Instructor Perspective:  4 Simple Strategies for Studying and Completing Homework


Learning another language quickly, especially in preparation for university study abroad, is challenging.  While there is no magical way to learn a language and avoid hard work, there are strategies we can apply to studying and completing homework to boost our skills and use time efficiently. Here are some strategies that research has shown to improve brain performance. 

Figuring out how you study best is an important skill. Each person learns and studies differently, so determining how you work most efficiently can make you a stronger student.  Different people study best at different times of day and in different environments.  However, research* also suggests there are similarities in habits of people who master skills.

When you study and how you organize your study time is important:  

  1. Optimal work or study should be organized in four 90-minute chunks of time with a minimum of 15-minute breaks between chunks.

Our brains focus best when they feel refreshed which means taking breaks is important.  Try studying for 60-90 minutes and then take a break. Good ways to refresh your brain when taking a break is to take a walk, move around and change your scenery, and eat or drink something.

How you study is important:

2. You must be motivated to complete the task and exert effort to improve your performance.

Before you start studying, make sure you understand what you are doing.  When doing homework, read assignment directions and ask questions about the assignment before you start working.  You won’t feel motivated about an assignment that you don’t understand.   

Also, consider what motivates you to study. What are the benefits of mastering (or the consequences of not mastering) the skill the task helps to improve?  Consider what you enjoy about the task.

3. You should receive immediate informative feedback and knowledge of results of your performance.

Sometimes you can (and are instructed to) check your answers in the back of the book and other times you go over the answers in class. Make sure you do check the answers and try to understand why you made mistakes.  If you do not understand your mistakes, ask for help.

4. You should repeatedly perform the same or similar tasks.

Luckily, students often have no problem finding opportunities to do this. Your teacher just assigns another task! Again, being self-motivated to repeat the same or similar task is important.

If you already use some of these strategies, share with us how you do it.  If you try them for the first time, tell us how it goes!

*Each of these strategies was presented by Bridget Schulte, a staff writer for The Washington Post, who gathered and conducted research related to work efficiency in Overwhelmed: Work, Love, And Play When No One Has The Time.

DSC06348 Brittney Peake is a core instructor in Academic English Studies at Lewis & Clark in Portland, Oregon