Effective study environments, please note the plural here, are key to effective studying. Why plural and not singular? After all, if you study in a single place, you have all your materials and tools at hand. Your books are there, pens, pencils, your computer and so on. Research shows that a singular space for study is actually detrimental to learning. Part of the problem of single space study environments appears to be complacency. This complacency leads to boredom and a profound lack of concentration. No matter how you look at it, that is not good for studying.
Effective Study Environments: The Benefit of the Plural
If, as research suggests, you vary your study environments, your success rate climbs. Your memory appears enhanced. Your ability to recall increases. Most importantly, your capacity to make meaningful connections grows. If one of the clear purposes of learning is to make connections, then multiple study environments must be effective.
Effective Study Environments: Making Choices
By choosing effective study environments you are doing yourself a favor. No matter how you learn, you learn better by studying in a variety of places. Even inside of your home, where most students must study while still in grade school, there is potential variety. If you have a private spot in your home, that is one place. Another is the kitchen table. One student I had used to study in the bathroom because no one would bother her there. If there is a basement that is a good place to set up a desk and a study-lamp. During warm months, studying on the back porch is always an option. A friend of mine in college studied in his family's garage in high school. Finding a place is not that difficult. A little detective work will go a long way.
Effective Study Environments: Other Choices for Older Students
All through graduate school, I had four favorite places to study. The first was the school's library. I studied there when I had to refer to more texts than I could carry around with me. I also selected the library when I needed dead quiet because I was working on difficult material.
For more general studying, review or writing, I chose a chain of coffee shops. Here I could get a caffeine fix while reading, writing or reviewing material. I could get something to eat if I needed extra energy. I could listen to background music and take in the white noise of other's conversations. I also suggested this alternative when two or more of us were working on similar projects. It was a good place to confer with peers.
The third place was my desk at home. In fact, I had an entire room dedicated to my academic work. My study was a sacred place. When I shut the door no one, not my wife or my kids dared to enter. If I left the door open, the room was fair game for anyone to enter. This space was where I did my academic writing and deepest thinking. In fact, after graduate school, my study remained the place where I did the same kind of work.
Finally, the last place I chose for study was the school cafeteria. I found it comforting to be around a lot of people while I engaged in learning. Sometimes I even looked for colleagues to take a break from the work I was doing. There was nothing like it. Noise in all directions (I sat in the middle). The smell of food wafting through the air. White noise. Who could ask for more?
Effective Study Environments: How to Vary Place
Deciding how to vary where you study is a difficult undertaking. If you are well-organized, you might wish to make a schedule. If you are like me, I made selections based on what I needed to get done. There is no single way to make this decision; what counts is that you make it. You'll be glad you did.