Readiness and academic skills vital for self-education
V.L. Malashenkova outlines three aspects of readiness for self-education: psychological, theoretical, and practical.
Psychological readiness for self-education activity is characterized by the particular direction towards self-education and it is manifested in a motive for knowledge renewal and application, by the need for continuous self-education, and by the readiness for creative activity. Direction for self-education becomes apparent in the interest for self-education activity, in the awareness of its advantages, in the aspiration for regular knowledge reinforcement.
Theoretical readiness for self-education is displayed by sufficient expertise in the area of individual learning techniques, which are essential for efficient self-education activity.
Practical readiness is determined by the sufficient development of skills in self-education management. These skills are aimed at search, fixation, and cognitive perception of the information acquired.
E.S. Semenova outlines three groups of skills necessary for self-education activity.
1) The first group is constituted by skills, directed to organization of independent learning activity:
· ability to formulate an idea,
· to select methods, forms, means of self-education,
· to elaborate a plan of self-education activity,
· to manage time and place,
· to provide self-regulation in the course of the self-education process.
2) The second group includes the skills, aimed at acquiring information from different sources:
· ability to select bibliography,
· to read professional terms,
· to record necessary information.
3) The third group combines the skills connected with cognitive activity:
· ability to reproduce information,
· ability to make comparison, analysis, synthesis, summarizing, classification, and abstracting;
· to determine cause-effect relations;
· to apply knowledge in a creative way.
An ability to work with books is very important and necessary for students. Mastering the skills of working with the book includes the culture of reading and ability to keep records of the read materials. It creates favorable conditions for all-round comprehension and memorization of teaching material.
In the course of one's whole life reading is a basic means of acquiring information. D.Didro said: 'People cease to think, when they cease to read'.
At the disposal of the teacher and the student there are various scientific, educational, fiction books, compositions of ancient and modern thinkers and writers, monographs and collective works of domestic and foreign authors. The major working condition of a teacher or student working with a book is the purpose of reading of scientific literature: enriching knowledge and outlook, deepening erudition, development of cognitive abilities (attention, memory, and thinking). These purposes of reading are integrally interconnected and assume active creative work, accurate logical analysis of text structure and content.
One of the major conditions of productive and fast reading is making a schedule of work with the book. When starting to study a theme, a question, a problem, at first it is necessary to make a list of key references. Then a daily plan of work is developed taking into account the time necessary, the scope of studying the problem, labour-intensiveness and deadlines.
When starting to work with a book, it is important to familiarize oneself with the general layout of the book, its plan, the title and content of sections and subsections, with the character of material presenation. It is necessary to read the preface or introduction. They specify the main ideas of the book, what it is necessary to pay special attention to. It is important to establish the time in which the book was written, to find out the purpose pursued by the author.
Textbooks, scientific books and articles demand slow meditation. Concentrations, ability to seize and identify the essence of author's ideas are the characteristics of independent work with such resources. While reading it is necessary to perceive the information meaningfully, by using a special algorithm of reading, i.e. a set of the blocks, which students should fill in mentally with information from the text. These blocks are as follows: 1) name of the article or book; 2) the author; 3) the problem to which the work is devoted; 4) its main thought; 5) facts proving this thought; 6) estimation of the read material. One is advised to think over the purpose of reading at the start. In the course of reading one may look forward, imagine the continuation, or conclusion.
Continuous reading is the major stage of independent work with the book. It is a process of understanding and mastering basic ideas of the book. An overall objective is deep understanding and mastering the material. One is recommended to read each scientific book not once, but two consecutive times to remember the contents better.
During first reading it is not recommended to keep records. It is better to indicate proper pages with colorful paper. The second time one reads with a pencil. Separate pages may be reread, extracts copied out. In case of a great volume of a book it is better to read by chapters and sections. At first a chapter as a whole is read, then its sections are read repeatedly, one after another one. It helps to understand the material well. It is proved experimentally in psychology that one retains the material in memory if it's deeply thought over and processed. Therefore reading a book from beginning to the end should be a conscious and active process. It's better to read a small part, but do it thoroughly. "Gulping" books down slackens the ability to reflect and loosens one's will.
It is crucial to take notice of foot-notes and references located at the end of the book. Working with scientific, technical and educational literature demands the use of various dictionaries, manuals, encyclopedias which help to understand the concepts of the given science. One should look attentively at what facts the author is usingfor the proof of his ideas. The book can be written a long time ago. May be these facts have turned outdated.
