Undergrad classes - remembering material

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by sockit, 01.13.14.

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  1. sockit

    sockit 2+ Year Member

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    I’m in 4th year now (thank god), and things are more interesting (discussion, readings) but I had to take a 2nd year class last term (my last, hoorah!).

    Did well but I know I’ll remember only 10% of it in a month, if that. I mean there’s overlap or at least contiguity in a lot of classes, yes, but it bothers me that I feel like I get done with one semester and just have to move on to the next things. I had an idea I might try to comprehensively review old notes / books now and then, just to feel like all this is growing into something cohesive, but that never happens, I just go back for specific things (occasionally).

    Side note: I think it’s crazy that grades you can get for a mostly multiple choice test (of what, simple recognition of a book you read two days before, and showing up for class), and forgetting everything immediately thereafter, are supposed to reflect ‘knowledge’, and are permanent, and grounds for anyone making decisions about your future. I’m lucky that I get charged up in a useful way for exams and that works for me (essays are another story), but it’s still ridiculous.

    Lecturers reading: y so many MCs in junior years? Scantron, test bank, easy, I know :/

    Has anyone succeeded in doing the kind of review I will probably never do? Is there a point to that? The concern is, I’d like to remember this stuff in a year (apps) or two (if anyone takes me anywhere) when I think I might have to know it. (Also: how much is a normal amount to forget, past 30? Do average-aged undergrads also have this problem?)
     
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  3. WisNeuro

    WisNeuro Neuropsychologist 7+ Year Member

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    Outside of stats, the undergrad course material is about 0% helpful in grad school.

    Also, after 30, it's pretty much all downhill for memory and executive functioning.
     
  4. woodstock219

    woodstock219

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    Whoo, hoo!! Let's all celebrate declining brain function, haha!
     
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  5. sockit

    sockit 2+ Year Member

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    I know, but it's a gentle decline, right? I still kick young butts at cramming, fwiw (routinely got best grade or within the top 3 in the classes assessed by those ridiculous multiple choice tests, but I think that's also because I'm super motivated & less interested than they are in binge drinking or dating drummers. horn tooting, but not really, because I don't think it counts for much). I just can't hang onto the answers for very long :/ Luckily, I am doing a course on just this subject, not that I'll remember it :/

    Still, it'd be nice to feel a sense of continuity. Though I guess the point of undergrad is really just to expose you to a sample of the various subfields, rather than get you to be able to hold the discipline as a whole in your mind at all times. That is probably unrealistic.
     
  6. WisNeuro

    WisNeuro Neuropsychologist 7+ Year Member

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    Yeah, just a slow gradual decline. Until the dementia hits... But yeah, it doesn't really matter, it's kind of use it or lose it. Most of that stuff in undergrad isn't very applicable, and the stuff that is comes back pretty quick when you hit it again in grad school. But seriously, undergrad coursework is a far cry from what you will do as a grad. Which is why I hate when people say "oh, you're a psychologist? I was a psychology major in college, I know about that!" No, you don't.
     
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  7. sockit

    sockit 2+ Year Member

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    I can imagine that must be tiresome, absolutely. At the grad level, it's obviously in-depth professional training... just saying, want to be able to retain key figures and theories (at the top level at least) from eg the social psych class I took last year, at the same time that I'm packing stuff in now. Just feels piecey. (I also think there are ways of teaching and assessing the stuff that might help bring it together, for example, writing even short pieces more often, or biyearly refreshers or something. Just wondered if other UGs might feel the same way.)

    But I'll take your word for it, professional neuropsychologist, that if I do get to train, I'll probably be ok :)
     
  8. InNae

    InNae 2+ Year Member

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    Sounds like it might be too late for this, but the single best way to learn (actually learn) and retain information is to elaborate and rehearse regularly during the learning phase (i.e., the semester). Yes, of course it is possible to cram at the last minute for many MC exams and do well on them, but that isn't the same thing as learning, and no, you won't retain that information (regardless of your age :) ).

