6-Hours per Week for Solving Problem Sets

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Take-Away:

For better grades and more intellectual growth, consider spending at least 6 hours across a week cracking your brain on your p-sets before the TA explains it all at recitation.

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The 6-Hour Minimum

  • Unfortunately, many students give up to soon on their problem sets before getting the answers at recitation.
  • By putting in sufficient hours trying to solve problems, you will be engaged in active learning of the concepts the professor has identified as key to the course.
  • For most students, 1-2 hours a week of this kind of active learning won’t cut it. Even 4-5 probably won’t.
  • 6 hours is a minimum that is also likely to fit with the other demands on your time.

So try 6 hours a week, in 60-90 minute chunks.

  • For example:
Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Relax! 11-12:30PM: 7-9:30PM: 7-9:30PM: 7-9:30PM: 10-11:00AM:
  Problem-solving Problem-Solving   Problem-Solving Problem-Solving Recitation

Why a Minimum of 6 Hours?

  • Some learning instructors recommend at least 6 hours a week to their students because, for many students, this represents an increase in time that substantially improves conceptual grasp of key course ideas.
  • The idea of improving your learning by spending more time on problems is consistent with a robust literature on expertise.1 The superiority of some performers over others is a predictable result of more hours on deliberate practice.1 This is true in athletic, musical, and intellectual pursuits. 1
  • Deliberate practice is working hard on difficult skills that are central to your area of mastery. 1
  • What fits the definition of deliberate practice better—working problems, or listening to answers?

What’s the point of working for 6 hours on problems I’m not solving?

  • The point is that you are still learning when working on the problem, even when you are not solving it!2

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But the TA will explain it clearly. Why not wait?

  • No doubt difficult concepts make more sense as or after they are explained. However, the instructor’s question will not be, “Do you understand these ideas as they are explained?”
  • The question will be, “When I give you a new and more complex problem than you’ve seen so far, can you solve it? Under time pressure?”
  • Can you confidently answer, “yes!”?
  • If you want to be more confident that you can answer “yes” to that question, try putting in six hours across a week on your p-sets before recitation. See if the conceptual learning you attain gives you reason for greater confidence.

But what if I don’t have 6 hours?

  • Then spend as many hours as you can before seeking help.  And maybe consult with a Learning Instructor to explore your use of time.

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References:

  1. Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R. T., & Tesch-Römer, C. (1993). The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological Review, 100(3), 363.
  2. Richland, L. E., Kornell, N., & Kao, L. S. (2009). The pretesting effect: Do unsuccessful retrieval attempts enhance learning? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 15(3), 243–257. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0016496

By WLRC Staff Writer: Nicholas Santascoy, Learning Instructor

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Pondering Priorities

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“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

    ~  Andy Warhol

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I spend a lot of my time here at your learning center working with students who are in a steel cage death match with time management.  And you don’t need to be a learning specialist to see the reason is clear.  

Graduate, professional and undergraduates here at Dear Penn, from our 12 graduate and professional schools to our four undergraduate colleges, across divisions and departments and other seemingly arbitrary lines of demarcation, will all, at some point, come face to face with the grim, irreducible non-expanding 168 hour week.  

Granted, your humble blogger returns to the 168 hour week like any monomaniac returns to his obsession.  (That’s my problem, not yours.)  But the 168 hour mark does give us a necessary point of perspective when it comes to deciding what gets done, in what order, and when.

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Even if you’re already good at “getting it all done” there is something to be said for taking a closer look at your priorities, not just for the sake of some calendar-based time allotment but to answer a bigger picture question:  What am I doing, anyway?

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It happens to all of us, sooner or later.  We get grooved into academic and/or career tracks.  We find ourselves devoting time to pursuits from which we derive less and less pleasure.

We get bored.

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We also get confused.  We confuse priorities andresponsibilities.  We confound our own priorities with the expectations of others.  We fill our time with busy-ness for no other reason than busy is the coin of our 21st century realm.  

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We get to this spot of confusion legitimately.  Our responsibilities shape our priorities, just as the expectations of others prioritize for us, even if only in the short term.  And in today’s labor market, if you’re not really busy you better at least look busy or you may suddenly have many, many free hours to ponder all sorts of things.

All I’m suggesting is take a couple of those hours and spend them thinking through your priorities.  Ask where they came from.  And decide if something needs to change.  You owe it to yourself.  

Staff Writer: Pete Kimchuk, Senior Learning Instructor

Scheduling Self-Care

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            Now that we are entering our mid-semester period here at the University of Pennsylvania, it is easy for us as students to start feeling busy and pressed for time. Sometimes the first thing we cut out in our schedules is the time we make for ourselves. In reality, as our schedules get busier and our workloads get heavier, it is more important than ever to keep time in your schedule for yourself!

