Advice from a Professor

So we’ve hit that time of the semester. That time when tests are beginning to creep into the schedule, creating more stress and anxiety as students try to cram all the studying they haven’t done into just the few days before the test. But it also brings with it the after test review classes in which professors go over those things that everyone missed and maybe even give some advice on how to better study for the next test.

That’s exactly what has happened in one of my classes. We had our first test last week over the first three chapters of the book. I copied my notes and read the book like a maniac but I still didn’t feel that I did all that well on the test. When I got it back I had actually done alright! But that’s not what’s important. What’s important is the advice that my professor gave to the class as we were all looking over the test to see what we had missed.

He said that we should study to understand the material not just to learn it for a test. He also said that making time to do this is the most important thing, even if it means staying off Facebook for a few hours or even days. It is better understand the material than just learn it.

At first I was a little confused by what he meant. Shouldn’t I be learning the material because I need to know it for the tests and for future purposes? Isn’t that the point of school? But as he explained what he meant I came to see that he meant exactly what I was thinking but he had put a different perspective on it. Instead of looking at the material to learn it for the test or to be used for a project, he encouraged us to study the material to understand. And understand it to the point that we could hold a debate about one of the topic that actually went somewhere.

Meaning it didn’t just end with one person admitting they didn’t know what they were talking about. But rather an understanding of the material to the point that a discussion could occur between the professor and the student as to whether the theory or practice was an effective one and what might be a better or worse option. He also encouraged the class to ask questions and engage in the lecture. He wants us to question him and test his knowledge because that also means that we are working to understand the material on a deeper level.

This perspective on learning is exactly what I needed to hear. So much lately I’ve been focusing on learning the material to pass the class and not on understanding the material to be able to use it at a later date and time. It’s time I change my perspective as well and start looking to understand what I’m learning.

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