Professional Development Tips for Undergraduates
Archived List of Topics
- Study Strategies for Final Exams-"GAMES"
- Undergraduate Research Opportunities
- Making the Most of Your College Education
- Getting Organized for Success
- Reflect on the past school year to prepare for the next
- Developing your Listening Skills
- What does it mean to Learn through Inquiry?
- Starting a Study Group
- Effective Study Strategies for Final Exams
- Take an Educational Study Break
- Reflecting on the Bigger Picture
- How to Begin Getting Involved in Research
- Studying Effectively
Learning takes place most effectively over time. As you prepare for finals, consider how your attitude might change if you thought about final exams as an opportunity to share with faculty mentors all that you have learned over the past semester. The CETL tip this month focuses on specific practices and approaches you can incorporate into your studying behaviors as a means for increasing your learning experience.
Basic tips for learning throughout the semester are essentially the same during your final exam period. Prioritize material and tasks to be completed. When studying for finals, be certain to go to a consistent site. When you study in the same place throughout the semester you establish a pattern that allows your brain to associate that space with learning. Make an effort to study somewhere other than in the room where you sleep. This is important because the mind typically associates the bedroom with rest and relaxation; for optimal studying and sleeping, keep your working and sleeping spaces separate.
GAMES is a mnemonic device developed by Marilla D. Svinicki (National Academy of Engineering, 2006). It is useful as a general tool for learning and may be especially valuable during the final exam period. Five practical strategies supported by theory and research on learning provide insight on behaviors that you can implement to improve your comprehensive learning experience during the final exam period and throughout the semester.
G – Goal oriented study Establishing a clear goal for your study sessions can significantly improve your learning experience. As opposed to thinking about your goal in terms of the amount of time you will study or the amount of material you will cover, focus on identifying key concepts from the course. For example, start by making a list of key term and ideas discussed over the semester by going through your syllabus week by week. For each concept listed, write one to two sentences (no more) that define or describe the term/idea. By making a list of the concepts you plan to review, you will have created a basic outline for your study session. Having clear goals in mind before you sit down to study will allow you to apply your knowledge in an active way. Once you have outlined the key terms and ideas that you plan to study, you can begin to make connections between course concepts and what you already know. Goal oriented study is an active form of learning because it supports the applied integration of your prior knowledge with newer knowledge.
A – Active Study Many students mistake the idea of working for extended periods of time with that of active learning. The difference between these two approaches to knowledge consumption is crucial. The first approach to studying is built on practices of repetition; it may include retyping lecture notes or rereading book chapters to memorize the material. This approach to learning can be extremely time-consuming and it does not typically result in the ability to engage in the deep processing of ideas. An alternative approach to knowledge integration encourages "active learning" whereby a student develops her ability to flexibly apply information to a variety of concrete situations. The basic idea of this approach involves being able to explain a concept in your own words. To develop your active learning skills during final exam time, partner up with a person from your class. Work collaboratively and talk through your own understandings of the concept. How do you make sense of this particular concept/idea? And, how is your understanding different from the person with whom you are working? Practice sharing examples that make the meaning of the concept clear to the other person. Work towards articulating the concept(s) in your own words.
M – Meaningful and Memorable Study Making what you are learning personally meaningful can be invaluable to your learning process. This approach to studying hones in on our ability to make connections between what we are learning and our own life experiences. Utilizing examples we improve our abilities to summon up the major principles that comprise a particular concept. Our use of examples helps us to turn abstract ideas into concrete representations. To practice this study habit, focus on a particular course concept. Write down an example that illustrates the concept. If you were to describe the concept to a new learner, what example would you use to help them visualize that concept? Try to come up with an example that allows you to think about the concept in a personalized and comparative way. How are two concepts similar or different? Where do concepts overlap? By comparing and integrating core concepts from your course materials, you will improve your ability to describe concepts in a variety of ways. Thinking about core concepts in relation to one another and in accompaniment with a personalized example will facilitate your ability to recall information and describe it in a concrete way.
E – Explaining to Someone as a Study Strategy Working in a small study group where you can practice explaining course concepts to other people is a good way to solidify your own understanding. Learning how to communicate an idea or concept to another person requires a deep understanding of the material. To practice this study approach, try talking through a concept as preparation for writing about that concept. By verbally practicing and articulating your thoughts on a specific subject, you will develop a structure for organizing your thoughts so that you are better prepared when it comes to writing about that idea. Applying concepts by talking through them can be an invaluable study strategy that will aid you in the writing process. If you can't find a willing party to listen to your explanation of a concept, you might try speaking to yourself while looking in a mirror. Another approach would be to tape record yourself explaining the concept and then listening to the tape to identify places where your explanation needs further clarification. Comparing your own understanding to the understanding of others in your same course can help you to further expand on your ideas or argument as it will take shape in your writing.
