Every Student, Teacher, And Parent Should Memorize This ASAP

Hey Y’all, I’ve got a very special video for you today. I strongly believe that every student, teacher, and parent out there should memorize what I call The Study Cycle. It needs to be a part of the daily language in classrooms and households. Normally I keep this video locked up in my paid online courses, but today I’m releasing it for you to watch for FREE!

Check out the video here. And then — if you’re a teacher, tutor, school administrator or academic coach, please considering joining me for my upcoming course The Art of Inspiring students to Study Strategically. We start on February 27th. You will learn everything you need to know to ensure that students have the tools they need to rock their learning with or without you!

Hey there, while I HIGHLY recommend watching this particular video in full, here is a summary:

The Study Cycle is composed of 3 steps and is the most effective, efficient, and anti-boring method I know for studying. So before we begin going over the steps, I have a little image here, which we will be referencing.

 

The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically | Gretchen Wegner | Teacher | Teachers | Tutors | Academic Life Coach | Academic Coach | Academic Coaching | Academic Coaches | Tutors | Tutor | Study Skills | School Administrators | Parents | Parent | Student | StudentsWe start with the basket of knowledge and skills at the bottom of the image, this is what we need to learn, and we need to get this into your beautiful brain at the top. So step 1 is encoding the information from the basket into our brains. In this step, we are getting the information into our brains, whether we are teaching it to ourselves or it’s being taught to us.

Step 2 of The Study Cycle, which the majority of students skip, is practice retrieval. This is the process of getting the information out of our brains and assessing what we actually learned. By doing this, we get two very important pieces of information. The first is what we do know, what we actually did learn in step 1. The second is what we didn’t encode in step 1. What we didn’t learn, or encode, we put back into the basket of knowledge.

Then we have step 3. Step 3 is one of the least practiced steps, but just as important or more important than the other 2. Step 3 is to encode the information we assessed we didn’t learn in step 2 in a NEW way. The important thing is NOT just to try to re-encode it the same way you did in Step 1, but to encode the information in a new way.

My course, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying, for students, and The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically, for Educators, both are filled with a wide variety of tools to help students encode information in new ways. So check them out, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Eight Reasons to Apply to Canadian Universities

8 Reasons to Apply to Canadian Universities & 4 Reasons Not to | Megan Dorsey | Gretchen Wegner | Whitney Laughlin | College Prep PodcastDid you know that you can save more than $20K a year by going to Canadian Universities, as compared to American ones?

There are many other reasons why American students might want to consider Canadian universities. Join us as guest expert Whitney Laughlin, Ed.D maps out the reasons why you ought to consider Canada for higher education.

  • Differences and similarities between the Canadian and American university systems
  • 8+ reasons benefits to choosing a Canadian university over an American one
  • 4 reasons why you might NOT want to consider a Canadian university
  • how to get scholarships in Canada
  • and more!

The free resources we mentioned on this episode include the Canadian government’s website about their university system, an informative newspaper article about the Canadian university system, and this index of colleges and universities.

Whitney Laughlin, Ed. D is an independent college consultant who works with families to choose the perfect college for them in either Canada or the United States. Check out her website to find out more about her college and career counseling services, workshops, and nonprofit consulting work.

Click here to head over to the College Prep Podcast to listen to this episode.

Always Write These Two Things In Your Planner

Did you know that the WAY you write something in your planner can have a big effect on whether you actually follow through?

My client recently discovered that there are two things he needs to write in his planner for every major assignment — the WHAT and the HOW of what he needs to do.

Check out the video to find out more.

Hey there, don’t have time for the video? No worries, I’ve got your back, here’s a short summary.

I LOVE it when I get blown away by the concise way my clients articulate something they’ve learned in our sessions. I had a college student who was a freshman in college and in high school, he’d never used a planner. So we were working on making sure he planned out his assignments. In this instance, he came to the session and said he had an essay assignment, but not to worry he was great at writing essays. I asked him to take it out and just review it, and it turned out, while the essay was simple itself, the process for completing was a bit more complex than he had thought.

This led my client to realize that when he’s writing an assignment into his planner he needed to add 2 very important details. He needed to note, not just WHEN he would work on the assignment and when it was due, but also HOW he would complete it. For his essay, he needed to plan out a few different topics to discuss, as well as take the time to go to the library and research the topics chosen. So in his planner, he put down when he would figure out his topics, and when he would go to the library to research them, and when he would do the final writing.

It’s important to keep in mind that you don’t just want to plan around WHEN you will do something, you also need to plan out HOW you will complete what you’re working on when you plan to do it.

If you’d like more time management tips, click here to find out more about my online course.

How to Make Sure You Follow Through On a Plan

Do you ever get a good idea about something you want to do in the future? But you don’t act on it right away, and soon enough you forget the idea… and nothing ever happens?

