Weekly Academic Success Tip - Take Action for Optimal Learning
Posted February 7th, 2011 by Kimberly K. Ballard
We are already 6 weeks into the spring semester! Deadlines may be starting to pile up. Your beginning-of-the-semester optimism may have worn off. And, the weather bouncing between winter and spring does not help. Consider the following tips to obtain optimal learning:
- Keep a positive attitude to affect your learning positively. It is hard to keep your focus and perform at your best if a cloud is hovering over your head. Negative thoughts, grumpiness, and sniping at others all expend energy in unproductive avenues. Not only do other people want to avoid you when you exude negativity, but you waste your own time by moaning, groaning, and whining.
- Focus on manageable tasks to increase motivation. It is easier to get motivated to do small tasks rather than large projects. Decide to read one case when you do not feel like reading any of your contracts cases. Decide to write two paragraphs when you do not feel like writing an entire paper draft. Decide to outline one sub-topic when you do not want to outline an entire topic. Decide to do 5 multiple-choice questions when you do not feel like doing practice questions at all. After you get started and finish one small task, you are likely to be ready to do another small task.
- Focus on what you can control rather than what is controlled by others. Reality is that you do not determine whether you will be called on in class, whether you will have a mid-term exam, whether your paper will have one or six draft deadlines, or whether you will have a multiple-choice or essay final exam. So, stop stewing about things you cannot control. Instead, focus on what you can control and take control of those things: your time management; your stress management; your timetable for review; your outlining schedule; your reading schedule; your schedule for practice questions; your asking the professor questions and more.
- Use the many services that are available to you to improve your situation. Ask questions during the professor’s office hours. If you are a 1L, talk to your Academic Fellow. Meet with the University writing center to improve your grammar and punctuation skills. Meet with a University counselor if you have test anxiety, personal problems or other issues that are making it hard for you to concentrate on your studies. Go to the doctor if you are sick rather than self-treating and not getting better. Getting assistance keeps you from feeling so alone in your situation and begins the work of solving problems.
- Do not focus on your bad choices last semester, last week, or yesterday. If you have procrastinated or studied inefficiently and ineffectively or fallen into any of the other common student difficulties in studying, accept responsibility for those bad choices; but then, focus on today. You cannot change what has already happened, but you can change how you study today and tomorrow.
- Take advantage of your strengths and acknowledge your weaknesses. Evaluate the areas within a course: what areas do you understand and what areas are you confused about still. Then, spend additional time on the weak areas to improve your understanding while you review material that you know well.
- Do not blame someone else for your difficulties. It is not the professor's fault that you cannot do the practice problems if you did not study the material thoroughly. It is not the professor’s fault that you got a low grade when other students did better on the same exam. It is not your study group’s fault that you do not understand the material if you have not taken the initiative to attempt learning it yourself before study group. It is not your spouse’s problem that you are behind in your reading if you have not set up a structured study schedule that allows sufficient study time as well as family time.
- Stop resisting positive change. Ask yourself whether you are having problems because you are clinging to ineffective and inefficient ways of studying. You need to realize that nothing will change for the better if you refuse to make changes. Knowing that you need to change something and still not changing it will accomplish nothing positive in your life.
- Remember that you begin to earn your reputation as an attorney while you are in law school. Ask yourself whether how you are acting today will place you in a positive light with your classmates and professors. If not, then reconsider the behavior BEFORE you act that way again. Being difficult to work with on an assignment may translate into a reputation that you will be considered difficult to work with as an attorney later. Being lazy in law school may translate into a lack of referrals as an attorney because your former classmates will not be able to trust you to do a thorough job. Being mean-spirited or gossipy or arrogant in law school may translate into personal characteristics that mar your reputation later as a new attorney.