Study Tips from the Top US Engineering University

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Aug 2, 2016

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The 10th and 12th standards are critical school years – which unfortunately fall right in the middle of the Age of Distraction. Right when teenagers need to be able to focus most, there are increasing demands and options for their time and mental and emotional engagement.

But there are ways to help them channel their attention. Over the past 25 years, we have supervised the Homework Hotline at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a free service in the United States for any student of any age needing help with mathematics and science questions. During that time, we’ve fielded more than 1 million homework questions ranging from simple multiplication tables to more complicated calculus problems.

Our tutors report that many of the students who call are distracted as they try to absorb guidance. So we offer these study tips to parents to help their students develop a successful study routine by avoiding the three most common distractions.

Study tips for students

1. Avoid social media

It probably comes as no surprise that the lure of social media is the most challenging temptation to overcome when doing homework. Many students have unfettered access to it because they need to be online to do research, download question papers or watch Internet tutorials. A ‘quick check’ of Facebook or Instagram can be hard to resist – and may not be quick.

Content-control software is one very effective way to avoid the social media trap. This type of software blocks access to designated websites for a specified period of time. So, for the hour a student spends online doing  research, he won’t see incoming alerts and messages or even be able to open social media sites.

Many students want to improve their concentration and embrace this solution; the website How To Learn reports 64% of students completed more homework when they, not their parents, managed their own content-control software.

Cold Turkey, Self Control, Stay-Focused, Browse Control and Focus Me are popular examples of content-control software, and several offer trial downloads. An effective way to introduce the software to your child could be to have him activate it during evening family time.

2. Stop the texting

One of the hardest habits to break during homework is texting. But studies show texting while doing homework results in a weaker grasp of subject matter, reduced memory of homework lessons, increased time to complete assignments and acceleration of brain fatigue. Turning off the smartphone is really the best solution; silent mode still allows a student to check it regularly.

Encourage students to use their spare time in pursuits that don’t involve technology, like reading a book, so they get used to disconnecting periodically. And consider collecting your child’s mobile during homework time. Unlike social media management, parental involvement is generally the best line of defense against texting, as there’s no software to help the teen do it on her own.

3. Arrange quiet surroundings

Sometimes the chatter among family members or their questions and invitations to join family conversations can break a student’s concentration.

“When kids call us, sometimes we can hear people in the background,” says Sarah Walker, a Rose-Hulman student and supervising tutor at the Homework Hotline. “Their mom is trying to talk to them or ask what they want for dinner. It must be really distracting to them, because it’s distracting to me.”

Where a student works on homework is a very important piece of the homework puzzle. Students, along with their parents, should give serious thought to the best places to study. For most students, a calm, quiet place is usually the best choice. In metros, where space is at a premium, this may or may not be your home; consider helping your child identify a safe and quiet location elsewhere, like his school library or an unused event room in your complex.

If it is your home, help your teen identify the best spot and enlist the support of all family members, particularly if you’re living in a joint family, in making sure the student is not disturbed when in the homework area.

Additionally, as much as you are able, try to factor in your child’s study schedule in planning family activities or gatherings. Family obligations are important, and no student wants to miss the fun – or sacrifice studying to fulfill his duty.

Helping to reduce homework distractions is not always easy – for students or parents. But with these tips for studying and commitment to a few simple practices, families can help their pupils achieve more productive study time.

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Written By Susan Smith Roads & Lindsay Hull

Susan Smith Roads is the director of the Homework Hotline and Lindsay Hull is its associate director. Homework Hotline is a tutoring service provided to American intermediate and high school students by Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Rose-Hulman is the No. 1 undergraduate engineering university in the US, as ranked by CollegeChoice.net, and, for the past 17 years, the country’s best engineering university among institutions that do not offer the PhD, as ranked by US News.

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