The term study has been used very loosely by both teachers and children.

As used by teachers it frequently meant something very different from

what children had in mind when they used it. Further, teachers

themselves have often used the term in connection with mental activities

which, technically speaking, could not possibly come under that head.

Much confusion and lack of efficient work has been the result. Recently

rious attempts have been made to give the term study a more exact

meaning. McMurry defines it as "the work that is necessary in the

assimilation of ideas"--"the vigorous application of the mind to a

subject for the satisfaction of a felt need." n other words, study is

thinking. Psychologically, what makes for good thinking makes for good

study. Study is controlled mental activity working towards the

realization of a goal. t is the adaptation of means to end, in the

attempt to satisfy a felt need. t involves a definite purpose or goal,

which is problematic, the selection and rejection of suggestions,

tentative judgments, and conclusion. The mind of the one who studies is

active, vigorously active, not in an aimless fashion, but along sharply

defined lines. This is the essential characteristic of all study.

There are, however, various types of study which differ materially from

each other according to the subject matter or to the type of response

required. Some study involves comparatively little thinking. The

directed activity must be present, but the choice, the judgment, may

need to be exercised only in the beginning when methods of procedure

need to be selected, and later on, perhaps, when successes or failures

need to be noted and changes made in the methods accordingly. Another

type of study needs continual thinking of the most active sort all the

way through the period. Just the proportion of the various factors

involved in thinking which is present at any given study period must be

determined by the response. A type of study which would be completely

satisfactory for one subject needing one response, would be entirely

inadequate for another subject needing another response. To illustrate,

in some cases the study must deal with habit formation. The need felt is

to learn a mechanical response of a very definite nature to this

situation; the problem is to get that response. The thinking would come

in in deciding upon the method, in watching for successes, in

criticizing progress, and in judging when the end was obtained. A large

part of the time spent in study would, however, need to be spent in

repetition, in drill. Of such character is study of spelling, of

vocabularies, of dates; study in order to gain skill in adding, or speed

in reading, or to improve in writing or sewing. Much of habit formation

goes on without study--in fact, to some it may seem to be ludicrous to

use the word "study" in connection with the formation of habits. t is

just because the study elements in connection with responses of this

type have been omitted that there has been such a tremendous waste of

time in teaching children to form right habits. This omission also

explains the poor results, for the process has been mechanical and blind

on the part of the student. At the other extreme in types of study is

that which can be used in science and mathematics, in geography and

history, when the major part of the time is given to selecting and

rejecting suggestions and seems required by the goal. n this type the

habituation, the fixing of the material, comes largely as a by-product

of the factors used in the thinking.

Study may, then, be classified according as the response required is

physical habit, memory, appreciation, or judgment. These types overlap,

no one of them can exist absolutely alone, but it is possible to name

them according to the response. Study may also be classified into

supervised study, or unsupervised study, into individual or group study.

We might also classify study as it has to do with books, with people, or

with materials. The term has been rather arbitrarily applied to

activities that dealt with books, but surely much study is accomplished

when people are consulted instead of books, and also when the sources of

information or the standards are flowers, or rocks, or textiles.

Study, then, is a big term, including many different varieties of

activities, of varying degrees of difficulty and responsibility. t

cannot possibly be taught all at once, according to one method, at one

spot in the school curriculum. Power to study is of very gradual growth.

t must proceed slowly, from simple to complex types. From easy to

difficult problems, from situations where there is close supervision and

direction to situations where the student assumes full responsibility.