    I regularly teach an intro-level UG course with ~120 students. Given the breadth of the topics at an intro level and the number of students, of course the exams are MC! That said, I write my own exam questions because the test bank questions don't achieve my objectives for the course, which are to guide the students to learn to apply the information (not just recognize/recall). I also know that if the students can apply the information, they probably have encoded it well enough to remember at least the basics later (after the semester). I explain all of this at the beginning of the semester, and I reiterate it throughout the semester. I also explain that the best way to learn the material and do well (and subsequently to retain the information) is to read the chapters in advance while taking notes, attend class and actively take notes in one's own words and not just the brief bullet points on a slide, and review the notes regularly, rather than just before the exam.

    I am continually surprised by the students who attend class and just sit listening/looking at the slides. I make the slides available after the class, but the slide content is just an outline in bullet points. Without additional elaboration and notes, they're nearly useless! Invariably this passivity changes a bit after the first exam, when many students are shocked that the questions require application of the concepts, but there are still students who come tell me that they "understood" the content when I was lecturing or when they were reading, but then they didn't do well. This is of course because "understanding" means they have the most basic grasp (bottom of Bloom's taxonomy, if you care to google it) of terms and concepts and because my lectures and the text are clear, but that isn't actually learning.

    Sounds like you prefer your more seminar-based (smaller, mostly active discussion of readings at a higher level?) classes. Graduate classes generally are more like that - you must read and understand the material on a deep level prior to class, and then be able to actually analyze/evaluate/synthesize during discussion. I have seen several 1st year doctoral students get a rude awakening during the first semester, as the UG strategies that are focused on the grade and involved cramming and/or last-minute paper writing just don't work. WisNeuro's comment that "But seriously, undergrad coursework is a far cry from what you will do as a grad" I think refers to this, not just that some of the training is practice-based.

    To circle back around to the issue of not retaining content when the course demands don't really require deep learning, remember that no one is stopping you from learning more, or on a deeper level, than is necessary for the grade.
     
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  9. sockit

    sockit 2+ Year Member

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    Hi InNae,

    Thank you for your comprehensive reply. I wish I’d had the benefit of your post years ago!

    My good/bad luck has been that when I was acquiring my study habits as a young person, it wasn’t difficult to perform well with little effort or at the last minute. I carried that into later studies, and also believed that I “do well under pressure”. Which isn’t true at all, in that this approach feels awful, it’s nerve-wracking and isolating, and it deranges my sleep, but is true, in that I’ve artificially amped up the stakes and increased my motivation. And it’s been reinforcing because it’s largely worked (although I have crashed and burned once or twice, with essays, years ago).

    But as you rightly point out, how much I’ve actually learned is another question!

    I am working on being more consistent with my study habits, so that I’ve got more time to regularly revise, elaborate, and consolidate :)

    As it stands, non-academic obligations, and a three-hour daily (return) commute mean I have to be more religious about carving out time than I’ve felt able to be. But I have to figure something out, because I don’t imagine approaching things this way would be sustainable later on.

    I’m heartened to hear you aim to challenge your students, even given the constraints of the large introductory classes. My junior year classes were about the same size, and I think I’ve been a bit unfair above to my profs, many of whom have also tweaked their tests.

    As a returner who remembers how things were done years ago, I've been surprised by some of the changes, as with your example of students' insistence on slides -- people go nuts if they're not available before class! I've tended to sit at the back in big halls, and have noticed that maybe 30% appear to be taking notes, for good or bad. (But only 10-15%, I would say, are on Facebook, in case that's a concern :) )

    I’ve actually been more than satisfied with the quality of the lecturers who’ve taught us; they’ve been excellent. In the past couple of years, I’ve had maybe one prof whose style slightly bored me, but I got a lot from his class despite that. And that’s really the worst thing I could say about the faculty. (Other than that they're stuck giving us MCs.)

    Thanks again for your reply, and I’m sorry mine is so late. I’m sure that other students will benefit from this thread, though :)
     

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