This Blog Post is by Geerthan Ranjhan (he/him), a 5th year Business Management co-op student majoring in Human Resources Management and minoring in Law, and Yixuan He (she/her), a 4th year Business Management student, majoring in Global Management Studies and minoring in Economics, both of whom are Peer Academic Coaches at the Academic Success Centre (ASC). This post is part of ASC’s “Teach Yourself How to Learn” Blog Series based on Dr. Saundra Yancy McGuire’s book, and will be published weekly in the Winter 2021 term.

Learning Bloom’s Taxonomy

Have you ever had the experience of not being able to figure out the exact answer during exams, even after reviewing? That is because you didn’t achieve deep learning. Here are two reasons this typically happens:

  1. There’s a difference between “studying” and “learning.”
  2. You’ll “study” harder to teach material to your class than you will to get an A on a test.

Difference between Studying and Learning         

  • Studying is focusing on the “What”; but learning is focusing on the “How’s”, “Why’s” and “What if’s”.
  • When you focus on the “What,” if you forget them you can’t re-create the information. But when you focus on the “How’s”, “Why’s” and “What if’s,” even if you forget the “What’s” you can recreate them.   

Study to teach the material, than to solely get an A on the test

  • If you knew you had to teach the material, you wouldn’t simply memorize it. Instead, you’d do your best to deeply understand the material. For example, you would think of questions you might be asked, and you’d make sure you’re able to answer them.
  • To teach someone, you need to make sure that someone else gets the concepts. So you need to know how to explain in a way that’s easy to understand.
  • Our advice: instead of “make-an-A” mode, turn to “teach-the-material” mode

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy provides an easy-to-follow guide on how to better prepare yourself for exams by improving your understanding of course material. There are six levels of study: remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate and create.

Students tend to think that all they need for exams is to remember everything in the slides. However, Bloom’s pyramid shows that memorizing the concept is only the first step of your learning; only remembering the material is not enough for the exams. Exams and assignments call for the ability to apply what you have understood to analyze the questions and eventually find the right answer. Your ultimate goal should be climbing from shallow learning to deep learning in order to make use of the knowledge.

You can check whether you satisfied the requirement for each level by asking yourself the questions that correspond with that level on the Climbing Bloom’s Pyramid to Master Course Content tip sheet. Then, they can follow the step-by-step learning strategies under that specific level in order to climb up the pyramid.

The Study Cycle

Open book

As students, we know how stressful it can be to learn our course material, and we may feel like it is impossible to grasp our courses’ contents. However, there is a way to tackle this through intense study sessions. 

The intense study session methodology follows a five-step process for achieving learning goals:

1) Preview Before Class

The first step requires you to skim through the assigned reading materials, noting the headings, boldface words and chapter objectives, and quickly reading the summaries. This step allows you to get an idea of what you are about to learn. It may be a good idea to jot down some questions you would like to ask in the lecture during this step. For example, what is the difference between currency liability and total liability? Why is the debt to equity ratio important?

2) Attend Class

It is important to attend class, as there will be a plethora of information presented that may not appear in the condensed lecture notes. Additionally, class time is the golden opportunity to ask crucial questions.

3) Review notes after class

After class, it is recommended that you review your notes to recall what was discussed in class and explain it to yourself to enhance your memory. By reviewing the content, your brain will notice things that it did not notice before — just like it does when you watch a movie for the second time, and notice a scene or a detail you’d forgotten. According to the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, if we don’t review what we’ve learned, less than 20% of the knowledge is retained in our memory after one week.

4) Do intense study sessions

Intense study sessions are effective because they enable students to break their work into manageable chunks with reasonable breaks in between. Each study session’s duration is subjective; it can be 15 to 20 minutes or 50 to 60 minutes.  Each intensive study session should follow four parts: setting specific goals, doing active learning activities, taking breaks or rewarding yourself in between sessions, and at the end reviewing what you learned in the last five minutes.

5) Assess your learning

It is important to evaluate your studying by engaging in self-evaluation. You should determine whether you need to tweak their learning strategies and adjust them accordingly. This process should be done by reviewing feedback on assignments, tests or mid-terms and understanding where and how you could improve.

Putting it all together

Student writing an exam at a desk

Both Bloom’s Taxonomy Learning Pyramid and the Study Cycle emphasize the need to constantly build up your understanding of the materials. Completing the Study Cycle will help you achieve the best results in your school work. You can use Bloom’s Taxonomy as a tool to assess your understanding of and familiarity with the course contents and to help you to reach a higher level of mastery of the contents. Following the study cycle and the Bloom’s Taxonomy can be an easy start point to form good study habits and eventually lead to success in academic life.

Want some support in navigating Bloom’s Taxonomy, the Study Cycle or any part of your learning process? Book an individual meeting with our Learning Strategist or with one of our Peer Coaches. They will be able to walk you through or offer additional support. Visit: https://ryerson.ca/trsm-success-ls.

Check back next week for our post about Metacognitive Learning Strategies at Work.

References

Academic Success Centre. (n.d.) Climbing Bloom’s Pyramid to Master Course Content. https://www.ryerson.ca/content/dam/tedrogersschool/success/resources/ASC-tip-sheet-studying-climbing-blooms-pyramid-master.pdf

Academic Success Centre. (n.d.). How to Study. https://www.ryerson.ca/tedrogersschool/success/learning/how-to-study/

McGuire, S., & McGuire, S. Y. (2018). Chapter 4. In Teach Yourself How to Learn: Strategies You Can Use to Ace Any Course at Any Level. Stylus Publishing, LLC.

Mind Tools. (n.d.). The forgetting curve. https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/forgetting-curve.htm.

Posted by Debra Rughoo

Debra Rughoo is a Writing and Content Specialist at the Ted Rogers School of Management.