Knowing how to study is not an inborn gift--it does not come as a matter

of intuition, nor does it come in some mysterious way when the child is

of high school age. t is governed by the laws of learning, or

readiness, exercise, and effect, just as truly as any other ability is.

f adults are to know how to study, if they are to use the technique of

the various kinds of study efficiently, children must be taught how. Nor

can we expect the upper grammar grade or the high school teachers to do

this. Habits of study must be formed just as soon as the responses to

which it leads are needed. Beginning down in the kindergarten with study

in connection with physical and mental habits, the child should be

taught how to study. The type must gradually become more complex; he

must pass from group to individual study, from supervised to

unsupervised, but it must all come logically, from step to step. True,

it is not easy to teach how to study. A careful analysis of the various

types with their peculiar elements should be a help. First, however,

there are some general principles that underlie all study which must be


Study must have, as has already been stated, a purpose. The individual,

in order to exercise his mind in a controlled way, must have an aim. The

clearer and more definite the aim, whether it be little or big, the

better the study will be. From the beginning, then, children must be

taught to make sure they know what they are going to do before beginning

to study. t may be necessary to teach them in the early grades to say

to themselves or to the class just what they are going to accomplish in

the study. Teach them when the lesson is assigned to write down in their

books just what the problem for study is. Warn them never to begin study

without definitely knowing the aim--if they don't know it, make them

realize that the first thing to do is to find out the purpose by asking

some one else. Better no study at all than aimless or misdirected

activity, because of lack of purpose.

No study worthy of the name can be carried on without interest. The

child who studies well must be brought to realize this. The value of

interest can be brought home to him by having him compare the work he

does, the time he spends, and how he feels when studying something in

which he has a vital interest with the results when the topic is

uninteresting. Of course, as will be pointed out later, much of the

gaining of interest lies in the hands of the teacher necessarily, but if

the child realizes the need of it in efficient study, some

responsibility will rest on him to find an interest if it is not already

there. No matter how expert the teacher may be, because of individual

differences no problem will be equally interesting to all pupils in

itself, and no incentive will have an equal appeal to all children.

Therefore children should be taught to find interest for themselves.

Certain devices can be suggested, such as working with another child and

competing with him, "making believe" in study, and finding some

connection with something in which he is interested, working against his

own score, and the like.

Not only do the demands of economy require that the topic of study

receive concentrated attention, but the results themselves are better

when such is the case. Half an hour of concentrated work gives much

better results than an hour of study with scattered attention. An hour

spent when half an hour would do is thus not only wasteful of time, but

is productive of poorer results and bad habits of study as well.

Children need to be taught this from the beginning. Much time is wasted

even by mature university students when they suppose themselves to be

studying. Children can be taught to ignore distractions--to train

themselves to keep their eyes on the book, despite the fact that the

door is opened, or a seat mate is looking for a book. They should be

encouraged to set themselves time limits in various subjects and adhere

to them. t is economical to follow a regular schedule in study--either

in the school or at home. Let each child make out his study schedule and

keep to it. Teach children that the best work is done when they are calm

and steady. That either excitement or worry is a hindrance. Therefore

they should avoid doing their studying under those conditions, and

should do all they can to remove such conditions. Training children to

do their best and then not to worry would not only improve the health of

many upper grammar grade and high school children, but would also

improve their work.

Study requires a certain critical attitude, a checking up of results

against the problem set. n order to be efficient in study a child

should know when he has reached the solution, when the means have been

adapted to the end, when he has reached the goal. This checking up, of

course, means habits of self-criticism and standards. Sometimes all that

is necessary is for the child to be made conscious of this fact so that

he can test himself, for instance, in memory work, or in solving a

problem in mathematics. On the other hand, sometimes he will have to

compare his work with definite standards, such as the Thorndike

Handwriting Scale, or the Hillegas Composition Scale.[19] n other

instances, he will have to search for standards. He will need to know

what his classmates have accomplished, what other people think, what

other text-books say, and so on. Gradually he must be made conscious

that study is a controlled activity, and unless it reaches the goal, and

the correct one, it is useless. He must be made to feel that the

responsibility to see that such results are reached rests on him.