Recently, I was working with a client who had a very good idea about how to make sure he studies well for his next test! Check out the video to find out how he almost sabotaged his good idea… until I made sure he did one little thing that prompted him to follow through.

Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? Don’t worry; I’ve got your back, here’s a summary:

Recently I was working with my client, preparing his study plans for his final exams. He had the idea to study with his friend, which I thought was a wonderful idea. So I asked him, “when are you going to study with her?”, to which he replied, “Oh I don’t know, but I’ll study with her.” He was procrastinating, so I suggest he send her an invitation to study right now. He laughed and agreed, saying, “you got me if I do it now I’m more likely to follow through.” This is a perfect example of how the “team” part of my “Tools, Team, Routine” triangle I teach in the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | Gretchen Wegner | Studying | Team | Final Exam | Procrastination | Study | Tools | Client

The “team” part of “Tools, Team, & Routine” is not just him studying with his classmate, but also utilizing me as a source to make sure he doesn’t procrastinate contacting his classmate and setting up the time to study. It’s usually other people’s presence that helps us take action on difficult tasks. I know this is true for me, as I always save my hardest tasks for when I’m working with co-workers. It’s a great help to have someone there to help us not procrastinate.

If you’d like to learn more about “Tools, Team, & Routine” or just want other amazing tips on how to follow through on a plan, check out my course here.

How to Get Past Debilitating Roadblocks

Do you ever experience huge roadblocks that make it impossible for you to finish a big project you started?

Recently, I had a client who was working on his first major research project ever. As often happens with students who struggle with executive functioning, there was a supposedly simple task in the research process that seemed insurmountable to him.

In this video, I walk you through how I helped this teen move through his roadblock.

Don’t have time for the whole video? I have your back, here’s a short summary:

It’s so common when working on a large project to hit a roadblock, some task in the project that simply seems insurmountable. So we tend to procrastinate, which is exactly what my client was doing, procrastinating.

The client I was talking to recently, a 9th grader, was working on his first massive research project and what might seem like a very simple task, had become a roadblock for him. He was stuck on the task of transferring his notes into his main rough draft. He knew how to do it, but in his mind, it just seemed like too much, he was suffering from cognitive overwhelm. Not only was he stressing about the task, he was also procrastinating which was just making things worse.

The solution for this is actually pretty simple. With my client I just sat with him while he copied and pasted, over and over, from his notes to his rough draft, acting as a force to help him do what he knew had to be done, but couldn’t seem to force himself to do. Whenever you run into a roadblock, it’s often best to simply ask someone you know, reach out, and have them help you push through the roadblock.

Anyways, I hope you found this tip helpful. If you did, and you want more free tips and resources, click here to check out The College Prep Podcast.

Are My Scores and Grades Good Enough?

Gretchen Wegner | Megan Dorsey | The College Prep Podcast | Scores | Grades | Graduation Rates | SAT | ACT | Colleges | Schools | Admissions Junior year it’s time to start compiling your list of colleges.

However, how can you tell if your grades are high enough to be considered by the schools on your list?

Megan introduces us to a cool online tool that provides a host of valuable information about what schools you qualify for and why. During this episode, she walks us through this corner of the College Board’s website, showing you how to use their data to build your college list, including:

  1.  Graduation Rates
  2. % Admitted
  3. Class Rank of Admitted Students
  4. SAT / ACT of Admitted Students
  5. (nice to know) What that school finds important in evaluating applications.

Your goal in using this website is to have an honest, fact-based idea about the admissions process at each school, as well as to build a list of colleges that will result in multiple admissions and allow you some choice about where you want to go.

Click here to head over to the College Prep Podcast to listen to this episode.

Having Trouble Paying Attention? Maybe It’s This

Recently, a client’s teacher emailed me to say that in his physics class, this teen seems glassy-eyed and has trouble focusing. When I checked in with my client, a high school senior, he reported that indeed — he has trouble keeping his eyes open in that class. Low energy!

We talked it over and realized that the problem is probably what he’s eating for breakfast! Check out what we discovered — and how he fixed the problem.

Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? Don’t worry. I’ve got your back. Here’s a summary:

This past week I had a discussion with a student, that I’ve never had before, and it just cracked me up. My client’s teacher had emailed me that he was like a zombie in class, he just didn’t seem to be paying attention. So when we had our weekly coaching session, I talked to him about it, and he did realize that he was just super tired by the second period. During the first period he felt fine, but by the second he had low energy. My first thought was, well what is he having for breakfast. As is pretty common, he was eating cereal, and I went, “AHA!”

Cereal, whether sugary or not, often leads to sugar crashes, so I told him he needed to get some healthy snacks. This led to a discussion on grocery shopping, as he said his parents weren’t buying him any. As I told him, he’s 17 years old, he can go grocery shopping, he doesn’t need to be relying on his parents for his groceries!

