IATEFL 2014 – Teach me to study – Louis Rodgers

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April 6, 2014 by gemmalunn

Sitting on the train back from my first IATEFL conference I thought I should write up some notes from a couple of presentations (maybe one if I don’t have enough time!) I found particularly useful and thought others might also find useful.

Louis Rodgers from The University of Reading (pure coincidence!) gave a presentation entitled ‘Teach me to study’ in which he discussed 9 different study techniques taken from the Macmillan Skillful book. The usefulness or not of the study skills were supported with research which I think is always a good sign! I found his presentation useful not only from a teacher’s perspective but as a current student myself!

None of these techniques are ground breaking and you’ve probably heard of most of them before. However, the explanations were a good reminder of these skills and Louis also provided some useful tips to pass onto students. The 9 techniques were:

  • Elaborative interrogation
  • Self-explanation
  • Summarization
  • Highlighting (or underlining)
  • Keyword mnemonic
  • Rereading
  • Practice testing
  • Distributed practice
  • Interleaved practice

(Dunlosky et al 2013)

Louis first asked us to read descriptions of the below 3 techniques and put them in order of effectiveness.

study techniques1

According to research, practice testing was the most effective tool of these three. Louis pointed out this didn’t mean just continuously taking past papers but consists of the following tasks:

practice testing

The following were cited as benefits of practice testing:

PT benefits

The second most effective technique of these three was self explanation. Louis stated that research on self-explanation (and some other tools) was limited and as a result this may be proved to be even more effective in the future.

Self explanation

The least effective was therefore highlighting for the following reasons:

  • Students already do it but how effectively?
  • Does little to boast performance.
  • Impedes higher level tasks such as inference.

Some reading strategies to improve highlighting skills were then given which included looking for:

  • the main idea
  • topic sentences
  • structure.

We then did the same ranking with the following three techniques:ST2

The above order was also the order of effectiveness. The benefits of distributed practice were said to be that it is applicable to all ages and materials and is easy to implement. It was also stated that textbooks don’t encourage distributed learning as they rarely revisit material. Despite there being limited research to demonstrate the effectiveness of interleaved practice it is said to have dramatic effects on students’ learning and retention of mathematical skills. It also helps (rarely hinders) other kinds of cognitive skills.

The final three study techniques were:


Again the above order is the order of effectiveness. The benefits of elaborative interrogation are:

  • it is fairly easy to teach
  • it is applicable to a wide range of topics and learners

However, it is said to be less effective when knowledge is limited and is not proven to aid long term memory. One way of teaching elaborative interrogation could be to ask critical thinking questions after reading/listening tasks.

Louis said the following regarding summarization and rereading:



Although research suggests some techniques are more effective than others I do think it still depends on your learning style and study preferences. In conclusion Louis gave the following recommendations for usage:


If you weren’t able to attend IATEFL 2014 you can see most presentations here: http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2014/sessions/index

You can also find some great write up of some presentation on the following blogs:

http://sandymillin.wordpress.com/ (I especially recommend watching Sandy’s own presentation ‘Stepping into the real world: transitioning listening’)








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