Alexa Harrington, “Educated Nation”, has a pointer blot this morning on “How to Study”, [Link] that took me back to considering how studying used to be back when I was an undergraduate.
I should comment that back when I was in public shul nobody thought it important to try to teach us how to study. Evidently this was supposed to be innately obvious, or, at worst, our parents were supposed to know this and teach it to us in the privacy of our homes, in lieu of anything about sex other than ‘don’t’ and “carry a condom in your wallet.’ Apparently the existence of separate guides on this are necessary today because (a) there still isn’t universal sex education, (b) parents have no idea of how to study and hence don’t tell us about that either, and (c) public shuls don’t teach students how to study because that isn’t material tested as part of the “Every Child Left Behind” program.
I should also comment that when I went to college they didn’t tell us how to study, but they did tell us we had to. The learning how was left to us, which pretty well put it in the same category as sex education again in that we learned it either from senior classmates, or on our own. That isn’t a good way and so even though I have had to learn how to study to get where I am I have never learned any of the theory of study, other than what I have developed on my own. I am, after all, a physicist, and we do that – develop theory.
I have been exposed to a few pieces of theory of study along the way. Alexa’s blog is a platinum mine of such and I have already blogged about pieces such as Chad Orzel, “Uncertain Principles”, distinction between course you study for before lecture and those you study for after lecture. I have come to the hypothesis that this distinction is pretty strongly along Capellan lines. That is, courses that fall into the traditional Capellan disciplines tend to require studying before lecture while non-Capellan, technical, legal, medical stuff, you study after lecture. At least I know that for technical courses and have been told similar for the others.
But what I want to posit today is that what you need to study in technical courses is a lot easier to figure out than for Capellan courses. I found this out when I was an undergraduate since every non-technical course had different things that you had to know to pass exams and such, but for technical courses it was always the same thing – work problems. You had to have the terms and tools down pat to work the problems and you got the techniques and thoughts from working the problems. So if you worked problems you got it and it didn’t matter whether it was physics or chemistry. Maths were a bit of in between because you never quite knew which proofs you had to memorize but there were problems, at least in the applied courses.
So in this one area nerds have it easier since all they really have to do is work problems. And somehow get through those non-nerd courses they have to have to graduate. And, of course, knowing you have to work problems is easy, working problems usually isn’t, even if it is easier than figuring out what to study for the non-nerd courses.