January 24, 2011

Maybe There is Something to The Struggle

Question: what's the best way to study?

As I'm spending the vast majority of my waking hours (that photo is of some un-waking hours, but the books are not too far away) these days studying for the first Test of All Tests of the path of a physician - Step 1 of the Boards - I had about five different people send me an article about how best to study/learn that showed up in the NYT this week.

So much of medical school is learning how to learn most effectively - both efficiently and completely - because there's Just.So.Much information that doctors are required to (and should!) not only know, but be able to synthesize and connect and process and USE to help people regain or keep their health. It's also the first time where everyone has their own way - when I look around at my classmates who are also studying most of their waking hours, some are listening to review lectures, some are flipping through note cards, some are reading and re-reading every review book they can get their hands on.

Somewhere along the way in medical school, I realized that I could learn things as they were being explained to me if they were immediately followed by questions reviewing the main concepts. Since this is not normally the approach of most lecturers, and I could only get friends to create questions for me so much, I started making up my own. So how I would study for basically all of medical school was to take the material we were learning and create a question that got at the main concept or an important detail.

Now that we have this big test coming up, I would try to do the same thing, except that there's just too much material. Luckily, one of the main study tools that most people use is a "question bank" which is basically > 2,000 questions created to touch on all the material that could be tested. It's basically my study dream come true (as strange as that phrase just sounded) - so that's mostly what I've been doing these days. It's great, except that it's like taking a test ALL DAY every day, which can get pretty exhausting.

However, this article in the New York Times this week by Pam Bullock (that so many of my favorite people so kindly sent me) seems to support my style of learning. whooohooo. But because this is my style of learning, I thought that the most interesting part of the article was when Bullock discussed how the struggle inherent in being forced to recall something helps to reinforce it - that there's something about the struggle that's good for solidifying knowledge.

“The struggle helps you learn, but it makes you feel like you’re not learning,”“You feel like: ‘I don’t know it that well. This is hard and I’m having trouble coming up with this information.’ ”

By contrast...when rereading texts and possibly even drawing diagrams, “you say: ‘Oh, this is easier. I read this already.’

right now I really appreciate anything that supports "the struggle" being a good thing.


"you gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser

you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger,

you gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together,

all I know all I know is love will save the day"

-desiree, you gotta be

1 comment:

  1. from A. who went to a conference today about teaching girls math and science - this is in the handbook she had to read for preparation:

    "When students are struggling, teachers can explicitly remind their students that the mind grows stronger as a result of doing hard work, and that over time and with
    continued effort, understanding the material and solving the problems will get easier."

    I feel some Amy Chua action coming through...