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I'm going to tamper with the way we think of learning skills and suggest
a general cognitive ability that has implications for textbook reading,
lecture note review, exam performance (especially multiple-choice tests).
This is the ability to organize and analyze concepts, to think about
information analytically. I'm thinking about the students who are
referred to me by faculty or advisors because the student is highly
motivated, exerts a lot of effort, but can't demonstrate "what they
really know" on exams.  In most of these situations, I find that the
student is approaching material, readings and notes, on a surface level,
on a literal and factual level.  What is missing is deep processing that
comes from asking questions, paraphrasing, comparing and contrasting,
analyzing hierarchies or types, problem-solution relationships, etc.

I'm making some very gross assumptions in proposing this, such as, that
the student actually does go to class, that they take decent notes, that
they have fundamental comprehension skills.  That is assuming a lot.  But
if I were to vote for 2 skills that universally apply to a wide cross
section of students, I would say analytical thinking and time management
skills.


Georgine Materniak
University of Pittsburgh