But students can be taught to think strategically about thinking and studying, says Chen, the lead author of a new study about the practice, and parents can prompt this type of learning by posing some strategic questions of their own.
In the study Chen led, researchers conducted two field experiments in which some university students were offered a variety of prompts to help them think carefully about how they studied, and how they might study more effectively for an introductory statistics class exam. The other students—the control group—simply received a reminder that their exam was coming up and that they should prepare.
Those who reflected on how they wanted to perform and what they needed to do to perform better outperformed those who did not, by an average of one-third of a letter grade. Those who received the intervention prompts twice did better than those who received it once.
“Our key insight in this research is the importance of being goal-directed and thoughtful about how one chooses and uses resources for learning—or to achieve any other goal for that matter,” Chen said.