Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Total Recall Requires Grit and Scientology?

Written by: on October 19, 2017

Derek Rowntree’s Learn How to Study: Developing the Study Skills and Approaches to Learning that Will Help you Succeed in University, is a comprehensive and systematic approach to studying and is helpful for anyone who wants to grow as a learner. If you have never read Rowntree’s text I suggest you begin with Chapter Five: Developing a Strategy for Reading. In contrast to Rowntree’s own advice at the beginning of the book, chapter five helps the learner to dive into applying the content as soon as they begin and puts the most important template of the text, the SQ3R (survey, question, read, recall and review) into immediate use.

The SQ3R was introduced to me as a document on one of the first days of my doctoral program but was not something I analyzed or even began applying until I saw it again in Rowntree’s text. I knew it was a helpful tip in those first moments of our DMIN program, but quite honestly, the flood of information coming at me caused this to sink to the back of my mind. I did not even remember where to locate the document our lead mentor had created for us. Once our days in our doctoral face to face were over, we moved on to our next text, Adler’s How to Read a Book, and I figured I was set with my study habits. Little did I realize the SQR3 would creep up again and cause me grief, or grit as Rowntree calls it, in persevering to become a better student.

Without recounting the depth of Rowntree’s explanation (or Dr. Clark’s much preferred one page version for that matter) on how to do the SQ3R, here is why I believe the habit of survey, questioning, reading, recalling and reviewing is so valuable. First, a survey of the text provides a quick overview, creating the opportunity to decide if the book should be read in its entirety or just picked through for key content. I appreciate surveying as I can glean much in a short period of time and it sets me up to dive more deeply into key sections and skip entire sections that do not currently apply (such as the final chapter on examinations in Rowntree).

Questioning begins the process of critical thinking and creates an investment into the learning and not just elementary reading for the sake of understanding. When I ask questions I become curious and I want to hunt down answers. If I am going to make an investment of my time in a text, I want to do so because I have a desire to gain something from it and asking questions is the first gateway to own what I’ve read.

Reading seems like a fairly obvious part of studying. To study a book or learn you must read it, or at least part of it. Rowntree expands on reading by taking two chapters to discuss how to read critically. I will not expand here except to say that reading is in the center of the SQ3R and is much less effective if done without the other four aspects. Thus, reading is only one important aspect of studying.

Recall is probably the most helpful and least used aspect of the SQ3R. Recall shifts reading to the part of the brain that stores memory. I believe recall is little used unless there is a prompt, which Rowntree often does. Most people, myself included, prefer to plow through the text, hoping to retain the information through highlights and quick notes. This is where studying becomes painful and requires perseverance and a willingness to go slow. I expect this is also why I remember few of the texts I have read in the past. If I don’t immediately talk about them or do something with them, I forget them. Probably the most influential way I owned content I was not interested in learning in my life was when I worked for a legal transcription company in Burbank, CA. I did not know until I started training in my temporary position that the management of the company were Scientologists and used L. Ron Hubbard’s methods of learning via tactile items such as blocks to recreate and explain a process so as to get the process from the mind into your hands to be able to both see and do the work for which we were being trained. In that position, I was trained quickly and easily because I used the recall method often and in a variety of ways.

Creating space to recall is an area of ongoing struggle. It seems unnecessary until I try to recall the information much later, only to realize I have forgotten what I thought I knew (which makes me question the amount of time I spent in the first place with the content). ‘Do less more’ is a phrase my husband and I use when we realize we need to create margins in our life and focus on quality over quantity. I would say recall fits well within the ‘do less more’ category to help my studying improve in quality.

Review is the final step of the study strategy and is a technique I learned in my first biblical interpretation class. Once finishing a text, any text, write down whatever notes I have stored in my brain, whether question or answers or important facts or even musings on the topic. Review is where digestion and application begin to really take shape.

Though much of Rowntree’s content would be well suited for an online tutorial with video inserts and quizzes, I believe the SQ3R is worth personally applying as a student and can be useful across a variety of disciplines including lectures or meetings as well as for video content. The system of surveying and questioning before reading then reading for a purpose and finally stopping at meaningful points to recall and review are foundational to growing as a student. Even though there were many points at which I preferred to clean the gutters of my house or file our financial receipts for the year I realized self-control was staying at my desk to gather the most important aspects of Rowntree’s text.[1]


[1] I did at one point stop reading to get a screwdriver and remove the drawer from underneath my desk which made me feel productive although it did not help me in any review of what I had read. See the picture for the removal of the drawer. All that leg room is awesome. Ignore the study zone mess on my desk.

About the Author

Trisha Welstad

Trisha is passionate about investing in leaders to see them become all God has created them to be. As an ordained Free Methodist elder, Trisha has served with churches in LA and Oregon, leading as a pastor of youth and spiritual formation, a church planter, and as a co-pastor of a church restart. Trisha currently serves as leadership development pastor at Northside Community Church in Newberg, OR. Over the last five years Trisha has directed the Leadership Center, partnering with George Fox and the Free Methodist and Wesleyan Holiness churches. The Leadership Center is a network facilitating the development of new and current Wesleyan leaders, churches and disciples through internships, equipping, mentoring and scholarship. In collaboration with the Leadership Center, Trisha serves as the director of the Institute for Pastoral Thriving at Portland Seminary and with Theologia: George Fox Summer Theology Institute. She is also adjunct faculty at George Fox University. Trisha enjoys throwing parties, growing food, listening to the latest musical creations by Troy Welstad and laughing with her two children.

