Too often in life we simply go through the motions. We become cemented in our routines; we are so disengaged that we accomplish tasks without even realizing we began them. A prime example is, as college students, how many times have you read and realized “I have no idea what I just read” or maybe you do know what you read but you “can’t quite explain it”.
My current block, Educational Psychology, is firmly rooted in metacognition. This essentially means every night we sit down and think about our thinking. While this can be a frustrating process it is also a rewarding one. I now make more of an effort to be engaged in the reading I do by taking more marginal notes, posing more questions, and making the readings meaningful to me personally. Doing my reading for class has transcended being a task on my to do list and has become something greater. It is an art. It is a craft.
I am aware of how pretentious that sounds, but it’s true. Our job is to make the readings come alive, to make them meaningful. We should be highlighting over them, leaving a spectrum of colors over the author’s words. We should be making concept maps, connecting the dots, pairing the reading with images (in our minds or on paper). What has been most effective for me is thinking about examples from my personal experiences that connect to the reading. I’m also just working on shifting my mindset. I try not to see my readings as a chore infringing on my day, but rather as its own activity that deserves my full attention. My reading is not to be done while on the Internet or during commercials. It is not to be set down to respond to text messages or attend to the random thoughts that enter my mind when in a quiet room.
Reading, even from a textbook, is a creative act. You are coming up with new ideas. It takes creativity to analyze something well. One needs to see it beyond its surface. When reading textbooks and articles we should be asking questions such as: What are the implications of this? Where have I seen this before? How does this relate to my other readings? How can this be applied in real life? We all read the same material but we perceive it differently. Why is that? What can we learn from that? (We will never know if we are not truly engaged in the process).
We should not stifle our ideas by skimming our readings. And yes, I realize that sometimes skimming is necessary. However, more often than not, we skim because we don’t feel like reading the text; we do not find it interesting. But by reading a little more closely we can get a lot more out of our homework than mere completion. The readings need to get done anyway, why not enjoy them? Putting more thought and energy into reading also means you are more likely to remember the information. Of course, the methods that work for me do not work for everyone. That’s why we, as students, need to be creative in our approach to reading because we are distinctly different learners who need to use unique methods in order to reach our potential in reading comprehension.