S – Self Monitoring During Study A common misperception among students is the belief that if you have understood what a professor has explained in class, then you have a clear understanding of the material. While it is an excellent start to feel as though you have understood the basic concepts that have been discussed in class, the real test arises in being able to explain and apply course concepts in your own words. All the prior strategies offered by the GAMES model for effective studying strategies are built upon self-monitoring techniques. As you practice making connections between course concepts and your prior knowledge, you engage in an active process of self monitoring. As you begin to self monitor your study habits, you become better able to identify shortcomings in your own arguments. Reflective question asking is a good tool for doing this. Ask yourself: does my use and application of this concept make sense? Can I support my understanding by offering a concrete example that showcases my application of the concept? Is the example I am using the most effective example for explaining this concept? Self-monitoring during your study sessions involves checking whether or not you have interpreted the content correctly. When you try to explain what you know, can you communicate your understanding in a clear and articulate manner? If you feel uncertain about your explanation of a concept, try talking with another student in your course to see where your understanding of the concept may be incomplete. After working through your own understanding of a concept, share your ideas about the concept(s) with your professor or a TA and solicit their feedback.
Be sure to take study breaks. You need at least a ten minute break for every hour that you study. Your studying will be most effective if you take breaks throughout your study session. While you may be inclined to study for several hours and then take a longer break, your mind will absorb the information you are processing more effectively if you take periodic breaks. After a day of intense studying, make time to do something relaxing and fun. This will allow you to return to the material refreshed and revitalized on the following day.
Svinicki, Marilla D. (2006). Learning, Motivation, and Student Self-Regulation.
Svinicki, Marilla D. (2006). Helping Students Do Well in Class: GAMES.
Svinicki, Marilla D. (2006). Gauging you own goal oriented study behaviors in the use of the GAMES model.
Svinicki, Marilla D. (2004). Learning and Motivation in the Postsecondary Classroom. Anker Publishing Company, Incorporated.
Doing research at the undergraduate level can be extremely worthwhile and rewarding. In addition to enhancing your resume, research opportunities offer an experience that allows you to expand your perspectives on how knowledge can be applied and utilized. Research opportunities provide a space for intellectual growth that is firmly grounded in your own interests. By participating in research as an undergraduate you will strengthen both your future professional career possibilities and options for graduate study.
The first step in pursuing a research project is to identify a general topic area of interest. Begin by writing down a list of possible topics you want to explore in more depth. The foundation of a research project usually takes shape in the form of a question or questions. Think about topics from previous courses that continue to hold your interest. What remaining questions do you have about this topic? As you identify some possible questions for your research project, keep in mind ways that you might go about answering these questions. Use your questions as the foundation for mapping out the general direction of your research.
Finding a mentor for conducting research is an important step in the research process. After identifying a topic of interest, you will need to select a faculty member who can oversee and guide your research explorations. Start by visiting department web sites to read about faculty research interests. Work to identify a faculty member (or two) who conduct research in an area that is similar to your own area of interest. A professor who shares your research interests is a good candidate to serve as your faculty mentor. If you have trouble identifying a faculty member with mutual interests, make an appointment to meet with possible mentors and discuss the aim of your project. These conversations can often lead to the discovery of a fitting mentor for your specific interests.
Once you have faculty mentor who has agreed to work with you, your next step will be to conduct a search for related literature on the specific subject of interest. Good research often builds on the work of past researchers. As you discover research that already exists on your specific topic, use it as a basis for understanding how others have approached this subject in the past. What questions have already been asked/answered? How has research on this topic previously been conducted? This information will help you to narrow the focus of your own research project. It will further provide you with background information on the specific subject area. At Goddard Library you consult a librarian and learn about accessing several online databases that can assist you in carrying out this search.
A key aspect of doing undergraduate research is the occasion it provides for you to apply your creativity in a learning setting. After identifying a topic of interest and a faculty mentor to support you in your research endeavors, the research experience can become a space for hands-on learning. While honing the ability to complete tasks on your own, you will sharpen your critical thinking skills. As a researcher and a member of a research team, you will gain insight from the experience of working collaboratively with others and considering alternate perspectives.
There are many options for undergraduates who want to pursue research at Clark. Two possibilities include: 1. The HERO program, an opportunity for undergraduates to do research that is focused on environmental issues in the Worcester area. and 2. The Urban Development and Social Change Program (UDSC) offers undergraduate fellowships to do applied research with a local community or development agency.
In addition, Clark undergraduates may pursue individual research projects through campus departments in the form of an honors thesis. For specific information about the honors thesis contact the department of interest.