Gretchen Wegner | Breakfast | Paying Attention | Low Energy | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | snacks | Student

I realized that there are 4 key things students, especially high-schoolers, need to be aware of. They need to pay attention and be aware of when and why their energy is low. It’s often because of what they are eating, and usually not because the teacher is just too boring. With that in mind, they need to be keeping track of their nutrition, which means going grocery shopping for themselves when they need certain things!

I love working with my clients, there’s always something interesting I can help them with. If you are interested in academic coaching or want some awesome Anti-Boring tips and tricks for school, check out my course!

Do You Lose Papers in the ADHD Wormhole?

Do you tend to lose the work you do? Is there a wormhole that completed assignments get sucked into?

I have several ADHD clients who can’t seem to track papers to save their lives. THEY swear they completed an assignment and turned it in; their TEACHERS swear that they’ve never seen the assignments. Who is right?

In this video, I share with you my attempt at a solution to this problem, and it involves the app CamScanner. Check it out, and see if this might work for you.

Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? Don’t worry I’ve got your back, here’s a summary:

I want to know if you’ve ever experienced this: The ADHD Wormhole. I have a few clients who swear they’ve turned in a homework assignment, but their teachers swear they’ve never seen it. I know they’ve done the work, but no one knows where the assignment has gone, it’s like there’s this wormhole in the universe sucking in all these lost papers.

The ADHD Wormhole | Gretchen Wegner | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | Assignments | Homework | Papers | CamScanner

The best solution I’ve found for this problem is the smartphone app CamScanner. I recommend for my clients to scan their homework the moment they finish it. This allows students to bypass the wormhole because if they lose their homework they just need to shoot off an email with the scanned image of their homework to the teacher and they are good to go. The hardest part of using this method is developing the habit. I recommend to parents to try making it a scheduled event at night, to make sure that their student has scanned each piece of homework.

If you’re wondering why I am recommending CamScanner over taking a picture, it’s because CamScanner actually scans the image, just like a printer, so the quality is a lot better than a picture would be. Of course, you could always use a printer if you have one instead.

As always, this is just one of my many tips available in the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying course. So click here to check that out as well.

5 Fears Students Have That Need to Be Acknwledged

Gretchen Wegner | Megan Dorsey | The College Prep Podcast | Fears | Students | Student | Success | Acknowledged | Homework | Tests | Teachers | Teacher |

Sometimes adults forget that being a student is an emotionally taxing job, that students have fears, and that students often need reassurance!

On today’s New Year’s episode we discuss the five ways that feelings get in the way of student success if they’re not acknowledged.

Each of today’s tips is inspired by a video from Gretchen’s YouTube channel. Tune in to get the low-down on each of these tips, or go directly to the videos that inspired them in the first place:

Click here to head over to the College Prep Podcast to listen to this episode.

The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically

Gretchen Wegner | Eda Chen | Natalie Borrell | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically | Students | Educators | Teachers | Educator | Teacher | Student | Study

This week on the College Prep Podcast with Gretchen Wegner and her co-host Megan Dorsey:

Meet two amazing educators teaching students study skills in creative and cutting edge ways. Gretchen interviews Eda Chen and Natalie Borrell about how the unique ways they’ve integrated the Anti-Boring Approach in their work.

Together they discuss:

  • why it’s important that educators equip themselves with specific study theory and strategies
  • the creative ways they are incorporating the Anti-Boring study tools into the work they’re already doing as life coaches for teens, including
  • Eda’s plan to include study skills and career coaching into her work with foster students, and
  • Natalie’s plans for bringing her lively in-person workshop to schools all over Ohio.

Natalie Borrell is a licensed School Psychologist and Academic Life Coach in the Cleveland, OH area. She works with teenagers who want to become better students, but need some direction on how to do so! She uses Gretchen’s Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying in her work with individual clients and a hands-on workshop for high school students. Check out her website, and also her Facebook page.

Eda Chen is the Owner and President of Elan Advising. It’s an education and career consulting company based in Davis that works exclusively with high school students, college students, and recent grads. They use life coaching techniques to teach executive skills–like time management, emotional resiliency and more. They also help their clients with college and graduate school applications and job hunting. Eda‘s a UC Davis alum and grew up in Dallas. You can find her website here. She’s also on Twitter and Instagram: @elanadvising.

Click here to head over to the College Prep Podcast to listen to this episode.

How to Start Homework After Taking a Break

Are you a fan of taking breaks? Me too. But how do you keep yourself from taking a break that’s way too long?

This is a common problem for many of my clients (honestly, it’s hard for me, too).

Recently, though, a client’s love of music helped inspire this new time management idea.

Check out the video, or read the summary below. Will this anti-boring idea work for you?