These, then, are the general factors involved in all types of study, and

therefore are fundamental to good habits of study: a clear purpose;

vital interest of some kind; concentrated attention, and a critical

attitude. There are further additional suggestions which are peculiar to

the special type of study.

n study which is directed to habit formation, the student should be

taught the danger of allowing exceptions. He should know the possibility

of undoing much good work through a little carelessness. Preaching won't

bring this home to him--it must come through having his attention

attracted to such an occurrence in his own work or in that of his mates.

After that knowledge of the actual experiences of others, athletes,

musicians, and others will help to intensify the impression. The value

of repetition as one of the chief factors in habit formation must be

emphasized. The child should be encouraged to make opportunities for

practice both in free minutes during the school program, and outside of

school. He must be taught in habit formation to practice the new habit

in the way it is to be used: practicing the sounds of letters in words,

the writing movements in writing words, swimming movements in the water,

and so on. Practicing the whole movements, not trying to gain perfection

in parts of it and then putting it together. t is important also that

the learner be taught to keep his attention on the result to be

obtained, instead of the movements. He should attend to the swing of the

club, the lightness of the song, the cut the saw is making, the words he

is writing, instead of the muscle movements involved. n breaking up bad

habits it is sometimes necessary to concentrate on a part or a movement,

when that is the crux of the error, but in general it is a bad practice

when forming a new habit. The child must also learn to watch the habit

of skill he is forming for signs of improvement and then to try to find

out the reason for it. t has been proved experimentally that much of

the improvement in habits of skill comes unconsciously to the learner,

and necessarily so, but that in order for the improvement to continue

and be effective, it must become conscious. Of course, at the beginning

and for a long time it must be the teacher's duty to point out the

improvement and to help the child to think out the reasons for it, but

if he is to learn to study by himself the child must finally come to

habits of self-criticism which will enable him to recognize success or

failure in his own work. n all this discussion of teaching children to

study it must be constantly borne in mind that it is a gradual

process--and only very slowly does the child become conscious of the

technique. Which elements can be made conscious, how much he can be left

to himself, must depend on his maturity and previous training. n time,

however, he should be able to apply them all--for only by so doing will

he become capable of independent study.

When the study is primarily concerned with memory responses, all the

elements which have just been discussed in connection with habit apply,

for, after all, memory is but mental habit. There are other factors

which enter into and which should be used in this type of study. First,

the child should realize the need for understanding the material that is

to be learned, before beginning to memorize it. He will then be taught

to read the entire assignment through--look up difficult words and

references, master the content, whether prose or poetry, whether the

learning is to be verbatim or not, before doing anything further.

Second, he will need to know the value of the modified whole method of

learning, as well as its difficulties. f in the supervised periods of

study and in class work, this method has been followed, it is very easy

to make him conscious of it and willing to adopt it when he comes to do

independent study. Third, he must be taught to distribute his time so

that he does not devote too long a stretch to one subject. The value of

going over work in the morning, after having studied the night or two

nights before, should be emphasized. Also the value of beginning on

assignments some time ahead, even if there is not time to finish them.

Fourth, the child should be taught not to stop his work the minute he

can give it perfectly. The need for overlearning, for permanent

retention, must be made clear. How much overlearning is necessary, each

child should find out for himself. Fifth, the value of outlining

material as a means of aiding memory must be stressed. Sixth, the child

should be taught to search for associations, connections of all types,

in order to help himself remember facts. He might even be encouraged to

make up some mnemonic device as an aid if these measures fail. f

instead of simply trying to hammer material in by mere repetition

children had been taught in their study to consciously make use of the

other elements in a good memory, much time would be saved. But the

responsibility should rest finally on the child to make use of these

helps. The teacher must make him conscious of them, sometimes from their

value by experiment, and then teach him to use them himself.