Funding for undergraduate research at Clark is available in several forms. For more information about funding opportunities at Clark, visit the Office of Sponsored Programs and Research. Here, you will find a description of both the Anton and Steinbrecher fellowship program.
The Council on Undergraduate Research provides undergraduates with opportunities for presenting and publishing their research findings.
Journals that focus on publishing undergraduate academic research include:
The Pittsburgh Undergraduate Review gives undergraduates throughout the country an avenue for publication of original scholarship which might otherwise go unnoticed. The review process of the PUR is similar to that of professional academic journals. At least two referees with expertise in fields related to the topic of each prospective article are chosen from a pool of faculty members at the University of Pittsburgh and surrounding institutions. These referees evaluate the paper with regard to originality and clarity, as well as quality of reasoning and research.
AGORA: An Online Undergraduate Journal of Humanities Agora was a refereed research journal sponsored by the Center for Humanities Research at Texas A&M University. It was formerly published twice a year online, and each issue featured papers and book reviews written by undergraduates and reviewed by professors. AGORA is no longer a functioning journal - past issues are available online.
The Art and Literary Journal - Analecta produced annually by students at the University of Texas at Austin, Analecta is comprised of student art and previously unpublished student literature collected from a contest held at over 280 colleges and universities each fall - Available online.
The Dualist: Undergraduate Journal of Philosophy - The Dualist is a publication dedicated to recognizing valuable undergraduate contributions in philosophy and to providing a medium for undergraduate discourse on topics of philosophical interest. It was created by students at Stanford University in 1994 and has since featured submissions from undergraduates around the world. The journal is published each spring and is distributed to philosophy departments across the nation - Available online.
CalTech Undergraduate Research Journal Submissions are welcomed from undergraduates at all educational institutions - Available online.
Furman University Electronic Journal of Undergraduate Mathematics - Available online.
Morehead Electronic Journal of Applicable Mathematics - Available online.
Origin The Higher Education Academy Centre for Bioscience: Publishing undergraduate research in an extra-curricula house journal. Origin is an undergraduate journal to publish research work by students. Origin was devised to offer a genuine experience of research publication to students in response to a perceived need as a significant proportion of students go on to further discipline-specific study or research within their degree is completed - Available online.
Pi Mu Epsilon Journal Papers and mathematical problems by and for members - Available online.
Rose-Hulman Undergraduate Mathematics Journal Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Undergraduate Mathematics Journal - Available online.
The Journal of Undergraduate Sciences - Available online.
The Pentagon: The Official Journal of Kappa Mu Epsilon, mathematics honor society - Available online.
Bios Journal Focus: emphasis on undergraduate biology research papers as well as training and professional issues for biologists Founded 1930, Publishes quarterly in print. Research articles by undergrads; reviews & histories by faculty editors. Target audience = BBB members.
Journal of Young Investigators (JYI) Focus: undergraduate research in science, mathematics, and engineering Founded 1998, Publishes research triannually and features monthly on the web. Research & reviews by undergrads; other content by all undergraduate editors. Target audience = undergraduates.
Journal of Undergraduate Science and Engineering (JUSE). Focus: research, reviews, editorials, and features on current scientific research or undergraduate education Founded 2003, Publishes quarterly on the web Articles by undergraduates. Undergraduate & faculty editors. Target audience = undergraduates
Journal of Behavioral and Neuroscience Research (JBNR). Focus: research in Psychology and Neuroscience, particularly studies that integrate behavioral and neuroscience techniques Founded 2003, Publishes biannually on the web. Research articles by undergraduates and faculty. Faculty editors. Target audience = Neuroscientists
Impulse - Focus: undergraduate neuroscience research articles Founded 2004, Will publish on the web Articles by undergraduates. Undergraduate editors. Target audience = undergraduates.
Nexus: journal of undergraduate science, engineering and technology aims to provide a model and a means of integrating and promoting the teaching/research nexus within the undergraduate curriculum at the University of Tasmania.
Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences (JPBS). Focus: articles in any topical area of psychology Founded 1966, Publishes annually in print with abstracts on the web. Articles are by undergraduates and graduate students. Graduate student & undergrad editors. Target audience = psychologists
Modern Psychological Studies (MPS). Focus: experimental psychological research, as well as theoretical papers, literature reviews, and book reviews Founded 1993, Publishes biannually in print and on the web Articles by undergraduates. Undergraduate editors. Target audience = undergraduates.
Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research. Focus: the work of undergraduate psychology students Founded 1996, Publishes quarterly in print with abstracts on the web Articles by undergraduates. Faculty editors. Target audience = Psi Chi Members.
The American Undergraduate Journal of Politics and Government provides a competitive, bi-annual platform exclusively for undergraduate papers. Students from any class and major are encouraged to submit papers to one of four divisions encompassed by the Journal: American Politics Comparative Politics, International Relations Political Theory The Journal's Editorial Board is comprised of undergraduate peers at Purdue University, who endeavor each semester to publish manuscripts of the highest academic quality.
