzle together without being able to look at the picture on the box. If you give identical puzzles to two people of equal ability and motivation but only let one see the picture on...
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