How to Create an Effective Study Guide

Final exams and standardized testing are right around the corner for us. My students have the obligation to sit in a large room and take multiple choice questions that (supposedly) tell us (them?) how much they have learned this year about biology. Naturally, the discussion about study guides comes up more and more frequently from students. Below are my suggestions as you prepare study guides.

  • Prepare early. Starting thinking about the guides from day one of school. Work to develop and understanding of what the completed guide will look like in the end. Be ready to change directions.
  • Do not focus on content. Our guides do not need more factoids or bullet points. Rather, focus on critical thinking and analytical questions to guide the learning.
  • Allow for flexibility. If we want guides that are multi-purpose, do not create them one-size-fits-all. Push for multiple uses and applications with each guide you are working on.
  • Encourage mistakes. Some of the best review happens when we realize (or identify) misconceptions and then correct them.
  • Allow for collaboration. Do not assign a grade for the guide, but recognize and praise the effort that goes into its production and use. These simple steps helped me prepare over 100 study guides this year. Hopefully, they can help you, too.

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