When a student studies, they are often unsure of where to place their focus. When a student is struggling, a priority for the faculty member is to help the student learn to prioritize their studies based on weaknesses.
Know What You Don’t Know
First, teach the student to identify their weaknesses. This is important as many students keep studying with no true focus. They approach it from a perspective of “everything is important” or “the instructor has this in the PowerPoint® slides, so I will keep reading it.” Students should find ways of focusing on their weaknesses when they study.
Second, they can quiz themselves daily. This quizzing can come in many different forms. They can use the free quizzes that come with their textbook. Almost every program has a series of textbooks that are packed with thousands of free questions in either the online tools or in the book itself.
Students can also find questions for self-assessment in adaptive quizzing. These quizzes are a great way to identify personal areas for growth, as the quizzing tool is constantly adapting to the competency of the student.
Do Something with Your Gaps
Now that the student has taken a quiz of some type, he/she needs to do something with the questions he/she got wrong. Don’t encourage students to focus on questions they got right, as most barely have enough time to effectively address the areas of weakness. When given the directions to only focus on the questions they got wrong, this helps the students to form a habit of prioritizing their study time. When they don’t focus, many students will lean towards studying things they enjoy or with which they are already comfortable.
One strategy is to show students how to highlight in a textbook. Many students were never trained on this. For each incorrect question, they should open their textbook and highlight one to two sentences based on the question they got wrong. They don’t want to highlight a lot in the book as this leads them to think that everything is vital, which will overwhelm and confuse.
Another strategy is to watch one or two short videos (less than ten minutes) related to the question they got wrong. After they watch the video(s), have students write down two things that were good about the video (e.g., the video explained nutritional concerns for patients taking coumadin, such as they must be careful to have a stable diet when it comes to green leafy vegetables.) Then, have students write down two things that they still need help on or disagreed with in the video (e.g., the video talked a lot about using lidocaine for dysrhythmias, but I know that in the hospital where I did clinical there was more use of amiodarone.)
After some quick and minimal review of content, an important strategy is having students set a personal goal with each practice quiz question they got wrong. A simple technique is to have students create three notecards for each question they got wrong. When creating a note card, make sure to keep it simple. Don’t fall into the trap of writing a paragraph on each side of the note card. It is better to write a simple, low-level question on the front of the card (e.g., What happens to the serum potassium level with a low pH?) On the back of the card, write the answer (e.g., hyperkalemia). This would be one of three cards a student would write when getting a question wrong about acid-base and associated changes in serum electrolytes. After creating these notecards, the student puts them somewhere to review for later.
Struggling Students Need to Focus on Their Weaknesses
When helping a student who is struggling, it is vital for them to focus on their weaknesses. Don’t allow the struggling student to waste time by rereading, reviewing, and refreshing on material in which they are strong when they need to spend time focusing on their gaps. In summary, help these students PRIORITIZE.