Useful web links with more information on conducting undergraduate research
Regional Presentation Opportunities
New England Science Symposium (Harvard Medical School)
With the semester well underway, now is the perfect time to reflect on your strategies for "getting what you came for." Whether graduation is around the corner or several years off, the following concrete suggestions can make your college experiences productive and fulfilling.
One of the most important skills you can develop as a college student is effective time management (Light, 2001). Being happy both personally and academically requires good planning. In our tip last month, we offered some suggestions for effective time management. For additional ideas on this subject, try talking with your peers. How do they work to manage their time wisely? Do they have any suggestions that would help you? Try keeping a personal time log where you record exactly how you spend your time in half-hour increments. This can be excellent information that will allow you to make adjustments in the choices you are making.
Students who are able to integrate the in-class and outside-of-class parts of their lives report having a more satisfying college experience (Light, 2001). Because the bulk of your time is spent outside the classroom, consider asking yourself how you synthesize your classroom interests with your daily activities. There are many opportunities on Clark campus to get involved in extracurricular activities that complement your academic pursuits. Some possibilities are: All Kinds of Girls (a mentoring program for young girls in the Worcester community), Student Council, the Black Student Union, Chemistry Club, Counterpoints (an cappella group), the Debate Society, Outing Club, and CHOICES (a student run organization that provides sexual health information and education). For more ideas, go to Clark's complete list of Student Clubs and Organizations.
Supervised independent research projects and working internships offer great learning challenges. Clark offers many such opportunities. Try getting involved in a volunteer position, or internship that supports you in further developing and extending your own scholarly interests. For more information about internships and volunteer positions, visit Clark and the Community. If you are in your first or second year of college, you still have time to consider the possibility of studying abroad. Clark offers several opportunities to study abroad in both foreign language and English language programs. For more information on this subject, visit Clark's Study Abroad Office to determine which program will work best for you. If your main area of study focuses on another culture, this experience can be a unique opportunity for thinking about how what you learn in textbooks relates to what you experience while immersed in a culture different from your own.
Many students interviewed by Light (2001) reported that engaging in the arts through music, drama, sculpting or painting furthered their ability to think more deeply about writing, history, psychology, science, and literature (Light, 2001). In addition to providing an opportunity for you to learn more about yourself, the arts can be a way to think about your specific subject matter from a variety of perspectives. For example, you might consider how a novel takes on new meaning when you inhabit a particular character on stage; or, how a particular scientific theory looks when you try to express it in a painting or poem. For more information about getting involved in the arts, visit Clark opportunities in the Visual and Performing Arts.
A crucial part of making the most out of your college education is developing human relationships. While working in isolation may suit specific academic purposes, students who develop relationships with multiple faculty mentors express a greater satisfaction in their overall learning process (Light, 2001). In addition, students who study in pairs or work collaboratively on group projects are likely to explore a wider range of ideas (Light, 2001). These findings point toward the importance of developing a diverse network of support. If you take advantage of your network of friends and professors while enjoying learning as much as you can, you are likely to get the most out of your college experience.
Light, Richard J. (2001). Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Getting organized for success means knowing about the resources that are available to you and utilizing them to their fullest extent. Whether you're a first year college student or a well established senior, having a plan for success involves accessing the many supports that are available to you on campus. Begin by browsing through the Clark website to familiarize yourself with the many helpful services available to you. The Writing Center is an excellent resource that offers one-on-one hour-long sessions to writers at every stage of development. If you are gearing up for a future job search, you may be interested in visiting the office of Career Services. Bring or create your own resume with the help of trained professionals or make an appointment to find out about the most effective techniques for conducting a job search. Make the most of the libraries on campus by getting to know the very knowledgeable and friendly library staff. Getting assistance with finding literature on a specific subject or simply learning how to use the on-line library tools is a worthwhile way to kick off the semester before that first term paper is due.
Creating Community Support On-Campus
Instructors are both teachers and mentors. Aim to build relationships with your instructors that offer you opportunities to stretch your thinking on a particular subject. Remember, your instructors are here to help you to succeed. Take the initiative to go to their office hours and introduce yourself! Having conversations with instructors throughout the semester means that they will be better able to help you develop the skills you need to succeed throughout the entire duration of the semester (and beyond).
Other students can be a source of support and friendship. In addition to being good pals, your fellow students are a resource for helping you to get familiar with the campus layout and will likely be excellent study buddies when midterms and finals roll around.