Much less can be done as a matter of conscious technique when the

occasion of study is to further appreciation. A few suggestions might be

offered. First, the child should be taught the value of associating with

those who do appreciate in the line in which he is striving for

improvement. He should be encouraged to consciously associate with them

when opportunities for appreciation come. Second, he should know the

need for coming in contact with the objects of appreciation if true

feeling is to be developed. t is only by mingling with people, reading

books, listening to music, that appreciation in those fields can be

developed. Third, the value of concrete imagery and of connections with

personal experience in arousing emotional tone should be emphasized. The

child might be encouraged to consciously call up images and make

connections with his own experience during study.

Study, when the object is to arrive at responses of judgment, is the

type which has received most attention. This type of study includes

within itself several possibilities. Although judgment is the only

response that can solve the problem, still the problem may be one of

giving the best expression in art or music or drama. t may be the

analysis of a course of action or of a chemical compound. t may be the

comparison of various opinions. t may be the arriving at a new law or

principle. t is to one of these types of thinking that the term "study"

is usually applied. mportant as it is, the other three types already

discussed cannot be neglected. f children are taught to study in

connection with the simpler situations provided by the first two types,

they will be the better prepared to deal with this complex type, for

this highest type of study involves habit formation often and memory

work always.

n the type of study involving reasoning, because of its complexity, and

because the individual must work more independently, the child must

learn the danger of following the first suggestion which offers itself.

He must learn to weigh each suggestion offered with reference to the

goal aimed at. Each step in the process must be tested and weighed in

this manner. To go blindly ahead, following out a line of suggestions

until the end is reached, which is then found to be the wrong one,

wastes much time and is extremely discouraging. No suggestion of the way

to adapt means to end should be accepted without careful criticism. The

pupil should gradually be made conscious of the technique of reasoning,

analysis, comparison, and abstraction. He must know that the first thing

to do is to analyze the problem and see just what it requires. He must

know that the abstraction depends upon the goal. The learner should be

taught the sources of some of the commonest mistakes in judgment. For

instance, if he knows of the tendency to respond in terms of analogy,

and sees some of the errors to which accepting a minor likeness between

two situations as identity lead, he will be much more apt to avoid such

mistakes than would otherwise be true. f he knows how unsafe it is to

form a judgment on limited data,--if from his own and his classmates'

thinking first, and later from the history of science, illustrations are

drawn of the disastrous effect of such thinking, he will see the value

of seeking sources of information and several points of view before

forming his own judgment. n his study the child should be taught not to

be satisfied until he has tested the correctness of his judgment by

verifying the result. This is a very necessary part of studying. He

should check up his own thinking by finding out through appeal to facts

if it is so; by putting the judgment into execution; by consulting the

opinion of others, and so on.

Study may be considered from the point of view of the type of material

which is used in the process. The student may be engaged on a problem

which involves the use of apparatus or specimens of various kinds, or he

may need to consult people, or he may have to use books. So far as the

first type is concerned, it is obviously unwise to have a student at

work on a problem which involves the use of material, unless the

technique of method of use is well known. Until he can handle the

material with some degree of facility it is waste of time for him to be

struggling with problems which necessitate such use. Such practice

results in divided attention, poor results from the study, and often bad

habits in technique as well. Gaining the technique must be in itself a

problem for separate study.

Children should be taught to ask questions which bear directly on the

point they wish to know. f they in working out some problem are

dependent on getting some information from the janitor, or the postman,

or a mason, they must be able to ask questions which will bring them

what they want to know. Much practice in framing questions, having them

criticized, having them answered just as they are asked, is necessary.

Children should be aware of the question as a tool in their study and

therefore they must know how to handle it. n connection with this

second type of material, the problem of the best source of information

will arise. Children must then be made conscious of the relative values

of various persons as sources of a particular piece of information.

Training in choice of the source of information is very important both

when that source is people and also when it is books.