Hey, don’t have time for the full video? I understand. Here’s a quick summary:

We all love taking breaks when we’ve been working hard. The problem with taking breaks, especially from homework, is that they are often too long. Afterward, we aren’t motivated to get back to work. A recent session with one of my clients lead me to a new idea for a potential fix to these issues: A Break Playlist.

Gretchen Wegner | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | Academic Coach | Academic Coaching | Life Coach | Life Coaching | Breaks | Homework | Homework Break | Time Management

The goal is to create a few playlists to listen to when you’re on break. You want to make a few so that you don’t get bored of your playlist. The playlists should be the length of your break so that you know you have to get back to work once they end. You also want them to all end on the same motivational or energizing song so that you feel motivated to get back to work.

That’s just one of the many time management tips available in my course, which you can learn about by clicking here.

For Every New Assignment, Do This ASAP

What’s the first thing you do when a teacher gives a new assignment — especially something big, like a paper or project?

Thanks to their work with me, many of my clients are getting good at writing the due date in the planner (on the day it’s due, by the way, NOT the day it’s assigned).

However, a few of them are still making THIS mistake, which causes them a lot of stress in the long run.

Check out this video for more details about what not to do, or read the summary below!

For those who don’t quite have the time to watch the whole video, I’ve got your back. Here’s a quick summary:

My Client’s Problem: My client almost made a horrible mistake. He was telling me about how he had an essay to write over the weekend and how it wasn’t a big deal. I asked him about the prompt and he said, “Oh I haven’t read it yet.”

Gretchen Wegner | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | New Assignment | New Essay

Our Solution: I made him read the prompt right there in our session together. It turns out that this assignment was not an essay, as my client had thought, but rather a short research assignment that included talking to several students on campus and taking a poll. Had he waited until the weekend before the due date to read the prompt, he may not have had the time or capability to finish this new assignment. The tip here is that for every new assignment you get, always read them when you get them. This will save you a lot of academic headaches!

Gretchen Wegner | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | New Assignment | New Essay

 

Inspire Struggling Learners to Study Harder, Learn More & Raise Grades

“I’m lazy,” teens often tell me when I meet them for the first time. Parents often confirm this. And so do teachers, when I email them to get more info about how a client is doing in their class.

I know students often feel lazy. And they certainly seem lazy to parents, who watch their teens get sucked into the vortex of their phones.

But what if students are not lazy at all. What if — God forbid — it’s the adults around them who are helping to create the conditions for this apparent “laziness”?

Let me explain:

As an academic life coach with a glimpse into hundreds of classrooms throughout my career, I’ve noticed two different tendencies amongst the students who seek me out:

  1. Some students try really hard. They stress themselves out keeping up with their school work. Despite their best efforts, these kiddos still perform poorly on tests. Argh! Why?!
  1. Other students seem apathetic, perhaps even lazy. They can’t motivate themselves to learn, despite teachers’ best intentions to make curriculum interesting and their parents’ best efforts to keep them on track.

I’m guessing that YOU are the kind of educator who has also noticed this trend… and is doing what you can to reverse it. 

You are sincere, creative and a hard worker. You’ve done your darndest to design a curriculum that will be motivating and effective for students.

So why are students STILL struggling so much?!

What are we missing as educators that hold them back?

As an academic coach I’ve spent thousands of hours talking to stressed out and/or unmotivated students, and one pattern has emerged from these conversations that are striking —

Students don’t know how to study. Everyone TELLS them to study, schools and parents EXPECT them to study, but no one has actually taught them how.

“But that’s not true!” you might be thinking. “I tell my students exactly how to study for my tests. I give them study guides, quizlet sets and teach fun mnemonics! Why isn’t that enough?!”

I don’t doubt this is true. Many educators ARE giving students a zillion resources to help them study. However, this is what I’ve learned in my hours coaching teenagers from around the country:

The way adults talk to students about their own learning may be backfiring!

That was true for me, at least, for the years that I was a classroom teacher. Once I became an academic life coach, I discovered that I needed to unlearn a number of bad habits about how to talk to students about learning and studying.

Although my actions were intended to help students become more engaged, proactive learners — instead they created the opposite effect.

Students became passive learners, dependent on their teacher’s creativity and curriculum development expertise to guide their learning. They didn’t know how to teach themselves. 

Now that I am an academic life coach, I’ve been unlearning these bad habits. I’m watching my student clients transform their learning, lower their stress level and raise their grades in unprecedented numbers. I’m also watching the teens who seemed lazy perk up and start taking action.

If I can do this as a coach, you can do this too — as the incredible teachers, counselors, tutors, and coaches that YOU are.

So, what are these bad teaching habits to which well-meaning educators fall prey?

Here are the top four bad habits that I discovered in myself and have observed in other educators:

  1. We overuse the word “study,” assuming it communicates something of value to our students.
  2. We teach specific strategies (like flashcards) that worked for us when we were students.
  3. We focus on “learning styles” as the way to discover how to study effectively.
  4. We break learning down for students into bite-size, motivating chunks and provide clear instructions for students.

