CREATING A GOOD STUDY ENVIRONMENT   back

The University of Alabama
Center for Academic Success
124 Osband
348-5175

Creating a good study environment allows you to maximize you learning efficiency. When combined with effective time management, high motivation, good reading and note taking skills, and systematic test preparation, a good study environment serves as a catalyst for productive effort.

A good study environment is a highly individualized matter. What’s right for you may not be right for a friend or roommate. As much as possible, you should designate a special place to study. This place should be uncluttered and should provide few distractions to allow for maximum concentration. Needless to say, some study tasks, must be done elsewhere, but having a regular "home base" that you associate with studying helps to reinforce your self-discipline. It also provides a place where essential materials can be stored.

There are three primary considerations in creating your study environment:
     a.  Your most effective and efficient learning style
     b.  The nature of the learning task
     c.  The availability of learning resources

 

Learning style
In determining your learning style, pay attention to your senses. Eliminate things in your environment that interfere with your concentration, and utilize your senses to accommodate learning. Consider the following:

Hearing: What level and what kind of noise can you tolerate? Do you work best in total silence or with a low to moderate noise level? You may be able to concentrate rather well with a jack hammer right outside your window, but a leaky faucet may be intolerable! As a general rule, quieter is better, but listen and decide for yourself.
Sight
: Adequate lighting is a must, and the direction and intensity of the lighting are important factors. Poor lighting is a chief cause of eyestrain and headaches among college students, and improper lighting also leads to fatigue. Coverage of study materials should be even with no shadows or glare. Shielded full-spectrum fluorescents may cause you to be calmer, steadier, and less easily distracted. Another "sight" consideration is the level of movement in your study area. Studying near a major traffic path (whether near a hallway in the dorm or an aisle in the library ) can lead to distractions in watching the passing scenery.
Touch: Your environment should be comfortable but not too comfortable. Slight amounts of muscular tension have been found to increase efficiency and accuracy in mental work. A chair which promotes good posture is a better choice than a recliner or waterbed.
Taste and Smell: Beware of appealing aromas (such as the smell of food coming from a nearby kitchen or exotic colognes worn by the opposite sex) in the immediate vicinity of your study environment. Such distractions, though pleasant, may interfere with concentration. A move to another area might allow for more efficient use of time.

Learning Task: The nature of the learning task sometimes dictates a particular study environment. If heavy-duty memory work is called for, you may want to study alone for awhile and then get together with someone else for a recall drill. For problem-solving, a study group may be your choice, provided the group sets some ground rules about staying on course! This usually works best when group members have done preliminary studying before the group convenes. A large uncluttered work space provides the best accommodation in preparing a project for presentation.

Learning Resources: Accumulate the necessary resources—texts, notebooks, pens, etc. before you begin to study. Plan ahead if an assignment if an assignment requires the use of a book on reserve at the library. Utilize available laboratory facilities when appropriate.

Speaking of resources, do you find yourself with a stock of junk food on hand when studying? Constant nibbling is not only bad for your waistline but also distracts you from studying. Furthermore, a "sugar fix" creates a temporary high, but sugar metabolizes rapidly and you soon "crash" and become drowsy. Try having fresh fruits and vegetables, handy, but save munching time for a study break. Reward yourself with a nutritious snack for your hard work.

A little planning helps too. If you have a class in Comer, why not take your reading list along and use the time after class to go to the reserve room of the library before returning to the dorm. You can waste a lot of time traveling back and forth.

In summary, remember that there is no one best study environment. Determine your best place by being aware of your learning style, the learning tasks, and the required learning resources. Have one regular place to study which offers minimum of distractions; and stand up to intruders, be they roommates, telephones, or pizza.