Why Studying Is So Hard, and What Teachers Can Do to Help

When psychology professors Angela Duckworth and Ethan Kross began working on a secondary school curriculum that merged the science of academic self-regulation and the latest research on student learning, they felt that a critical piece was missing: the development of good study habits.

“That’s when they called me and said: ‘Would you be interested in working on this project?’” says Daniel Willingham, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia specializing in neuroscience and education—with a focus on memory and learning—and author of the new book, Outsmart Your Brain: Why Learning is Hard and How You Can Make It Easy

Once Willingham joined the team, developing and distributing a research-based study skills curriculum geared to middle and high school students, teachers began asking him for printed resources. “It would be great to have something written, something to put in our hands so that when you’re not here, we have another resource,” Willingham says, recounting a typical conversation with teachers. “I did a pretty exhaustive search of what was available on study skills, and I didn’t love any of them. There really was a need for something that’s up-to-date and comprehensive.”

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