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Thinker's Guide Series / How to Study & Learn

How to Study and Learn
Dr. Richard Paul
Dr. Linda Elder

A variety of strategies - both simple and complex - for becoming not just a better student, but also a master student.

Author: Richard Paul and Linda Elder
Publisher: Foundation for Critical Thinking
Copyright: 2001
Pages: 48
Dimensions: 51/4" x 8"
ISBN: 0-944583-11-3
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Part I: Laying the Foundations

18 Ideas for Becoming a Master Student
How To Study and Learn a Discipline
How To Learn With Discipline
How To Identify an Underlying Concept for the Subjects You Study
How To Understand Content Through Thinking: A Key To Deep Learning How To Identify The Structure of A Discipline (The Elements of Thought)
How To Figure Out the Form of Thinking Essential To Courses or Subjects
How To Think Within the Ideas of the Subject
How To Analyze the Logic of An Article, Essay, or Chapter
How To Figure Out the Logic of A Textbook
How To Understand Ideas
How To Control (& Not Be Controlled By) Ideas
How To Understand Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening & Thinking
How to Learn Ideas From Textbooks

Part II: Following Through

How Good a Student Are You Now? Test Yourself
How To Think Through The Defining Traits of the Disciplined Mind
How To Understand Fundamental Intellectual Standards
How To Question Using Intellectual Standards
How to Evaluate An Author's Reasoning
How To Raise Important Questions Within A Subject
How To Distinguish One-System From Competing-Systems Disciplines
How To Ask Questions About Fields of Study
How To Ask Questions About Textbooks
How To Understand The Logic of Biochemistry (An Example)
How To Think Biologically (An Example)
How To Think Historically (An Example)
How To Understand The Role of Questions in Thinking & Learning
How To Distinguish Inert Information and Activated Ignorance from Activated Knowledge
A Test To Repeat In Every Class & Subject

Why A Mini-Guide On How To Study & Learn?

This miniature guide is designed not only for students but also for administrators and faculty, to remind us all of the essence of what it is to study academic subjects with discipline. It does not aim to take the intellectual work out of learning---for this would be an insult to the intelligence of our readers. It contributes, rather, toward making intellectual work and deep learning more manageable, practical, and intuitive. Its goal is to foster lifelong learning and the traditional ideal of a liberally educated mind: a mind that questions, probes, and masters a variety of forms of knowledge, through command of itself, intellectual perseverance, and the tools of learning. It respects equally the traditions of John Henry Newman, Bertrand Russell, and Albert Einstein.

It does not answer all questions, but rather puts all questions into a clear perspective. It emphasizes that all bona fide fields of study share common intellectual structures and standards of reasonability. It emphasizes that foundational intellectual structures and standards of reasonability are worth learning explicitly and in themselves, since they help us more deeply interconnect and understand all that we learn. It also emphasizes foundational intellectual dispositions and values that define the traits of the disciplined thinker in all fields: intellectual autonomy, intellectual humility, intellectual integrity, intellectual perseverance, intellectual empathy, confidence in reason, and fair-mindedness. On every page, it honors the idea and power of intellectual work.

It scorns the idea of knowledge as the memorizing of bits and pieces of information, or as the mere accumulation of so many units or institutional credits. It rejects both dogmatic absolutism and intellectual relativism. It warns us of the danger of ignorance and misconception, and by implication, that of self-deception and illusion in human affairs. It emphasizes the importance of contrasting disciplines whose questions are, by and large, answerable in definitive ways, with those whose questions require multiple perspectives, role-playing, and reasoned judgment. It distinguishes, in short, one-system subjects like physics, chemistry, and math (where disagreement between experts plays a minor role) from competing-systems subjects like history, psychology, and art (where expert disagreement plays a major role).

If this mini-guide is successful, it will serve as a resource to which one can return again and again to garner new depth of meaning and understanding. What is worth learning is worth learning well, and there is nothing better worth learning than the very process of learning itself: the development---through systematic intellectual work---of the arts, habits, and strategies of a DISCIPLINED mind.


I am incorpororating the How to Study & Learn miniature guide into the course as well during spring term. Thank you for the exam copy. I plan to use it along with the text and the "little blue book" Critical Thinking Concepts & Tools. One valuable part in the "little yellow book" is the essential idea at the bottom of each page. One technique I tried this last quarter in class was to have students write down one key concept or idea they felt they had learned that day in class. It was an effective way for me to gauge their understanding of what had been discussed in class. When I did this during the last five minutes of class, it was also an effective review because I called on several students to read aloud the key idea or concept.

Another valuable characteristic of How to Study & Learn is that it speaks to the student as if s/he is a real human being. Students appreciate that they are engaged in the process. I am also going to use this miniature guide as a source of reading material when I teach students to critically read. The passages are short and will work well for this exercise. As I use this new guide, I will let you know how students respond to it...kudos for your work.

Cindy Lienhart
Education Instructor
Blue Mountain Community College

Or, pick up our set of 15 mini guides, including this one:
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