Teaching children to use books in their study is one of the big tasks of

the teacher. They must learn that books are written in answer to

questions. n order to thoroughly understand a book, students must seek

to frame the questions which it answers. They must also know how to use

books to answer their own questions. This means they must know how to

turn from part to part, gleaning here or there what they need. t means

training in the ability to skim, omitting unessentials and picking out

essentials. t means the ability to recognize major points, minor

points, and illustrative material. Children must be taught to use the

table of contents, the index, and paragraph headings. They must, in

their search for fuller information or criticism, be able to interpret

different authors, use different language, and attack from different

angles, even when treating the same object. Children must in their

studying be taught to use books as a means to an end--not an infallible

means, but one which needs continual criticism, modification, and


Study may be supervised study, or unsupervised study. To some people the

requirements in learning to study may seem too difficult to be possible,

but it should be remembered that the process is gradual--that one by one

these elements in study are taught to the children in their supervised

study periods. These periods should begin in the primary grades, and

require from the teacher quite as much preparation as any other period.

Many teachers have taught subjects, but not how to study subjects. The

latter is the more important. The matter of distributed learning

periods, of search for motive, of asking questions, of criticizing

achievement, of use of books; each element is a topic for class

discussion before it is accepted as an element in study. Even after it

is accepted, it may be raised by some child as a source of particular

difficulty and fresh suggestions added. ery often with little children

it is necessary for the teacher to study the lesson with them. Teachers

need much more practice in doing this, for one of the best ways to teach

a child to study is to study with him. Not to tell him, and do the work

for him, but to really study with him. Later on the supervised study

period is one in which each child is silently engaged upon his own work

and the teacher passes from one to the other. n order to do this well,

the teacher needs to be able to do two things. First, to find out when

the child is in difficulty and to locate it, and second, to help him

over the trouble without giving too much assistance. Adequate

questioning is needed in both cases. t is probably true that

comparatively little new work should be given for unsupervised study.

There is too much danger of error as well as lack of interest unless a

start is given under supervision.

Studying, especially unsupervised, may be done in groups or

individually. The former is a stepping-stone to the latter. There is a

greater chance for suggestions, for getting the problem worded, for

arousing interest and checking results, when a group of children are

working together than when a child is by himself. Two things must be

looked after. First, that the children in the group be taught not to

waste time, and second, that the personnel of the group be right. t is

not very helpful if one child does all the work, nor if one is so far

below the level of the group that he is always tagging along behind.

More opportunities for group study in the grammar grades would be


When it comes to individual study, the student then assumes all

responsibility for his methods of study. He should be taught the

influence of physical conditions or mental reactions. He will therefore

be responsible for choosing in the home and in the school the best

possible conditions for his study. He will see to it that, in so far as

possible, the air and light are good, that there are no unnecessary

distractions, and that he is as comfortable bodily as can be. He must

think not only in terms of the goal to be reached, but also with respect

to the methods to be employed. He should be asked by the teacher to

report his methods of work as well as his results.


1. Are children always primarily engaged in thinking when they study?

2. What type of study is involved in learning a multiplication table, a

list of words in spelling, a conjugation in French?

3. How would you teach a pupil to study his spelling lesson?

4. n what sense may one study in learning to write? n acquiring skill

in swimming?

5. How would you teach your pupils to memorize?

6. Show how ability to study may be developed over a period of years in

some subject with which you are familiar. Reading? Geography? History?

Latin translation?

7. s the boy who reads over and over again his lesson necessarily


8. Can one study a subject even though he may dislike it? Can one study

without interest?

9. How can you teach children what is meant by concentration of


10. How have you found it possible to develop a critical attitude toward

their work upon the part of children?

11. Of what factors in habit formation must children become conscious,

if they are to study to best advantage in this field?

12. How may we hope to have children learn to study in the fields

requiring judgment? Why will not consciousness of the technique of study

make pupils equally able in studying?

13. What exercises can you conduct which will help children to learn how

to use books?

14. How can a teacher study with a pupil and yet help him to develop

independence in this field?

15. How may small groups of children work together advantageously in


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