Final Thought for the “Teach Yourself How to Learn” Weekly Series

This Blog Post is by Monie Chan (she/her), a fifth-year Business Technology Management co-op student pursuing a minor in eBusiness and Peer Academic Coach at the Ted Rogers School of Management’s Academic Success Centre (ASC), and Nina Sulkin (they/them), a Student Success Facilitator with ASC and Ted Rogers School graduate (Bcomm – Human Resources Management, 2016).

Thank you for tuning in to our Teach Yourself How to Learn blog series based on Dr. Saundra Yancy McGuire and Stephanie McGuire’s book of the same name.

We, at the Academic Success Centre, have aimed to provide students with valuable information, so that you are able to fill in any gaps and discover learning strategies that you can utilize to become a better learner. There are three underlying principles that students can follow when choosing the proper strategies to use (McGuire and McGuire, 2018):

  • You must believe you can be successful.
  • You must determine exactly what is expected of you.
  • You must have a tool-kit of effective learning strategies.

Remember: “There is no right or wrong approach to becoming a better learner. The best way to find out what works best for you is to dive right into it and see which strategy you as a student enjoy the most” (McGuire and McGuire, 2018; 100). The Academic Success Centre is here to help.

You must believe you can be successful

To be successful in your learning, approach university studies as a full-time job (based on Chapter 7 post written by Maria and Saad). There’s no shortcut to real, deep learning. In other words, along with believing you can be successful, you must fully commit to doing what it takes to achieve that success. Also, believing you can be successful and committing to the work includes accepting setbacks as part of the learning process. Setbacks aren’t a sign that you are not or cannot be successful; they are helpful indications of where you need to make improvements. This is addressed in Chapter 6 (Growth Mindset post by Jamie). The right approach to setbacks and obstacles is critical to academic success.

You must determine exactly what is expected of you

Before we dive into the various strategies encompassed by Bloom’s Taxonomy, for example, it’s important that we determine what exactly is expected of us. Every course has learning objectives, listed in the course outline. Every textbook chapter does, too.

McGuire & McGuire remind us that “If you are unclear about expectations in a particular class, do your best to gather that information from as many sources as you can. Scrutinize the syllabus, interview past students and [attend] the instructor’s office hours as often as you can with clear, relevant questions” (McGuire & McGuire, 2018; p. 77). Once you’ve determined what you need to accomplish within the course, it will be much easier to create a strategic plan!

You must have an arsenal of effective learning strategies

Student writing an exam at a desk

It’s important to recognize that there are many strategies and tools that can help us learn. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. Tools you could use to learn and study for a quantitative course may not work for a qualitative course. Experiment! Take the various learning strategies that we’ve shared with you over the course of term, and try them in your various courses.

In our review of Chapter 3, Monie and Aidan discussed metacognitive strategies and how they can be applied to our thinking and learning processes. Metacognition allows us to monitor, plan and evaluate our learning.

  1. Plan for your studies by preparing for active reading.
  2. Monitor yourself as you do the homework.
  3. Evaluate your knowledge by teaching the material to a real or imagined audience.

Yixuan and Geerthan reviewed each step of the student study cycle and how Bloom’s Taxonomy applied to each step. Chapter 4 discussed Bloom’s Taxonomy and the student study cycle. We discussed the six levels of study: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating. 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. Yixuan and Geerthan reviewed each step of the student study cycle and how Bloom’s Taxonomy applied to each step.

Chapter 5 starts with a list of ten strategies to optimize our academic performance. The authors note that you can pick and choose what works best for you, but states that there are “some strategies that are so effective – namely, the reading and homework strategies – that everyone should use them” (McGuire & McGuire, 2018; p. 41). Do you remember what they are? Emma and Milad took each of these strategies, broke them down into what they mean and shared their experiences with you.

In review of Chapter 8, Isha notes that “learning is strongly influenced by our learning strategies, mindset towards learning, self-talk and lifestyle. These factors play a crucial role in how we feel about learning.” They also contribute to what Anisa and Maria identified in their review of Chapter 9: preparation (using the tools we’ve discussed) and time management can help us in acing our exams, and reducing the stress associated with taking our finals.

The intent of the book and of our blog series is to demonstrate that we, as students, need to move beyond studying to truly learn. Dr. McGuire ends the book by making room for an exercise – a commitment to action (p. 101). It’s this exercise that we will ask you to try, too: “write down two or three strategies that you will begin using as soon as possible. The sooner you start, the sooner you will be on the path to independent, self-directed learning, which is the key to fulfilling your academic goals and your larger life ambitions” (McGuire and McGuire, 2018; p. 101, 102).


McGuire S., & McGuire, S.Y. (2018). Teach Yourself How to Learn: Strategies You Can Use to Ace Any Course at Any Level, Chapter 9. Stylus Publishing, LLC.