16 responses to “Total Recall Requires Grit and Scientology?”

  1. Kyle Chalko says:

    Trish, great explanation of the reading method. I too preferred Jason’s 1 page version! A video version of this would certainly help too!

    My big issue might be too not scan too much now!

    • Trisha Welstad says:

      Kyle, wouldn’t you love to show your students a mini-version of Rowntree’s work via video tutorial? I feel most of my students would benefit from it. Shoot, if I could do a video tutorial of our past three books online I would probably be seriously owning them right now. I guess that’s another reason for the SQ3R- no video equals do it myself. Ha!

  2. Jennifer Williamson says:

    So do you have any additional tips (Scientology-based or otherwise) that could enhance or strengthen what Rowntree suggested to do during the Recall phase of reading? I agree that this is likely the elast practised step. At least I know it is for me. And I could use some motivation/inspiration to give it a whirl.

    • Trisha Welstad says:

      I have no Scientology wisdom except steer clear of their storefronts as they are serious proselytizers. I do think flash cards and conversations with people post reading or during breaks helps. Maybe we could have a little video chat sometime after having done the first few steps of S, Q and R to then recall together.

  3. Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Trish,

    The only knowledge of Scientology that I have is from news reports about Tom Cruise and Leah Remeni. Not very academic or appropriate sources…

    Great thoughts on “grit” and I appreciate your quote, “persevering to become a better student.” I think you are persevering, as we all are, on our growth journey during our studies.

  4. Greg says:

    I agree that Rowntree’s book is an introduction to university to students. That is probably I was immediately put off and decided very early on in the reading that I could learn very little from this book. I know not a good way to approach a book, but one that shaped by initial personal review.

    I appreciated the reminder of Chapter 5 and the SQ3R. By this time in the text I was already putting together by blog and not reading for recall. There is something about putting pen to paper that helps me remember that important notes that I want. The kindle version of all our books allow is to highlight interesting passages that we can look back at, but usually don’t remember longer than the next day.

    You wrote, “Though much of Rowntree’s content would be well suited for an online tutorial with video…” I like the idea of making this book into something watchable and maybe bit-size (or fun size as we are getting ready for Halloween candy). In the original movie, “Total Recall” the character had to work at remembering the important things in his past. In fact it took 2 movie hours to discover all the necessary information to live the life he wanted. Hopefully creating short tutorials wouldn’t take as long and would introduce Rowntree to a whole new audience.

    • Trisha Welstad says:

      Greg, I am glad you dove into my movie theme (though I didn’t mention it in my post). Although it’s been a long time since seeing Total Recall I thought the theme went together well. It just seems that we should be able to remember more than we do and more practice at slowing down or breaking for the memory to engage is a helpful practice.

  5. Trish, I am still chuckling as I imagine you with a screwdriver removing your drawer. Rowntree does encourage us to create a helpful environment for learning, so you did learn from the book!

    Have you been able to apply any of the SQ3R method to your current reading for your research yet? For my first article, I took notes and diagrammed the article on paper; after that, I wrote up a quick summary (the beginning of an annotation) on the book in Zotero. Do you have any other ideas that would help recall and review?

    • Trisha Welstad says:

      The drawer needed to go. I kept banging my knee on it. I decided I needed a footnote that was more my own commentary was an appropriate place to add my personal experience of lack of self-control and need for organization. Check out the picture I added at the bottom of my post for the amended desk. 🙂

      I have created a spider diagram (which is behind me during our zoom chats if you look closely) and am just beginning the research but plan to implement it as I know it will really help me own the content.

      Oh, my other ideas, as I mentioned to Jenn, are flash cards on some, conversations as I am a verbal processor, and I think diagrams as well.

  6. Trisha your post was absolutely hilarious and I love how you immediately applied the SQ3R principles right away. I’m also glad you felt productive with your desk drawer :-). I agree with you that a quick video tutorial would be way less painful and helpful. Great post and hopefully we can connect next weekend in Newberg.

  7. Jason Turbeville says:


    I too appreciate the recall aspect of SQ3R as well. It has always been my achilles heel if you will. Hopefully with Dr. Clark’s leadership and maybe some of my new friends insight I can get better at it as well. Thanks for the post.

  8. Chris Pritchett says:

    This was a helpful post as a concise summary of SQ3R and it’s intersections with your writing and work as a student. For me, I struggle with the discipline of review. Too quickly I want to just move on to the next thing without taking the time to review. The book reminded me of its importance and your easy way of jotting notes makes it seem attainable. I wonder which of the aspects of the method come easiest and hardest for you?

  9. Danielle says:

    I have similar challenges recalling the information I’ve learned. I want to be able to talk about what I’ve learned or develop it into a tool for my work or relationships, but life is so busy and packed with mental requirements. If there were nothing else going on, recollecting might be easier. Recollection though can be critical still. Thanks for the reminder that it’s an intentional effort!

  10. Adam McGuffie says:

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