Study Skills and Student Performance

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Sleight DA, Mavis BE. Study skills and academic performance among second-year medical students in problem-based learning

Med Educ Online [serial online] 2006;11:23 Available from http://www.med-ed-online.org

Study Skills and Academic Performance among Second-Year Medical Students in Problem-Based Learning Deborah A. Sleight, PhD and Brian E. Mavis, PhD Office of Medical Education Research and Development College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University East Lansing, MI, USA Abstract Purpose: This research study highlights the relationship between study aid use and exam performance of second year medical students. It also discusses how students used study aids in preparing for PBL exams and whether students who used others’ study aids performed as well as students who created their own. Methods: A questionnaire was distributed to second-year medical students after completion of their exam. The data from the questionnaire were linked to students’ examination scores and other academic indicators. Results: The study habits were more similar than different when compared by exam performance. A majority of students used study aids as a memory aid or for review, but students who performed in the top third of the class were less likely to use them at all. Pre-existing differences related to academic achievement and study strategies were found when students at the top, middle and bottom of exam performance were compared. Conclusions: A better understanding of the differences in study habits and study aid use in relation to examination performance can help in providing future students with appropriate academic support and advising. Students have always shared various study materials, but computers and networks have now made it easier than ever. We might think this is a good thing, right? But not necessarily. In February of 2004, one of our faculty members noticed that her PBL students were sharing study materials at a higher rate than in previous years. She also noticed that the students had a lower level of performance on the problem-based learning (PBL) exams as compared to previous students. She wondered if there might be some relationship between a perceived increase in students’ sharing study aids and performance on the exam. We looked for published research on the use of study aids and exam performance. Two studies by Gurung1, 2 that looked at undergraduates’ use of textbook aids, such as summary sections, found that use of such aids did not relate to exam performance. A further search led us to theories about time-on-task and concept mapping. Time-on-task is defined by Levin and Nolan as a measure of students’ time spent actively engaged in learning.3 In 1988, Jere Brophy demonstrated that increased time spent on learning activities yields increased learning, provided that the teacher was competent and that the learning activities were effectively designed and implemented.4 Another theory that guided us was concept mapping. Concept mapping is a technique in which the learner links new knowledge to a framework of relevant concepts that the learner already knows. Ausubel5 maintained that this linking of new with existing knowledge was a key factor in successful learning and that it was the difference between meaningful learning and rote learning. Many researchers have studied the benefits of concept mapping and have determined some tangible outcomes: an improved ability to form conceptual relationships, improved clarity of reasoning and focus on key ideas, and an easier grasp of difficult or new concepts.3, 6-9 Students who create their own study aids are spending time making them, whereas those who use others’ study aids are not. It may also be that the process of creating study aids helps the learner gain more meaningful knowledge through the process of synthesizing disparate pieces of information into new knowledge, as has been shown with notetaking. The related literature on notetaking and performance, as noted in...
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