Experiments have incontestably proved that the faster a person reads, the better he can remember what he reads. Therefore the speed of reading is a kind of catalyst of effective memorization. Mass experiments have shown that purposeful training (and self-training too) allows to raise the speed of reading by 3-15 times.
Typical deficiencies of the "average" reader are: a small angle of view, internal articulation, regresses in reading.
We perceive text in pauses between movements of our eyes. During the movement the perception of the text does not occur. The essential distinction between "the good" and "the bad" reader is the following. The first one sees a group of words, the second - one word or even its part during the pause. Thus the speed of reading is essentially various in the both cases. One may expand the angle of viewing in two ways:
1) pass from narrow newspaper lines to a wider book lines, or
2) use a device, that will show the specially prepared printed texts line by line (the angle of view is precisely measured and the speed of presentation is gradually increased).
Internal voicing (articulation) is a natural property of mechanics of reading. In certain cases it is shown "outside" (e.g. small children) when we see how a person moves lips while reading. Internal voicing while reading - the articulation - is an essential brake, it limits the speed of reading. You may put fingers to a throat, and with a palm of the second hand touch half-open lips and the tip of the tongue. If in the course of reading you feel fluctuation of larynx or pressure of lips and tongue, it means that you are articulating more than is required. There is a natural problem - to separate reading from the work of the articulation device and thus to raise the speed of reading. The following recommendations may be helpful while reading:
- concentrate not on separate words, but on the meaning of larger pieces of the text;
- tap any rhythm with your hand;
- sing a familiar melody quietly;
- count aloud (for example: «one, two, three, four... Ten, nine... One, etc»). Simple counting does not require attention and makes the two kinds of activity - reading and counting - go with a different rhythm. As a result a habit to read silently without internal articulation is gradually developed. Dropping articulation allows to raise the speed of reading considerably.
Regresses in reading, i.e. returns to the read passages, are often used when we have not understood something at first reading. Frequent movements of eyes back into the text may considerably slow down reading. It is possible to get rid of this bad habit by closing the read text with a sheet of paper. Or one may also try to wag rhythmically with a hand, or to clench a fist, or to slightly tap with a hand on the table surface. One should define, what movements help to understand the text better. The most economic trajectory of movement of eyes is not horizontal along the lines, but vertically along the midpoint of a page. Try to read 1-2 pages of the newspaper, driving a finger on the midpoint of each newspaper column from top to down daily for training, and the speed will increase in 2-3 weeks. Experiments have shown that regresses in reading are advisable only upon reading quite a long meaningful chunk of a text.
Are you a good reader? In order to answer this question, you need to first find out what strategies you use while reading and evaluate them. Strategies are mental operations involved when readers approach a text and get the information from it. A good reader is one who can extract information from the text effectively and efficiently by using appropriate strategies, knows how to overcome the barriers that they might face while trying to make sense of a text.
For example, if they come across new or unfamiliar words, they try to (a) guess the meanings of the words by using the information available in a text or picture and (b) use the grammatical information about the words from the way they are used and make a guess. (c) A good reader also knows how to vary speed depending on the purpose for which he is reading the text. Let's look at these in detail.
Guess the meanings of the words. When you read a text you might come across a new or unfamiliar word. But you do not stop reading the text just because there are a few unfamiliar words. Instead you try to guess the meanings of those words. You use different strategies for this. First you look at the surrounding words for clue. Usually the words around the unfamiliar word explain what the word means. Study this example: 'He saw a small piece of caviar on his boss's lower lip. The boss had just finished his lunch'. Perhaps you have come across the word 'caviar' for the first time. What is the meaning of this word? Can you make a guess? Yes. You are right. It is a kind of food. How did you guess this? You have used your background knowledge and the information supplied to you by the surrounding words to make a guess. From your background knowledge, you know lips are part of mouth and they are used while eating. And the text says he had just finished lunch. So a small piece of food might have got stuck to the lower lip.