Well hold up, you might be thinking! Aren’t these the tenets of good, progressive education? How can they possibly be bad teaching and tutoring habits?

Free ebook: The Art of Inspiring Students

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How To "Trick" Struggling Learners into Studying Harder, Learning More, and Raising Grades
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I feel your pain. I was surprised, too, to discover that certain “facts” of good teaching in which I’d been trained sometimes do more harm than good. Why might that be?

Let’s take a closer look at each of these bad habits that are plaguing well-meaning teachers, tutors, and academic coaches:

Bad Habit #1 – Educators overuse the word “study.”

Imagine the following scene:

It’s Wednesday, 4th-period chemistry. The teacher writes on the board, “Study for test on Friday.” Students make a mental note, “Ok, I better study for that test”; some even write “study” into their planners. Parents, coaches and tutors see the word “study” in the planner and follow up by asking, “Have you studied for the test yet?” The student responds somewhat impatiently, responds, “Yes! Yes! I’m studying.”

Think about it: How many times was the word “study” used? Was anything of value about the learning process communicated in these brief interactions?

I’d argue NO! This entire conversation about studying is largely meaningless. How do students decide what they need to DO to study?! How will they know when they’ve been successful studying, and are ready to take the test?

Because students aren’t actually taught the theory behind effective study and the strategies associated with that theory, they often go home and do one of two things:

  1. They try to “study” the best way they know how, often by rereading the textbook and reviewing and highlighting notes. Some make flashcards, though this technique is often a time-waster too (more on that later). Or…
  2. They simply don’t study, either because the actions I’ve described above are unmotivating and uninspiring or because they don’t believe they need to study.

When test grades are published, student’s spirits are dashed. “But I studied!” they say. “How come I got such a bad grade?” The answer is — because they studied in ways that felt effective but are are not actually effective.

As an academic life coach, I am on a mission to banish the words “study” and “review” from the English language. Ok. I know. That’s pretty impossible. But what if educators, parents, and students used it a lot less? How would you talk about test preparation with students if you weren’t allowed to use either the word “study” or the word “review”?!  Too often the use of these words allow us to live under the illusion that we are communicating something of value about the learning process, when truthfully we are not.

What should teachers, tutors, and academic coaches do instead? 

  • Quick Tip: Start noticing when you use the word “study” and what you are actually trying to communicate. Play around with banishing the word “study” from your vocabulary for a day or two. What might you say instead?   You might even include your students in this game! See how this experiment forces you to talk about learning in new ways. 
  • Advanced Tip: Want to know the 3 words that I use with my clients instead of the word “study”? Watch the FREE demonstration video that’s embedded here. You might even print out the graphic of the 3-step Study Cycle that I provide in my e-book, post it somewhere visible, and practice using those words with your students instead.

So, what’s the next blind spot I’ve noticed in educators (and of which I was also guilty)?

Bad Habit #2 – Educators teach specific strategies (like flashcards) that worked for us when we were students.

I’m guessing you are one of the many thoughtful teachers, coaches, and tutors who DO teach specific strategies for studying. Perhaps you suggest flashcards or provide mnemonics to help students memorize complex information. Maybe you hand out a study guide with suggestions for how to use it. Some teachers (I was one of these!) even build studying for a test into the curriculum, guiding students through the steps they need to prepare.

Yes! This is all good pedagogy!

Here’s the problem:

First, usually, we pick the strategies that worked well for us when we were students. But not all learners are going to rock the information just because they’re studying it in a way that worked for you.

Also, well-meaning educators often suggest strategies without explaining WHY these strategies tend to work. We assume that the strategy in and of itself is what will help the student study. But even the BEST strategies can fail if implemented in ways that ignore how the brain is built to learn. I know so many students who are bored to death by flashcards, but who use them anyway because they’ve been taught it is a successful learning strategy.

Many educators themselves don’t truly understand how learning happens in the brain. I sure didn’t, before I became an academic life coach. In our teacher education programs, we are taught strategies for engaging students, but we aren’t taught how this fits into a brain-based model for how learning happens.

When we teach strategies without teaching the underlying theory about why that strategy might work, we are creating kids’ dependence on the specific strategies. We are teaching them that the way to study is to throw a random strategy at the problem and hope you learn the information.

What should teachers, tutors, and academic coaches do instead? 

  • Quick Tip: When you hand students a new assignment, ask students to look it over and reflect: “What is the purpose of this activity? What am I supposed to learn?” and then “How does the design of this lesson help me learn this objective?”  The goal here is to help them start to distinguish between learning objectives and the strategies used to achieve that objective. 
  • Advanced Tip: Teach students the 3-Step Study Cycle. Once they understand each of the three steps, have them reflect about which step of the cycle they are in for each kind of assignment you offer. This tip might not make much sense now, but it will make more sense after you read the description of the 3-Step Study Cycle and watch the demo that I provide, both of which are available here for free.