Asking for Help
It is always good to know when you need help and to ask for it. Even if you are unsure about needing help, there are people and places on campus to help you decide who is best to talk to about a specific issue. The Dean of Students office is an excellent place to get assistance from others and find direction about who to talk with. Your instructors are also an invaluable resource. Most instructors choose education as a profession because they enjoy working with students. Your growth and learning experience is their central concern. Take an interest in your own education and ask for help when you need it.
As a college student, you will likely be juggling several life responsibilities. In addition to school, you may work at a part or full time job and simultaneously be managing personal and family commitments. Learning how to manage your time well is one effective strategy for succeeding in all your goals. Create a plan for time management that meets your specific needs. Be realistic by thinking about your own habits and life style when you make a concrete plan. The most effective time management involves scheduling your time over a particular period - by the day, week, month, and quarter/semester. Think about the type of planning that will best help you to meet your goals. Short term planning involves making daily or weekly schedule plans. Long term planning involves scheduling activities over the span of the semester or year. Both types of planning (short and long term) can be useful ways to progress at meeting your educational and life goals.
- Begin your time management planning by mapping out an overview of the semester.
- Once you have a final schedule of classes, you can create a semester specific calendar.
- Look at each syllabus and mark the dates, times, and locations for exams.
- Record due dates for papers, assignments, projects, and presentations.
- Be sure to include any events, holidays, or vacation time that you plan on taking.
When you make your time management calendar, be sure to think about how much time you will need to prepare for each task. Break down large projects into phases to be completed and assign a due date for each task.
Put your calendar in a place where it is easily visible. If you make a habit of using the calendar to help you structure your semester, it will support you in being well prepared for all the tasks ahead.
Another year of school has past, and no doubt you are filled with all sorts of new knowledge, trivia, and stories. Though summer is a good time to recuperate, it is also a useful time to reflect on what else you have learned throughout the year, including methods of studying that work for you and how to work through complex problems, either through writing, reading, formulas, or other discipline specific methods. Before heading for fun in the sun, you may find it useful to:
Reflect on the past school year to prepare for the next
Reflecting on your performance
You have likely developed wonderful study habits and done excellent work over the past year. Take a moment to reflect on your successes! Here are some things that you may want to consider:
- What are the top 5 things you learned this year?
- What was your best course this year? Why was it so good?
- What course did you get the most out of, even if you didn't like the subject matter?
- What was your favorite assignment, and how can you ensure that you will have more like that in future courses?
- What form of studying was most effective and led to the piece of work with which you are most satisfied?
Getting to know your Professors
Remember that Clark faculty are more than excellent teachers – they also conduct interesting research and are involved in great community projects. To find out more about your favorite professors, as well as consider ways in which you can work with them outside of classroom in the next year, check out their individual webpages. You can find these on the Clark website in the faculty directory.
Some things to notice:
- Past publications
- Research interests
- Courses taught
- Co-authors (what other Clark professors are on their publications)
Once you find a faculty member that you are interested in working with, you might like to send him/her an email requesting to be involved with his/her research either in a capstone course, senior seminar, or honors thesis.
- Mountains beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder
This book is Clark's first year summer book for the incoming Fall 2006 class. Kidder tells the story of Paul Farmer, a man who sought out cures for infectious diseases and brought modern medicine to those who did not otherwise have access. This tale offers hope that one person can make a difference.
If you are looking for a challenge, Dominican University Faculty each came up with a list of 5 books they think all graduating seniors should have read if they haven't already. Here are the ten that were repeated throughout the list:
- The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- Confessions by St. Augustine
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- On Walden Pond by Henry David Thoreau
- The Odyssey by Homer
- Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- The Meaning of Life: According to Our Century's Greatest Writers and Thinkers by H.S. Moorhead
- The Bible
To be able to solve problems and inquire within a discipline requires effective communication, which begins with active listening. We spend about 50% of our time each day listening, and during class this is no different (Newton, 1990). To help enhance your time in the classroom, take a look at some tips on:
Developing your Listening Skills
There are three basic steps to being a good listener:
1. Hear the message. This includes sitting in a location from which you can hear what your instructor is saying, as well as:
- Paying full attention: In order to pay attention, it is essential to be well rested and prepared. In college, this means getting enough sleep and coming to class having done the assignments and readings.
- Looking at the speaker: Listening is a difficult task, but is made easier by looking at the person speaking. This will also help keep you focused.
- Showing a concern for the message: You can signal your interest to a speaker by nodding your head or answering questions as they arise. This improves the listening experience as well.
2. Understand the message. After you have heard what the instructor is saying, be sure it makes sense by:
- Asking questions: Without full understanding, it is hard to retain information. Asking questions helps you and other students gain the basic understanding needed to make judgments about the material.
- Being open-minded and curious: By initially accepting the viewpoint of others, you stand to gain a better understanding and command of material.