Use grammatical information about the words. Sometimes, you can guess the meaning of the word by finding out the category of the word. 'He is an ingenious man. He was the architect of the successful launch of our first spaceship'. The word 'ingenious' is an adjective. And as you know an adjective modifies a noun. So from your knowledge of an adjective you can say it describes the quality of the man. But what quality? Is it positive or negative? You can get this information by reading what follows it. In this case, it is positive because he was the man behind the success of our space mission. Thus we can guess the meaning of the unknown word and also evaluate it, based on the information provided by the rest of the text.
Read at appropriate speed. Is there any ideal speed of reading? There is nothing like that. A good reader uses different speeds depending on the purpose for which something is read. For example, if you are reading a legal document, you need to read and understand every word in the text. In other words, you need 100% comprehension of the text before you sign the document. Hence speed is secondary. There are, however, many situations where you are interested in less than 100% comprehension and so you need not read the text in detail. In such situations you should be able to get the required information in the least possible time by skimming and scanning the text. (Skimming is reading a lot of material very quickly to get a general idea of what it is about. For example, when you want to know what a particular text is about before deciding whether to read it or not, you resort to skimming. But if you are interested in finding out the telephone number of a person from the telephone directory you scan the text. Scanning is going over a text quickly to locate a particular piece of information. In skimming we can say, we aim at 20 - 25% comprehension and in scanning it could be 10%). In order to be able to read the text faster, you should avoid doing the following things:
a. move your head from left to right as you read the text,
b. move your lips while reading the text,
c. point at the words with your finger or pencil, and
d. read the text aloud.
When you do these things, your attention is divided between reading and doing these things. Instead of moving your head, you should practice moving your eyeballs along with the text. Instead of mouthing the words, it is better if you practice silent reading.
So, to improve the skills of reading one needs to work hard and persistently.
The ability to understand the contents of the read materials and to freely operate with knowledge should be paid special attention to.
The purposes of knowledge acquisition can be various: learning about novelties, thorough studying of an interesting problem, etc. The quality and a mode of mastering the knowledge depend on these purposes. Thus in the first case, for example, it will be fluent viewing of book contents, or article as a whole. The mechanics of quick reading is useful here. But if a person has set to study the problem thoroughly his efforts at self-education should be directed at acquiring, firstly the essence of the problem, and, secondly, the methods used by the author in his reasonings.
What is to acquire the core, the essential in the studied material? In any material usually there is that minimum circle of the basic questions, without understanding which it is impossible to understand the subsequent information. The numerous details are piled up round these questions in order to confirm or illustrate the basic questions. To consider the basic phenomena, to define their content, how they influence separate facts, in what dependence from each other they are, - means to get the essence of a studied material.
The culture of reading also includes the skills of independent searching for literature, its previewing, defining the kind of reading suitable for each concrete source (skimming, scanning, reading for detail).
The most general orientation in any subject matter is given by bibliographic catalogues. The most widespread kinds of catalogues are systematic, alphabetic and subject catalogues.
In the systematic catalogue bibliographic cards are located according to branches, sections, subsections, etc. In subsections cards are usually located alphabetically, or according to the time of publication (the latest resources are placed closer to the reader in the box). Usually each reader uses only a limited quantity of boxes corresponding to his scientific interests.
In the alphabetical catalogue cards are located in the alphabetic order (taking into account several letters of a surname, and further on the names of authors, names of works). This allows to specify which works of the author, known to the reader, are available in the given library, and also to specify the target data of the book.
The subject catalogue which is not available in all the libraries allows to find literature by using keywords which are located in the catalogue in the alphabetic order quickly.
Work with catalogues demands not only knowledge, but also a certain skill which is developed. Experience shows that if this skill is not formed in student's years, it is much more difficult to develop it later on.
Another skill to master is to make precise bibliographic records. Quite often for saving time students write down the references briefly, hoping that they will specify the resource some other time. This of course, is possible, but it is usually connected with rather irrational spending of time. References should be written down quite precisely, according to the existing rules. One should write down the surname, name, patronymic of the author, the full name of the book, the year when it was written, when and where it was published. If it is a journal article, also take notes of the journal name, number and year of its publication.
It is necessary to notice that in bibliographic records each sign (comma, colon, upper and lower case letters) are important. Having got used to accuracy, the reader will be able to describe the resource according to the rules automatically and without spending much time.