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It might sound ridiculous to schedule your ‘relaxation’ time, but if we don’t make it a priority and set aside time for self-care, on our busy days it won’t happen. Making self-care part of your everyday routine will make you a better, happier, and healthier student, friend, and person.

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            Self-care can be defined as “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health” (Michael, 2016). For each of us, these activities can vary. However, because we spend so much time in front of computer and electronic screens as part of our workloads, I recommend taking a break from the screens when scheduling your self-care time (This means binge-watching a show on Netflix doesn’t really count as self-care). Here are some suggestions for ways you might want to self-care:

  • Head outdoors! Some fresh air and sunshine can do wonders for yourself. Go for a walk around campus and appreciate the foliage on campus as we head from summer to fall. Or head down Spruce Street to the South Street Bridge and walk on the trail along the Susquehanna River.
  • Participate in some physical activity. Whether you like to go for a run, head to the gym, or take an exercise class, getting your blood pumping and your body moving is good for your physical, mental, and emotional heath.

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  • Find some quiet time! Campus and college life can be busy. We can feel like we are constantly surrounded by people and that we always need to be ready to go, appearing like we have it all together. Find a quiet space to journal, meditate, do yoga, or reflect on your week. The peace can do wonders for your health, even if it is just for 15 minutes.

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  • Do something creative! Whether you enjoy crafts, music, or coloring, doing something creative helps us use our whole brain. Even if your definition of art is filling in an adult coloring book, make time during your week for it!
  • Get enough sleep! Make sure you are getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Do this in addition to your 30 minutes of self-care during the day. All the studying in the world won’t help you reach your potential if you’re not getting enough sleep. Athletes know this. It is time students remember it too!

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  • How do you take care of yourself? Comment with your suggestions! We will discuss more about self-care topics as the semester goes on.

Remember to make time for yourself every day during this semester. Doing so will make you a better student in the long-run. Scheduling self-care isn’t being lazy or saying you’re not tough enough to handle your work load. What it shows is that you care about yourself and well-being. It will make you a better student and person in the long run!

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Reference:

https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2016/08/10/what-self-care-is-and-what-it-isnt-2/

Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor

Super-Secret Study Spots: Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center Edition

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I know what you’re thinking. Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center is not a secret study spot. I’m here to let you in on a little VP secret: there are two new spaces within our beloved library that opened this fall. The hours for these new rooms are the same as most of the rest of VP:

  • Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to midnight
  • Friday 8:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Saturday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Sunday 10 a.m. – midnight

Read on to find out more about these great new spaces!

Moelis Family Grand Reading Room (first floor)

  • Noise level: Silent
  • Perks: The swivel recliners in the front of the room are perfect for study breaks.
    • This room truly is grand. A beautiful cloth tapestry lines one wall, with floor-to-ceiling windows surrounding the other sides of the room.
    • This room also features plush blue chairs at every table to make your study time a comfortable experience.
  • The Moelis Family Grand Reading Room is sound-proof and totally silent. If you’re looking for a space to really buckle down and focus, this is your spot.

The Class of 1937 Memorial Reading Room (fifth floor)

  • Noise level: Quiet
  • Perks: Comfortable seating in front, study carrels in back. Perfect for any occasion!
  • The Class of 1937 Memorial Reading room is now a card-access room designed to meet the needs of graduate students.
  • This newly redesigned room features space for both independent and group study, and there is a lactation room available as well.
  • In addition to the new features, this room is also home of football memorabilia from the class of ’37. The glass display case features three footballs and several uniforms that give a feel for what live at Penn was like 80 years ago.

Class of 37

While you’re over at the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center checking out the new spaces, don’t forget about our other favorite VP spots including:

Each separate space at the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center has different advantages, so make sure to check them all out to decide which one works best for you.

Staff Writer: Cassie Lo, WLRC Learning Instructor

 

Schedule Your Semester to Ensure Success!

Perhaps you are a new undergraduate, professional, or graduate student at PENN, and you want to make sure you are starting off strong at the beginning of the semester. Or, maybe you are a returning student who wants to make this year better than the last. Whatever your status or motivation is, the Weingarten Learning Resources Center is here to help!

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One of the biggest ways that you can ensure success as a graduate or undergraduate student is to make sure that you are planning strategically for your long-term course requirements this semester. Some of our handy tools are our SEMESTER CALENDARS, which are available in BLUE for Undergraduate students and GREEN for Graduate students:

Even if you can’t stop in for a walk-in or full-hour appointment, make sure you stop by our offices to pick up one of our coveted semester long calendars!