- Talking in class discussions: Active engagement in your education will help you to better understand, and keep you interested enough to retain information.
- Taking good notes: Good notes begin with organization. A good way to organize notes is by writing key terms and concepts. Then these can be reviewed after class.
3. Judge the message. Once you understand the material, make it meaningful by: Relating the material to yourself:
- To retain the information you have learned, consider how it relates to something you already know. For example, how will accepting or refuting this new information alter your prior knowledge?
- Sharing the information with others: After class, find a friend to share your new knowledge with. By answering their challenge about the information, you will gain better mastery yourself.
- Asking probing questions to yourself or the instructor: After asking your questions related understanding the material, try asking yourself questions that go beyond memorization. How can the information be applied to the real world? How could you evaluate the veracity of the information?
Showing up for class and taking notes is only half the battle – by taking steps to hear, understand, and judge new material, you will be able to learn in a long-lasting and meaningful fashion.
Newton, T. (1990). Improving students' listening skills. Idea Paper No. 23, Center for Faculty Evaluation and Development, Kansas State University.
CETL promotes Clark's Learn through Inquiry signature, and many faculty members have worked to understand this signature and incorporate it into the classroom. However, many students are still unfamiliar with the signature. In order to help students take advantage of Clark's unique educational emphasis, this month we are combining the graduate and undergraduate student tip:
What does it mean to learn through inquiry?
About the Learn through Inquiry approach:
"Learn through Inquiry describes Clark's commitment to hands-on learning and problem solving. The skills needed for problem solving in the discipline are developed sequentially, through a pervasive pedagogy of engagement. Throughout their Clark experience, students learn by actively working through real problems, issues and questions, mastering modes of inquiry, and acquiring the knowledge base required to ask and to answer important questions. Each student has an opportunity to participate in a culminating discipline-based experience in the context of senior seminars, research, or other capstone experiences."
Learn through Inquiry is an educational approach that emphasizes student development across their educational careers and learning skills to work through important problems within a discipline.
Some general strategies for using the Learn through Inquiry approach to improve your educational experience:
- Apply material to your own experience. When you are trying to learn new information, attempt to make it meaningful based on your past experience. How does the material relate to things that have happened in your life?
- Look for connections between courses. If you seek out the ways in which what you learned in one course relates to what you are learning in a current course, you will have a better chance at remembering new material. Plus, courses relate more than you think, and looking for the connections will help you see the bigger picture in your education.
- Use open assignments as a way of exploring material that is interesting to you. If you have the opportunity to write a paper on any topic related to a course, find something that will likely answer a question you have had in the past. Even better, if you are interested in a topic, try approaching it from different angles based on the emphasis of the class. You can take an historic approach to the study of the topic in history, and a biological approach to the topic in biology.
- Take advantage of Clark's resources outside of the classroom to improve your skills. The most important thing you will leave with will be the ability to formulate questions, find answers, and share those answers with an audience. Clark has many services that will help you with these skills. Some services include participating in research, which will help you with problem solving, the Goddard Library, which can help you learn to find the information you need, and the Writing Center, which will help you share what you find.
- Think of creative approaches to course-related issues. You might be able to make it through a course by memorization, but in many cases that is not enough. Further, that will not help you in the long run. Find new ways to think about the material and complete assignments and you will be rewarded by your critical thinking skills!
Are there other ways that you incorporate Learn through Inquiry in your educational experience? We would love to hear about it! Please send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the best ways to learn course material outside of class is by combining efforts with other students. A study group can be more than a continuation of class - it can serve as an outlet for extending what you learn in class, and building positive relationships with your peers.
Sometimes three heads are better than one. Students that participate in study groups outside of class generally report academic improvement based on their participation (Downs, 1995). Study groups are an excellent way for students to better understand the course material, as well as for developing relationships between materials in different classes. The people within a study group, though in the same class, likely have different majors and have taken different classes. Therefore, each person can make contributions based on his/her previous educational experiences to make the present material all the more meaningful.
Getting the most out of a study group
- Share interpretations of assignments. Someone in the group may be unclear on the purpose of an assignment, which makes it hard to complete the assignment at all.
- Generate possible test questions. If you are reviewing for a test, coming up with a few questions you think will be on the test will help outline the breadth of the material, including some things you may have overlooked.
- Ask questions, and listen. You may find that another student approaches a problem differently than you do. Understanding different ways of approaching a problem will be useful for learning material and skills.
- Share study tips. Everyone has different methods for studying; some work, some don't. Talking with other students may help you find new ways of learning the material.
- Work on examples. Rather than trying to memorize the material for a test, work on generating examples of the concepts you are learning. Concepts are more meaningful, and easier to remember, if you can apply them in a real way.