Bad Habit #3 – We focus on “learning styles” as the way to discover how to study and learn effectively.

Many educators — myself included! — have espoused learning styles as an important factor in increasing student motivation and performance.

When I was a classroom teacher, I had students take learning inventories, and then I would use the results of this inventory to help individualize student learning. For example, I’d have students who tested as “visual learners” do history projects that were primarily visual; students who tested as “logical” thinkers could write an essay or create a chart filled with information.

When I was trained as an academic coach, I was taught to use these same inventories with my clients, and then apply the results to help the students maximize their learning.

In the last few years, however, I’ve stopped giving these inventories. I DO still believe that every person learns differently and that it is important for students to understand — and advocate for! — learning methods that reveal their strengths.

However, I’ve noticed that too much of an emphasis on learning styles makes students less inclined to learn in ways that are *not* their learning preferences. In recent years, brain science has backed up my observations, stating that the most effective learning strategies use all parts of the brain, regardless of whether the students has a specific preference for that strategy.

What should we teach instead?   

  • Quick Tip: Teach students that the brain needs to learn information in a multitude of different ways. If one method doesn’t seem to be helping them learn, then students should be flexible enough to choose a different learning strategy, even if it’s NOT their preference or dominant learning style. 
  • Advanced Tip: So that students understand the brain-based reasons why variety is important in learning, teach them the 3 Step Study Cycle (it only takes 5-minutes to teach, as you’ll see in this demo). Then brainstorm with them multiple strategies for studying the same content when they are on their own, using the Study Cycle as a guide.

Bad Habit #4 – We break learning down for students into bite-size chunks.

When I did my teacher training, I learned of the importance of breaking tasks down for students to help them be successful. I mastered the art of creating engaging, complex curricula for students, as well as how to break it into discrete, doable parts with clear instructions so that students wouldn’t get lost in all the details.
This is an important teaching skill! I don’t knock it, and I hope you continue to do it!

However, a side effect of this kind of teacher-intensive curricula is that it can accidentally foster dependence rather than independence in students.

Students depend on the instructions. They wait to be told what to do, for the adults to initiate action.
I can’t tell you how many of my clients have answered my question, “Why didn’t you take notes in class today?” with the, “My teacher didn’t tell me to.” Argh! I stifle my frustration at this answer with, “Your teacher shouldn’t have to tell you to take notes!! You should know what’s good for your own learning, and be able to take initiative on your own!”

The side effect of our willingness as educators to break learning into digestible parts is that the teens themselves don’t have to learn to do this for themselves. They’re off the hook and don’t need to understand how successful learning happens for them. Instead, they mindlessly follow (or resist) the teacher’s instructions, a habit that is not conducive to lifelong learning.

Even tutors foster passivity and dependence in students. I’ve had several students who’ve told me, “Oh, I don’t need to study for the Spanish test by myself; I’ll just do it with my tutor.”

When students rely on their tutors and teachers to guide their study process, they are abdicating responsibility for their own learning. So what should teachers and tutors do instead?

Here’s a quick tip you can apply immediately:

  • Quick Tip: After you teach a lesson, ask students to reflect on what they just learned and how they learned it. Ask them to notice the ultimate learning objective, and how you structured the learning to help them get there. Invite them to remember that when they are studying at home, they are in charge of designing their own learning process.*
  • Truly Highly Advanced Tip: Check out my list of 7 types of struggling students, including each student’s “study blind spot” and “study solution.” This will help you hone how you work with specific types of students to help them study more strategically, including which step of the Study Cycle each kind of student needs more practice with.

*You may notice that this tip is very similar to the one I made for Bad Habit #2. This is purposeful! It is helpful to ask students to seek out the learning objectives both (1) before they complete a worksheet or assignment and (2) after they have engaged in a learning activity. The more often you have them reflect about what kinds of learning strategies help them achieve what kinds of learning, the more self-sufficient they will become at being able to structure their own learning when they are at home studying.

Is It Really This Simple to Help Students Break Through Passivity and Become Strategic Learners?

Yes! In my experience, most students are eager to learn how to become more effective learners. However, adults make it seem so complex! When they are introduced to a simple, easy-to-understand model for how to learn strategically, they rise to the occasion.

That’s why I’m such a fan of the 3-Step Study Cycle. I teach it to all my clients now, and I’m watching them become creative, engaged, skillful learners as a result. In fact, just a week ago a college freshman who’d been getting C’s and D’s on most of his tests this semester, came to his session with his eyes beaming. Here’s a summary of our conversation:

Student: Guess what?! I got an A on the test!!!!!!!

Me: OMG! Seriously?! Wow!!! How’d you manage that?!

