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New psychology summer course teaches students how to learn

overhead shot of people sitting on a couch and pointing at a laptop screen

Eevin Jennings, a lecturer in the ASU Department of Psychology, is teaching a course about “how to learn in college” and aims to correct some of the gaps in students’ learning foundation. Photo by John Schnobrich

March 31, 2021

One of ASU’s goals as part of its charter is to have a first-year persistence rate of 90% and to graduate students at a rate of 85%, or approximately 32,000 students each year. These goals mirror the idea that the university is measured not by who it excludes, but by who it includes and how they succeed.

The transition from high school to college can be a jarring experience and barrier to these goals for students who don’t know how to study properly for college courses. Often, students graduate high school with a high GPA only to discover that the strategies they use don’t offer the same results in college. These students may face extraordinary struggles if they aren’t able to learn and apply more effective practices.

Eevin Jennings, a lecturer in the ASU Department of Psychology, has a doctorate in cognition and cognitive neuroscience, and knows how important proper learning techniques are to academic success. She proposed teaching a course about “how to learn in college” that aims to correct some of the gaps in students’ learning foundation. Additionally, this course focuses on the neuroscience of learning and how different regions of the brain are involved in learning different tasks.

The approach of the course is to understand the science behind learning in order to improve and maximize how students study for future courses in any major. 

“I realized that many students in other courses I teach aren’t necessarily prepared to learn in college. I think that part of being in the ASU community is finding ways to help elevate the strengths of all of our students and teach them new ways to succeed,” said Jennings. “I hope to teach students new strategies that expand their toolkit for success.”

High school learning is based on a set of standardized learning expectations that vary by state and district. Teaching strategies align with rote memorization for many of these standardized test scores, and when students come to college, that structure is gone.

In high school, students are used to spending four to six hours studying per week in total, whereas each 15-week, three-credit course at ASU requires six to nine hours per week – for every single class.

“Things as simple as proper note taking, or better time management, or assigning a learning space, can be very important for students to succeed in any major, let alone psychology,” said Jennings.

“We are going to examine their misconceptions about learning. Learning takes work, and the people who do the work are the ones who succeed.”

The course will cover operant and classical conditioning, cutting-edge research in online versus face-to-face approaches, attention management and the brain structures behind learning.

“Students will learn how to identify problems that they are facing and use tools that they will acquire to take charge of their own experiences,” said Jennings.

The course is open for students in all majors and will be available in Session B for summer 2021. Sign up now.

Video courtesy of Robert Ewing

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