Making notes. It allows to systematize the knowledge received while reading, to concentrate on the main ideas of the book, to fix them in memory, and if necessary refer to them again. Various records of the read material may discipline thinking, facilitate mental work, mobilize attention, memory, and thinking. They facilitate memorization of facts and prevent possible inaccuracies. Records help to revise the material. The kinds of records are various and are selected by the reader depending on concrete needs and habits. There follow the most typical kinds.
Card with records of the books read is the most popular form of record, perhaps. Each book read, its name, year, and publication place are registered on a separate card. Then these cards are classified in a certain order.
Sometimes one may keep a diary in which the basic contents of the books read are shortly registered. Instead of a diary it is also possible to write down separate thoughts of the author or of the reader, which have arisen while reading, in a special notebook. Here it is important to specify the source, i.e. the book name, publishing house, year and publication place, and the page. Depending on the purpose of reading the record can be laconic or more developed.
Marginal notes. They represent a system of underlinings and symbols. Every teacher or student has a system of his own. The following marks are found in works of outstanding scholars that might be of use for students too:
- X, !, !!, !!! - important, very important;
- ? - doubt, question;
- ∑ - the sum, result;
- → repetition, contradiction;
- NÂ - take notice.
The plan of the read material represents a short or detailed list of questions revealing the internal logic of the read text. The record of the read book in the form of a detailed plan is easy to make if the book has been properly comprehended and thought over.Simple and complex plansdiffer from each other in the degree of detail. They allow to quickly recollect about what this or that source is, but are insufficient for exact extraction of facts.
Extracts may be made in copy-books or on separate sheets of paper or cards and represent in one case retelling, in the other - literal reproduction of the most important parts of the text of the book. Any extract, in particular the citation, should go together with a reference to the source.
Theses represent a short formulation of this or that theoretical position of the book and are especially convenient when it is necessary to speak at a seminar upon the content of some book recommended by the teacher.
The synopsis (êîíñïåêò), i.e. quite detailed record of a resource or live lecture or a book One's own reflections on the margins are possible. The synopsis reveals a list of questions showing the interrelationship of ideas of the book and a gradual reproduction of the read material with separate extracts and citations, schemes, tables and so forth. Making a synopsis in the course of work with the book is one of the basic forms of independent work. That is why making a synopsis of the recommended literature is extremely necessary. One should remember that selective copying of a text instead of making a synopsis takes away a lot of time and deprives the student of making conclusions of the original, of gaining accurate understanding and safe memorization, of development of the basic intellectual skills, abilities, style of thinking and speech. The synopsis which is not a result of logical analysis of the text of the book, as a rule, is hardly suitable for preparing for exams, course or diploma paper. Making a synopsis is one of the important means of facilitating memorization. The method and technique of making a synopsis are rather various both in the form, and the degree of a detail of records. Here everything depends on specific features of students, their will and diligence, activity and personal interest in studying science. Anyway the teacher should follow the basic requirements: the synopsis should capture consistently all the key questions of the studied reference; to reflect the attitude of the student to material, to mark connection with the present problems of development of theory and practice, it should not be too long. It is recommended to write a synopsis in two columns: one for the notes and the other for extra ideas.
Mastering the mechanics of rational records demands special training. Research conducted within several years has helped to find out how average students take notes during lectures and what it results in. Unfortunately, it was found out that without special training the majority of students operate rather irrationally. More than 70 % of students belong to the group of «writers», i.e. they consider that the most important thing is to write down as much as possible in detail what the teacher says; they prefer to think and process their notes later on.
Absolutely few students (13 %) make a group of "thinkers", i.e. consider as their primary goal to think together with the teacher, to identify the main thing, to write down this main thing in the form of theses and basic illustrations during the lecture.
Approximately 10 % is a group of "listeners" who write down nothing, but listen to the teacher attentively.
Finally, 7 % make a group of "idlers" who write down nothing and do not listen.
Control of mastering the new knowledge (which was organized in all the groups right after the lecture (on humanitarian disciplines) and in 10 days after it), provides rather significant results. "Thinkers" may at once reproduce almost 90 % of the material, and they forget little after a lapse of 10 days.
"Writers" reproduce about 15 % of all the material, and approximately as much in ten days.
"Listeners" reproduce almost 60 % of a material at once, but forget practically everything in 10 days.
Finally the results of "idlers", as one may assume, are close to zero. Thus, it is clear that the style of work of "thinkers" is most correct, and it is vital to accustom oneself to working namely in this style.