- Share connections between the material and other classes. Education does not have to be a series of isolated classes. If you can make connections between what you are learning, and have learned, you will be in a better position to remember what you learn.
- Have fun! The academic side of college is enhanced by social activities and connections. That is the secret to study groups - they offer a place to be with others, while still studying the material.
Downs, C. (1995). Student Generated Study Groups: A Pilot Study. Research and Teaching in Developmental Education, v. 11(2): 31-42.
Perhaps the biggest mistake students make when preparing for tests is cramming. Not only is trying to learn all of the material at the last minute futile, but not getting enough sleep before a test is likewise detrimental. Make sure to get some sleep during this stressful period and:
Space out your study time
Does it feel like there aren't enough hours in the day? When you wake up, take 20 minutes to review the material from one course, and quiz yourself on the areas you did worse on during your study session the day before. Take 20 minute study breaks throughout the day to review for different courses, and before you know it, you will know more than you think! If it helps, set a timer so that you spend only as much time as you have available.
Spend more time on examples
Spend some of your study time trying to apply the material in ways that fit with your interests. Memorization is pretty ineffective for helping you retain information, but if you make the material meaningful to you, you are likely to remember. Do you like sports? How does the material relate to your favorite game? Or fashion? How are the trends in your field like trends on the runway?
Maybe you don't have time to tutor your friend on an entire semester's worth of work. Set time limits – for every half hour you help your friend, have your friend take a half hour to quiz you on material you need to learn. This way you combine social time with review time, and everyone wins.
Take advantage of office hours and review sessions
You may feel like you know the material well enough to skip out on extra help, or that you are so lost that you don't know where to start. You are likely wrong on both counts! Office hours and review sessions are set up to help you succeed, so be sure to take advantage of some structured review time. Often a small amount of time with a TA or Professor can benefit you more than an all night cram session.
Take care of your body
As psychologists tell their students – "there is no mind/body split!" Your physical health is as important as your mental health during periods of stress, so be sure to eat well (and regularly), exercise, and get your 8 hours of sleep.
Some of the best ideas have occurred during periods of relaxation. Take some time to do something you enjoy, and who knows, you may have a Eureka moment of your own. Balance your work and relaxation and your hours spent will pay off!
Good luck on your finals!
So you have made it past midterms and are now experiencing the crunch toward finals. It is important to take breaks from your work, but also possible for these breaks to relate to your education.
Step outside your major and learn about something you are interested in from an unfamiliar field. A good place to start is to search for your interest online at Google Scholar, or for a science related interest Sciencemag. You can look at the headlines at Discovery or National Geographic.
Veg Out! Catch up on your television viewing with the local New England news (channel 46), the Discovery Channel (59), or National Geographic (57).
Rent a movie. Check out the top 100 money-making documentaries for some ideas (top 5 are Fahrenheit 911, March of the Penguins, Bowling for Columbine, Truth or Dare, and Winged Migration).
Take a field trip. Check out the animals, planetarium, and exhibits at Worcester's Ecotarium ($6 with student ID, planetarium extra), get your aesthetic fill at the Worcester Art Museum ($8 with student ID, free Saturday 10am-noon), learn about historic armor at the Higgins Armory Museum ($8), or tour the Gardens or take a horticulture class or workshop at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in West Boylston ($8, buy one get one admission with AAA). For more local attractions, see Holy Cross College's Worcester Guide.
Take a hike. Hiking is free, it gets you moving, clears your head, and you can learn about local plant life and wildlife. Some good local trails are at Hadwen Park (Knox St. off of Webster St.), Green Hill Park (off route 9), the Cascade Trails (off Mower St. by Worcester State College), and Mount Wachusett (in Princeton). To find out how to get there, see a map of Worcester. You can borrow a field guide to get you started from the Goddard Library. Below is a short list of some available guides, and their call numbers:
The complete trees of North America: Field guide and natural history (QK481.E38)
A field guide to trees and shrubs; field marks of all trees, shrubs, and woody vines that grow wild in the Northeastern and North-Central United States and in southeastern and south-central Canada (QK 482 P4)
North American wildland plants: A field guide (SB 193.3 .N67 S88 2003)
Field guide to Northeastern ferns (QK525.5 N6 O4)
The Audubon Society field guide to North American reptiles and amphibians (GL 651 B44 1979)
The Audubon Society field guide to North American insects and spiders (QL 473 M54 1980)
Now that the semester has started, you are likely busy with many assignments, readings, and coursework. With all of these smaller assignments to complete, it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture – why are you in college in the first place?
Take a moment to think about why you are at Clark. Do you already have a career in mind? Or are you trying to figure out what you would like to do after college? Clark has many opportunities for you to explore your options during and after your college life, including internships, study abroad, and career preparation. Below is a brief list of what Clark has to offer you. For more details, visit the sites for Academic Advising and Career Services.
