In the light of these changed assumptions about the purpose of learning tasks like essay writing, it should be obvious that we now need a new pattern of study – we need to use our study skills differently, more appropriately for the tasks we’re set. If we don’t, if we retain the assumption that education is exclusively about ‘knowing things’, then certain things will follow. We will be cursed with the sort of problems of which most of us are all too aware.
In our note-taking we will continue to argue, quite reasonably on these misplaced assumptions, that when we take notes in tutorials, seminars and lectures, or from the source material we use for research, we cannot leave anything out, because these are the facts, the right answers, and if we omit them we will not have all the facts we need to pass the examination. As a result we take vast quantities of verbatim notes. Even worse, they’re unstructured, because all we’re doing is recording them accurately – we’re not processing them in any way for fear of getting them wrong.
But now consider the impact of these assumptions on other areas of our pattern of study. Quite reasonably we will argue that when we come to read books and articles we cannot exercise any flexibility by adopting different, more appropriate reading strategies, like skimming and scanning, for the different types of passages and texts we have to read. We argue that the text must be read word-for-word, otherwise we might miss something vital.
Much the same goes for our essay writing. No matter how many times we might be told by our tutor that we must try to put things in our own words, this makes no sense if we accept the assumption that education is dominated by authorities, and our job is just to understand and recall the facts.