Have You Prepared Yourself to Be Ready to Learn?

“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” John Holt

Learning is an activity. It does not happen by osmosis. Effective learners prepare themselves optimally to be ready to learn in class by using concrete strategies that enable them to develop new ideas, skills, and dispositions. What’s more, they recognize that learning situations vary, and so monitor the effectiveness of the learning strategies they’re using, adapting them periodically to meet the needs of the learning situation at hand.

In college, you are expected to come to class prepared, ready to learn.

Being prepared and ready to learn means going beyond simply reading or viewing assigned class materials. It means working actively and strategically to make your own sense of the assigned materials before you come to class.

To make your own sense of texts, you should employ many of the following strategies, all of which require you to develop the habit of looking at your texts carefully and writing about what you see both as you read and after.

As you read, you should

  • Find and define concepts and key terms.
  • Identify passages that you think you might be able to write about, then paraphrase them and explain to yourself what’s useful or evocative about them.
  • Pay particular attention to examples that illustrate or complicate ideas. Study them, be able to explain what they illustrate and how they work.

You should also

  • Identify and paraphrase a text’s arguments or central ideas, and be able to point to and discuss the materials supporting them.
  • Look for assumptions, unspoken values, or gaps in your texts. Ask yourself why they are not brought to the surface to the text.
  • Look for countering, or complicating views (as well as the names of the people who offer them).

Try to draw connections between different parts of a text or different texts and specify the nature of the connection.

Most important, track and record the ideas and responses that occur to you as you work, and make every effort to connect what you are learning to *

  • what you think you know, believe, or feel,
  • what you are reading or studying in other classes, or on your own,
  • some aspect of your experience or interests.

Being prepared and ready to learn means coming to class with specific questions to ask, a list of topics and points you want to discuss, and/or chunky paragraphs you have written to figure out what you think about what you have read or viewed.

You can expect to encounter texts and ideas that are challenging, difficult, confusing, or complicated in college. When you encounter difficulty, you should respond by trying to make sense of these texts by paraphrasing them, analyzing them into components, and/or freewriting to see what you might be able to say about them.