The Clark Career Exploration Program (CCEP)
The Clark Career Exploration Program (CCEP) is designed to prepare students early on for future careers. This program is intended to be utilized during a student's freshman year, and continued throughout the four year college experience. CCEP will help you figure out what you are most interested in, and help you determine the best ways to achieve your career goals, including participating in internships.
Internships and Summer Jobs
Career services can help you find the right internship or summer job to align with your future plans. Why languish at a boring, low-level job, when you can be learning the skills you will need in a future career? Internships and summer jobs are an excellent way to get experience in your area outside of the classroom.
Studying abroad is a way for you to broaden your educational and cultural experience. The Study Abroad office will help you decide when the best time for you to travel will be, and which program is right for you.
Clark University offers a rather unique program called Fifth-Year Free. Students who meet the eligibility requirements can begin working on a master's degree during their senior year, including taking master level courses. Then students stay on for the fifth-year to complete the master's degree, free of charge. If you are interested in this opportunity, see the eligibility requirements and list of Fifth-Year Free majors.
Scholarships and Fellowships
Scholarships and fellowships are useful for getting money for school, but also build your resume and provide you will skills you may need in the future. Academic Advising has a list of scholarships and fellowships, as well as advice for writing an effective scholarship essay, and information about letters of recommendation. For more information about letters of recommendation from the student's perspective, see the CETL October tip of the month for graduate students.
Career Services has many resources to help you prepare for graduate school, including preparing for standardized tests (GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT), finding the right school, and writing your application essay.
Career Services offers a wide variety of services to prepare you for a career and the job hunt. From preparing your application materials, to offering mock interviews, you will be a much stronger candidate after working with a Career Services specialist.
Attending a job fair is a great way to test the waters for future career options, as well as to build your networking skills with potential employers. Keep checking the Career Services website for upcoming job fair opportunities.
How to Begin Getting Involved in Research
Are you looking for a way to enhance your education by going beyond the classroom? You are at the right place. Clark was named the Hottest School for Student Research in the 2006 Kaplan/Newsweek Guide to America's 25 Hot Schools.
The benefits of research are many. You will learn how to apply the concepts you learn in class in a real world way that could potentially help others. Doing research as an undergraduate will strengthen your application for graduate school and for jobs. Some undergraduates even co-author journal articles or professional presentations!
One of Clark's three educational signatures is Learn through Inquiry. This signature represents Clark's commitment to hands on learning, both inside and outside of the classroom. This includes learning how to ask questions and find the answers, and apply your knowledge to real world issues. Doing research is an excellent way to incorporate this signature into your educational experience.
Talk to your professors about their research. If there is a professor who you really like in the classroom, chances are you will like that professor in a research setting. Here are some tips for finding out more about a professor's research interests:
Find the professor's webpage by going to his/her home department page, and locating the professor's name under the faculty listing.
Track down some of the articles written by the professor if there are some listed on his/her webpage.
Develop a list of questions that you have after reading about the interests and/or articles about the professor's research. How do your interests compare to the professor's? What was unclear?
Start a conversation with the professor by email (also on the professor's webpage). Include some information about yourself (your major, your favorite classes/topics within that major, a possible research interest, and what year you are in) as well as the questions you may have for the professor.
Ask if you can meet face to face to continue the conversation, and explore the possibility of joining the professor's lab.
To learn more about research at Clark, click here.
Making the shift from high school to college can be difficult. Though the expectations were clearly outlined in high school, college is much less disciplined, and not many professors will keep after you to complete assignments. Therefore, you will need to develop much more self discipline to succeed. With the semester quickly approaching, this month CETL is offering tips on Studying Effectively.
Begin reviewing the course material early on, and in frequent, short doses. This will enhance your memory of the material far better than cramming at the last minute.
Take good notes in class to avoid wasting time tracking down information later. Don't know where to start? Writing down what the professor writes on the board is a good place, and pay attention to whether your professor says "you need to know this" or similar statements! Your teaching assistant can also provide tips for organizing your notes.
Plan your time to reflect study time and social time, and do not mix the two. This means studying on the weekend too!
Seek out help from other students by forming study groups with 2-3 others.
Keep a pad of paper near you as you study to write down any non-studying to-dos that may distract you. This will get the other items out of your head and out of the way.
Limit your distractions by choosing a quiet place to study outside of your dorm room, such as the library. Study away from windows and without vocal music.
Find the time that you concentrate the best, and schedule your study time during that period.
Get enough sleep! Often, it is more important to get 8 hours of sleep the night before an exam than to cram in an extra 4 hours of study time. You won't remember what you studied anyway.
Apply the material to other areas of your life. This will help motivate you to learn the material.