Effective Study Strategies to Help Students Learn

Between kindergarten and twelfth grade, students are expected to learn how to study, schedule their time and complete sizable assignments without procrastinating. Yet these skills often aren’t taught explicitly. With the increased self-sufficiency necessitated by virtual education, educators and parents can help students learn and manage their goals more effectively by directly teaching study skills.

Strategies for Avoiding Distraction

When studying or in virtual class, students may keep their phones nearby and subsequently get distracted by notifications. They might decide to respond to a notification, figuring it can be handled quickly, and then be sucked into a digital rabbit hole. This could amount to missing parts of class or wasting time set aside for homework. Coupled with potential noise distractions, at-home learning environments can test students’ attention spans.

Change Your Space

While many students’ options are limited during virtual learning, selecting the best location in a home comes from carefully considering one’s personal sources of distraction.

If notifications constantly grab students’ attention, they can turn them off on their phones and laptops. Should a phone’s proximity be a temptation, they can place their phone in another room during class or study time.

Don’t Choose Distraction

While students likely recognize that they put less effort into their work when they choose to also watch TV, text or play music, they may underestimate the impact of multitasking on their task’s accuracy and duration. “It’s very clear that multitasking is not helping them, even though they mostly think it’s fine,” he said.

Plan Breaks

If students find themselves constantly distracted, they might just need a break. Data shows that brief breaks rejuvenate students, allowing them to return to schoolwork with heightened concentration.

Knowing when a break is coming up can also influence motivation: when a student feels tempted to give up, seeing that their next break is in five minutes or less may encourage them to keep up their work until that break. Achieving goals improves self-esteem, allowing students to feel positively about their ability to regulate work habits.

It’s Still School

In-person school environments are structured to allow for effective learning and to minimize distraction. Outside that context, students may find paying attention more difficult.

A workshop for parents may be helpful to that end, but educators should be mindful that parents might be more willing to hear this message from another parent.

Why We Procrastinate, How to Fight It

There are three main reasons why students procrastinate: the task is “boring”; the task seems overwhelming or impossible; the task provokes fears of failure, causing a student to self-sabotage.

Start work in class

Simply beginning the work makes headway against procrastination. Data from exercise studies show that people tend to underestimate how much they’ll enjoy a given task. Once they begin, they often find that task less boring or overwhelming than predicted.

Use a planner — and make it a habit

When students aren’t told to plan out their work – or shown how to schedule — they tend to struggle. Scheduling portions of a hefty task allows the task to feel more manageable, meaning it won’t loom over students’ heads until the last minute.

Practice Breaking Down Tasks

Students need to learn how to break up large tasks into bite-sized chunks. While they’re fully capable of doing this, they might not know how to go about it. Demonstrating and teaching this concept directly can help guide students toward success.


Separate from the other two reasons for procrastination, self-sabotaging comes from a student’s fear that even if they tried their hardest on an assignment or test, they wouldn’t succeed.

Invoking a growth mindset might be helpful here, as might working together to develop a new strategy for the task. This may involve breaking tasks down or troubleshooting together, and then monitoring that student’s progress with the new strategies.

Excerpted from “13 Effective Study Strategies to Help Students Learn” in KQED’s MindShift. Read the full article online for more details as well as tips for how to know when to stop studying.

Source: MindShift | 13 Effective Study Strategies to Help Students Learn, https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/57644/13-effective-study-strategies-to-help-students-learn | © 2021 KQED INC

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