Student: I followed the study cycle. And I worked really hard to hone my notes*.  In the past, I could usually narrow the multiple choice answers down to two that seemed similar, but I never knew what the right answer was. This time I totally knew! It was clear to me because I’d taken the time to encode the stuff I didn’t know in new ways*.

I’m so proud of this young man for working so hard to understand how to study strategically and raise his grades. He clearly worked hard! In that respect, it’s not simple to become a strategic learner; it involves hard work!

However, it is simple to teach students how to study strategically. And in my experience, it all starts with a 5-minute conversation that I fondly call the 3-Step Study Cycle. I’m such a believer in this process I’ve discovered that I wrote up an instruction manual for how to teach it to students, and I’m giving it away for FREE:

Click here to download your FREE copy of The Art of Inspiring Students: How to “Trick” Struggling Learners Into Studying Harder, Learning More, and Raising Grades.

In this short instruction manual, you’ll receive:

  • suggestions for how to talk to students about the difference between homework and studying
  • an overview of the 3-Step Study Cycle, a brain-based model for effective and efficient learning
  • a video demonstration of how I teach the Study Cycle to students
  • 5 different sets of learning tools that help students apply The Study Cycle more effectively
  • the 7 types of struggling learners, and which study tools work best for which learners

Phew! That was a lot to take in! If you have questions or observations for me about any of these bad habits, please feel free to post below. I look forward to engaging with you.

Free ebook: The Art of Inspiring Students

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How To "Trick" Struggling Learners into Studying Harder, Learning More, and Raising Grades
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Easy Tips for Prepping for Finals Over the Holidays

Gretchen Wegner | Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | Studying Tips | College | Finals | Holidays | Notes | Testing | Study Tools

This week on the College Prep Podcast with Gretchen Wegner and her co-host Megan Dorsey:

Thanksgiving is coming up soon, as are the winter holidays.

If you get started studying for finals now (or over the winter holidays, if your finals aren’t until the end of January), you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches later — plus, you’ll learn the information better! Today Gretchen shares:

  • How to put in more effort to studying without feeling like you’re working too hard
  • The importance of testing yourself using “spaced retrieval”, and a few simple ways to do this over the holidays
  • How to get yourself organized so you don’t waste time later finding important study tools
  • A crucial tip for how to use your notes so that you’re actually learning (rather than just faking it)
  • and more!

For more strategies about getting prepped for finals, check out Gretchen Wegner’s Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

Tune into the podcast by clicking here.

When Grades Are Low, Should Student Be Allowed to Continue Extracurricular Activities?

Megan | Gretchen Wegner | College Prep Podcast | Grades | Students | Activities | Grades

This week on the College Prep Podcast with Gretchen Wegner and her co-host Megan Dorsey:

Should parents take away student’s activities if their academic grades are not up to snuff?

Megan and Gretchen weigh in on this important question from a listener, about how to work with her middle school age daughter who loves to participate in a dance troupe, and who has made great strides in her difficulties with math but still continues to struggle.

Here’s the specific question from mom Alissa:

My husband and I are at odds about how to encourage our daughter to keep up the good work.  She’s a dancer and we told her last year that she could not audition for the dance company unless her math grade was a B and she had turned in all her work.  I was fine with that, but now since seeing her most recent test scores, he wants to make her continued participation contingent on her math grade.  I do not like that solution because it punishes not only her, but the other dancers.  I think she’s struggling with math and can use this year to figure out how to balance her life in the low risk environment of middle school. I also don’t want to set her up for such an epic punishment if she brings home a C or even a D.

Click here to listen to this free episode of the College Prep Podcast!

A Handy Tool for College Students to Start the Semester

I’m excited to share with you a handy tool for college students.

This was taught to me by a real live student (shout out to Harrison!). He is a sophomore in college and interned with me over the summer.
I LOVE this tool that he makes for himself, and I wanted to share it with you all — including a tweak or two that I’d make to it.

Check out the video, and then PLEASE forward it to any college students you know could benefit from this handy little one-page organizational tool.

For more time management and study solutions for students, parents and educators, please sign up for the Anti-Boring Approach to Successful Studying Course HERE

How to Like Your Teachers and Get Better Grades, too!

Do you ever feel as if your teacher hates you?

I can’t tell you how many of my clients complain of this. In fact, it’s their number one excuse for why they don’t like their teacher! However, taking the time to get to know a bit more about your teachers helps you connect in class and get better grades.

Recently, I had a wonderful conversation with a client, who is a senior in high school this year. I just had to share with you his insight and reflection on how he shifted his relationship with a teacher last school year — for the better!

If school is overwhelming and stressful for a teen you know, please check out for the Anti-Boring Approach to Successful Studying. If my clients are reliable proof, these tools may just be the “magic wand” you need to start feeling more confident and in control, at school and in life.