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Helpful strategies for using Weingarten’s Semester Calendars:

  1. During these first two weeks of school, take time to review your syllabi. Using your syllabi, write in all the dates for your papers, projects, and exams on your large semester calendar. This large overview calendar should be reserved for big projects, papers, and exams (not everyday homework and class times). Even if you already use a calendar system like iCalendar or have a paper planner, it is important and helpful for you to write everything for the semester in one place. Having a visual outline of the semester will help you plan and make sure you are keeping up to date with your assignments and obligations.
  2. Next, fill in any personal obligations, celebrations, or events for this semester. If you have friends visiting, mark it on the calendar. Planning any trips or getaways? Make sure to put it on your calendar!
  3. Add in events like extra-curricular obligations, long-term work assignment due dates, campus performances, and athletic events to your calendar. Now, you should have an outline of everything you have coming up this semester.
  4. Now you can go to your personal planner and schedule out your assignments and worktime week by week. The long-term semester calendar is important, because it can help you avoid potential conflicts. For example, “I see that I have a book critique and presentation due at the end of October, but I am also going to be out of town two weekends in a row for personal obligations. Now, I know that when I am scheduling out my time during the first two weeks of October, I need to make time to complete the book review. I can’t push it off until right before it’s due because I will be out of town (and that isn’t a great way to get work done anyway). If I hadn’t taken the time to layout my semester, I might have missed that.” Here’s an example:

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We hope that this helps you start your semester off on the right foot!

If you have more questions about how to structure your time to ensure success, be sure to call the Weingarten Learning Resources Center to set up an appointment to meet with a Learning Instructor to help you develop a personalized plan. You can come in for a first-come, first-serve Walk-In Session or make an Individual 1-Hour Appointment with one of our Learning Consultants by calling (215) 573-9235. We’re conveniently located at Stouffer Commons, behind the Wawa on 38th and Spruce. Click here for Location and Hours.

Good luck this semester! Happy Studying!

 

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor at the Weingarten Learning Resources Center. “I just began my first year as a doctoral student in the Reading/Writing/Literacy program in the Graduate School of Education. Prior to returning to school here, I was a high school English teacher and instructional coach in Detroit, Michigan.

Welcome to Fall 2017-18 Penn Students!

As you begin or return to your journey as a PENN student in the Fall of the academic year 2017-18, you are asked to embrace the call of innovation. The Office of the Provost of the University of Pennsylvania has announced the Provost’s Academic Theme for the Year 2017-18 as the Year of Innovation:

Innovation is key to advancing knowledge; innovators build on historic foundations as they move forward with new discoveries. We often associate innovation with technology and scientific advancements, yet it exists in every aspect of our intellectual culture. 

At WLRC, we invite you to join us in reflecting upon the following guiding questions:

  • Who am I as a learner?
  • How do I learn optimally?
  • How do I learn differently?
  • What are my assets as learner?
  • What are my goals as learner?
  • What are my learning supports and resources?
  • What will I try anew in 2017-18?
  • What will I do differently?
  • How can I innovate my learning?
  • How will I kick off my learning trajectory this Fall?

To get you started, we have some ideas and resources to help you optimize and innovate your learning and sustain academic wellness:

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  • Above all, innovation is a central aspect of Penn’s history and identity: founded by Benjamin Franklin, one of history’s great innovators, Penn was designed from the outset to be different from other schools of its day and now includes innovation as a core principle of the Penn Compact 2020.

The 2017-18 Year of Innovation presents the opportunity for renewal. At WLRC, we welcome all new and returning students. We look forward to partnering with you at any juncture of your learning trajectory at PENN. Throughout, we uphold a spirit of innovation, renewal and learning wellness.

​Staff Writer: Min Kim Derry

How to make the most of the “Lazy Days of Summer”

We’re deep into summer now. Last semester feels like a distant memory and we’re still a month out from the new school year. I’m sure the last thing you want to be thinking about right now is getting back into coursework, but here are a few things to keep in mind as you begin preparing for your return to campus.

1. Check out Canvas. Some professors already have their Canvas pages live for the Fall semester. You may be able to see the syllabus or get a head start on some of the early readings. It’s always good to know when the big assignments are due ahead of time so you can start planning around them. Plus, if you’ve registered for more classes than you plan on taking, you might be able to decide ahead of time based on the available syllabi.

2. Spend some time reflecting. What went well in previous semesters? What didn’t go well? Think back to your last round of finals and how you prepared for them. What would you want to do again in the upcoming semester? Accruing exam preparation techniques over the summer will put you in a better place when the first round of exams happens.

3. Have fun! Now is the time to catch up on sleep and activities that you enjoy but might not get a chance to partake in during the school year. Go for a hike or catch up on that science fiction book you’ve been wanting to read. Binge on a new Netflix series. Spend time with friends and loved ones. This way, you’ll come back to campus refreshed and ready to take on the challenges of a new school year.

Remember, if you are in the area this summer or want to do an online appointment, we are open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and we’d love to work with you! We are also already accepting appointments for the Fall, so give us a call once you know your class schedule!

Staff Writer: Cassie Lo