An enabler of better learning is improving a student’s STUDYING ENVIRONMENT. The area that students use for schoolwork has a big influence on their “work flow”, or the state of mind where they are totally immersed in the current task. Here are 5 areas to consider altering to help students design the optimal study environment.
(1) Location: The studying location can reduce the friction involved in getting into your work by giving you easy access to the tools and resources you may need. It is helpful to have a dedicated spot that has all the items needed for homework or other school tasks. Having a large flat surface with pens/pencils, scrap paper, calculators, books, and a comfortable chair can reduce the interruptions that stop the “work flow.”
However, when studying for tests, some studies suggest that switching up the study environment helps your brain create multiple associations with the same material, thus increasing the chances of remembering that information. Try studying in different areas of the house on the days leading up to a test.
(2) Study Music/Sound: Some people think listening to music while studying it hurts your concentration, others think it helps. For me, it definitely increases my concentration and lowers my ability to get distracted.
However, the type of music I prefer depends on the type of work I’m doing. When it comes to writing, reading, critical thinking, or studying, I like calm, instrumental (no words) music or ambient nature sounds (rain, waves, wind). This helps block out other sound distractions and keeps me in my “work flow”. Help your student experiment with different types of music to see what works best for them. I also recommend using noise cancelling headphones.
(3) Distractions: Distractions are the biggest threat to effective studying. Anything that will pull you out of your “work flow” will limit your effectiveness and productivity. Try to help your student set up an environment that get them away from the things that will interrupt their studying time. This includes friends, siblings, pets, and even parents! ☺
(4) Technology Distractions: Technology distractions are the biggest risk to “work flow” in today’s world. This includes the internet, cell phones, tablets, and TVs.
For the internet, there are some great apps that can block certain time-wasting websites. Also, I suggest your student’s study location be free from phones and TVs. This will limit their need to want to constantly check for messages and news.
(5) Timing: It has been shown that studying and doing homework for 25-30 minute spurts actually enhances productivity. After that time, take a short 5-minute break (take a walk, get a glass of water, do some jumping jacks) and get back to it for another 25-30 minutes and repeat until you complete your task.