Why Your Disadvantages May Be Your Biggest Asset

Why Disadvantages might be a big asset in college admissions

Would you rather be the smartest person in an average school or the middle student at the smartest school?

Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath has a wealth of wisdom about how to approach college admissions sanely.

Megan shares key insights from reading this book and turns them into an interesting list of tips for families about how to choose the right college for you. Specifically, she and Gretchen talk about:

  • the need for legitimacy and why that’s a good thing
  • research that shows why dyslexic students may be better of in some regards than neuro-typical students
  • how to support kids who encounter challenges without breaking their spirits
  • why, in the college admissions process, it isn’t always better to choose “more”

Here’s An Easy Fix to a Teen Calendaring Problem

Time management and organization are vital pieces for successful study habits and grades.

All too often, students do not have their cell phones or calendars attached to their laptops. In this video, I offer a simple way to connect and see the “big picture” of what needs to be done each week.

I am hoping everyone can benefit from this helpful tip!

For more helpful time management and study solutions for students, parents and educators please sign up for the Anti-Boring Approach to Successful Studying Course HERE

What to Do When You Think Your Teacher Sucks

Lately, I’ve been hearing a common refrain amongst some of my clients to explain why they are performing poorly in a class:

“My teacher sucks!”

Today in my session with Claudia, this was her excuse about her lower-then-expected performance in geometry.

“My teacher doesn’t teach! He just jabbers away at us for the full period, and my brain is too full. I can’t think! He doesn’t give us time to practice what he’s sharing with us!!”

Sigh. Human beings can be so brilliant about what they need — and so blind!

I love that Claudia’s complaint shows a deep and intimate understanding of her own learning process. She wants to get a small chunk of information, and then be allowed to practice that before she moves on to getting larger chunks of information! It turns out that Claudia’s desire (what I might call her “inner authority”) is confirmed by research (which I’ll call “external authority), which suggests that brains take in information in 20 minute chunks.

How wonderful that Claudia knows what she needs in order to learn geometry more effectively! And how disappointing that in THIS teacher’s classroom, she is feeling overwhelmed with too much information.

Does this mean, as Claudia has interpreted, that her teacher “sucks”?

Consider this: I’m less interested in judging the teacher’s methods, and MORE interested in helping Claudia figure out how she can be a better teacher to herself!

Take a look about this conversation that took place during our coaching session:

Gretchen: “So tell me about the test review on which you scored 0/5 points. What happened there?”

Claudia: This was a review for a test. We’re allowed to use our textbooks, but I like to take my reviews the way I’ll have to take the test: cold, without looking things up. I feel like that’s a better way to see how I’m getting the information. But it’s stupid that my teacher grades reviews for the tests. I think they should be assessed without actually being graded!

Gretchen: Great! Yet again, you’re proving how naturally insightful you are about your learning process. Research also shows that the best way to prepare for a test is to simulate testing conditions, so I applaud you for figuring that out on your own.  And yes, it does seem counterproductive to grade what is meant to be a helpful review for a test. However, the reality is that your teacher DOES grade the review. So let’s not fight with reality.  Instead, I’m noticing a potential blind spot in your otherwise excellent process; may I point it out?

Claudia: (looking dubious but giving her assent)

Gretchen: I’m noticing that you waited for your teacher to grade the review; as you tell it, this makes you somewhat of a victim to his decision to grade your review. But there was something else you could have done prior to turning it in, to take the teaching (and the power) into your own hands. Got any ideas?

Claudia (thinking): Can’t say I do.

Gretchen: It occurs to me that you could have taken a few extra minutes to get out your textbook and double-check your answers before you turned in the review.

Claudia: Oh. Yeah. I guess I could have. It didn’t occur to me.

Gretchen: How might this have helped you?

Claudia: Well, I would have been able to catch some of my mistakes, and correct them before turning them in. I would have gotten a better grade…

Gretchen: AND you would have learned the concepts more deeply. When you take the time to teach yourself, you are also strengthening the neural pathways in your brain for this information. So, I’m curious: can you see a reason NOT to try double checking your own work next time?

Claudia: No, I guess not. I do think it’d help. I just never thought about doing it before. I’ll try it next time.

In this conversation, Claudia was willing to admit that she’d had a blind spot, that there was something she could do to support her own learning. This took courage and humility!

So now back to you, dear reader. Next time you think your teacher sucks, try the following simple steps:

First, notice whether your judgment is helping the situation.

Next, look at your own behavior. Is there any way you can shift your process so that you are being more responsible for how you are learning?

Finally, check this out these step-by-step instructions for how to become a better teacher to yourself. It might take a bit more effort on your part, but it also will make you a much more effective life-long learner. You won’t be dependent on teachers to make you learn.  It might even shift your relationship to that teacher; whether or not the teacher “sucks”, you get to learn a lot and make awesome grades in the process.

Photo Credit: From the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.