Painful But Helpful
I have to say, Derek Rowntree’s book, Learn How to Study: Developing the study skills and approaches to learning that will help you succeed in university, was painful for me to read. His writing style was overly elementary and his constant dialogue back and forth with the reader was annoying. Although he had some helpful concepts in the book, it was difficult for me to stay engaged long enough to extract the helpful tidbit. I actually found myself getting angry while reading it and could barely get through the skimming process. I will attempt to write this blog post without gouging my eyes out. It was also surprising to me that the helpful study tool that Jason Clark presented to us, SQ3R, came from this book. Since I do need to touch on a few aspects of the book to write my post, I will comment on the learning process, understanding new ideas, SQ3R, and critical reading. These four aspects of the book impacted me (although painful in the process) because they all resonated with what I feel weakest in when it comes to my study skills.
His quote, “learning is a process that leads to a product.”, was rather simple yet profound, and succinctly described the process I am embarking on when it comes to the process of learning about my topic of choice in hopes to come out with the product of a dissertation. I do think this process of learning I am starting will be very different than past endeavors. In the past, I would often learn or study something just to pass a test or write a paper. Now I am seeking the learning process in order to become an expert on my topic and to write a dissertation that will summarize my learning. I don’t think I will remember everything I study or learn, but I have a feeling I will become so immersed in the subject matter that the information will almost become second nature to me. I guess one of my hopes is that “I” will become one of the products that come out of this process of learning. That I will be a changed person as a result so that I will be more equipped to have an impact on people God places in my path.
The following tips when it comes to understanding new ideas laid out by Rowntree was helpful, so I thought it may be helpful to others for me to include them in my post: “•—When you first meet a new idea, look for ways in which it reflects or relates to your own experience (whether of life or of your subject). •—Think up your own examples of where or how it might apply. •—Keep alert for examples in other people’s writings or lectures. •—Find out what more than one author has to say about the new idea. •—Satisfy yourself that you can define it or express it in your own words. •—Discuss the new idea with your colleagues and tutors. •—Write a couple of paragraphs explaining a new idea to a friend (even if you don’t show it to them or ask for their comments). •—Draw diagrams to illustrate the relationship between new concepts and principles. •—Use the new idea in your written assignments or in class discussions. •—Get feedback that will tell you if you are misapplying a new idea and help you refine your understanding.” I know I will be coming across many new ideas in my research and I want to make sure I get the most understanding and am able to articulate those ideas to others in a clear and concise manner. The above tips are practical things I can easily put into practice and utilize.
The five stages of tackling reading material, Survey, Question, Read, Recall, and Review (SQ3R), is another simple, yet profound nugget from the book. It quickly rang a bell from when Dr. Clark presented it to us in Cape Town, I thought it was clever and easy to remember then and I do now. I think the following steps will come in handy when diving into the vast amounts of reading material in front of me. Starting with what we have learned from some of our previous readings, taking a general Survey of the material seems the best way to accurately preview the material for appropriate content. I enjoyed the next step because it encouraged me to ask Questions about what I might expect to find answers to. I love asking questions and consider myself very curious, so this should be an easy step for me. Next, I need to Read the text, but I appreciated that he emphasized reading carefully only the areas of the material that seems worthwhile. The Recall stage seems the hardest for me, but I feel it is the most important step in order to walk away from the text with the main ideas, making your time spent worthwhile. Many times I will read a book quickly and move on to another task without ever stopping to see what I actually gleaned from the book. An even harder task for me to do is go back and Review what I just read in order to confirm that my recall was accurate. This will take discipline and time that I’m sure will be beneficial but I doubt I will take the time to do very often. It seems hard enough to read the material, let alone go back and reread it.
The part about critical reading struck a chord with me because I just had a discussion with Jason Clark about my need to grow in this area when it comes to my writing and reviewing of books. Since I tend to focus on the positive and look for something to affirm in people, I do the same for things in print. Rowntree helped me out when he said, “Unfortunately, many people assume that being critical means trying to find fault. Critical reading is not about looking for faults; but it does involve keeping alert for faults — or shall we use a slightly kinder word and say flaws? We need to keep looking at texts objectively and remaining aware of both their strengths and their weaknesses.” I appreciate the perspective of looking at the strengths and weaknesses of a particular book and realize that, just like people, no one and no book is perfect. So glad to be done with the book and the blog post.
 Derek Rowntree. Learn How to Study: Developing the study skills and approaches to learning that will help you succeed in university: A virtual tutorial with Professor Derek Rowntree. Kindle ed. (Wappingers Falls, NY: Beekman Books, 1989). Location 2043.
 Ibid., 482.
 Ibid., 675-688.
 Ibid., 2053.
 Ibid., 2053.
 Ibid., 2546
8 responses to “Painful But Helpful”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Please “Do Not” gouge your eyes out. I know someone close to you that can help you talk through your Walter Mitty matters. After getting to know you in Cape Town and on Face-to-Face I agree, you fit the questioner role in SQ3R. Regarding your dissertation research question how did you answer; What is in this for me? And second, what are the questions that the researchers before me are not willing to ask?
Nice transparent reflection on the critical reading part, thank you. I like the adage, “Trust-but-verify” as a guide. I think we should take people at their word for the most part, but if you apply the spiritual warfare element to humankind, then there is a God-lens of scholarship that I believe we as Christian leaders should apply. This divine level of critical analysis is not intended to catch the author or scholar at fault per se, because this is not a battle between flesh-and-blood, but rather to unmask bias, prejudices, subjectivity, relativism, and lies, which are the Biblically stated schemes of the devil. Peer-reviewed journal articles and book reviews from trustworthy theologians helps us see the God-lens in action. Great post!
I, too, am trying to work on my critical reading skills. That is why I appreciated it when you said, “Unfortunately, many people assume that being critical means trying to find fault. Critical reading is not about looking for faults; but it does involve keeping alert for faults — or shall we use a slightly kinder word and say flaws?”
Thanks for the reminder! I don’t want to be a critical curmudgeon, but will keep looking for flaws with you…
In the SQ3R model, the last two Rs are the most challenging for me as well – recall and review. I think that is where we will really begin to develop our competencies as researchers when we begin to discipline ourselves to recall and review all that we read.
I am interested to know how you think Rowntree will advance you in your quest to write an incredible dissertation? What can you bring from this slow-moving book to your research activities?
Thanks for your comments. I think Rowntree will help me in getting what I need from the stacks of books I will need to review and help me with good study habit reminders.
I too have been weary of this repetitive topic. I wonder if those in ministry have to find themselves looking for the positive during times or events (or even books) that we struggle with. I too have a difficult time engaging with the author critically. It is so easy to simple say, “yea that sucked”, rather than explaining the reasons. I also tend to find the kernel the nugget that hides in the field of ordinary dirt. Since Jason and I had a similar conversation, this is undoubtedly a normal journey for those in this program. I am glad you put down the eye poking stick long enough to write your blog.
Strong post with some helpful reminders. You were able to do what I could not and that was see through the painful writing style to find useful and valuable insights. The tips you shared were well chosen and are a good reminder to all of us to continue to look for wisdom that will help us grow as learners. Thanks for you positivity.
It was difficult but thanks Dan