DSSToolkit2010 Adamo - Center for Development of Human Services

An Academic Toolkit
for Adult Learners
Critical Thinking
The Adult Learner’s Toolkit
for Academic Success
Preparing for Classroom Instruction
Preview and go through a new lesson before class.
Pay attention to what is said in class and take mental and written notes. Whenever you take notes, you
should not only use your hands but also use your brain; you should keep yourself brainstorming.
Ask questions. This is most basic way to learn. Do not be ashamed or afraid to ask questions. There are no
stupid questions. As the saying goes "Those who ask may be a fool for 5 minutes, but those who don't will be a
fool forever."
Review what you learned after class. If necessary, work at it until you know the required work by heart.
Underline sections of your notes or portions of your text that you don't understand well so you can
raise your problems and discuss them with your classmates and teachers in class.
Make use of resources online, finding what you need to replenish and reinforce your learning and make
real world connections with your courses.
Do the homework your teacher assigns and turn in on time.
Lead a healthy lifestyle. Have good sleeping habits and eat vegetables and fruits as often as possible. This
way, you can be in shape and have more energy to learn.
Put what you learned into real life practice. It’s not only the most important part but also continues the
process of learning.
Make a Task List
A to do list is basically a task list that makes it easier to concentrate on your subject. It does this by
making you think only about one issue at a time.
Have problems concentrating? Believe it or not, you are not alone! The first thing we need to
do - before we can find a remedy for this problem - is to define the term "concentration" itself.
According to Princeton University, concentration means: "great and constant diligence and
attention". If concentration is related to attention then that means that we should be able to improve
our concentration by simply becoming more attentive.
Prior to reading the material on concentration, complete the exercise below:
Take out a piece of rough paper and list the rows from 1-10. Then, before you hit the books,
brainstorm 10 'pros' on why you should concentrate. Don't even think about the 'cons', because you'll never
come up with the 'pros' if you think about the 'cons'. And, list out the objectives that you'll achieve after your
Apply The Five More Rule
Instead of just quitting the task all together, you tell yourself to do only 5 more things before you quit.
When these have been accomplished you promise yourself again to only do 5 more things (such as
writing only 5 more pages, solving only 5 more math problems etc). The keyword here is the word
'only'; by decreasing the size of the task cognitively you feel less hesitant to abandon it altogether.
Treat Yourself Like A Child
What do you do when your little child has accomplished a task? Well, you praise the little fellow and
give him/her a reward. Treat yourself in the same manner by offering yourself incentives when ever
you've completed a task. This will improve your motivation which in turn improves your
Why wait? Do It Now!
Procrastination is without doubt one of the biggest enemies you will face as a student. The
temptation to delay your studies will always be strong, to counter this, your will to succeed must be
stronger. Why procrastinate and do something tomorrow if the same task can be done today?
Remove all possible distractions:
The sad thing is that we don't always notice when we are being distracted! There are really two kinds
of distractions:
Visible distractions, such as someone who is having a lengthy (and boring) discussion with
you, during your 'official study time'. Each and every "cell in your body" tells you that this is very
Those distractions not picked up by 'our radar'. This type is actually worse than the previous
one. You can always tell your annoying friend that you're busy but how on earth will you rid yourself
from something that you're not even aware of in the first place?
Examples of such distractions are (in no particular order); talking with someone on a topic
that interests you, watching a movie while studying/working, listening to music and so forth. All of
these things are distracting you from your studies even though you're not thinking about it. The best
way to avoid these types of distractions is by avoiding them from the start.
Additional causes for a lack of concentration:
Fatigue – from sleep deprivation is the most common cause for an inability to concentrate on one
topic for very long. Sleep deprivation may have serious physical, emotional and cognitive effects.
Solution – find a way to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night.
Anxiety – another cause for the inability to concentrate. Are you dealing with pressures?
Solution - It may be time to change your life in a serious way to eliminate some of the stressors. Is
your schedule to heavy?
Excitement - is related to anxiety, but more fun. Things may come along and we begin to
daydream. This can be a problem during exams.
Solution – make a conscious decision to set aside your daydreams until after class.
Diet – another potential problem when it comes to concentration. Your body is like a machine and
needs clean fuel to keep it running well.
Solution – be aware of your body’s response to certain foods and chemicals. Some studies have
linked low-fat diet with symptoms of depression … and, depression could affect your concentration.
Caffeine can also disrupt concentration. Consumption can cause loss of sleep, headaches,
nervousness and dizziness … which in turn can cause a disruption in concentration.
Boredom – another problem when it comes to staying focused on your studies. Boredom stems
from doing something that lacks meaning and motivation.
Solution – what can you do? Find meaning in the work that you are doing.
Every time you prepare to enter a study environment, take a moment for a reality check. What do
you need to accomplish? Why? Concentrate on a goal and reward yourself for reaching that goal.
Improving Study Motivation & Memory
Finding motivation, especially study motivation, is not always easy. However, with a little
effort we can learn how to increase our motivation. Here are a couple of ways of doing it:
1. Offer Yourself Incentives
You should give yourself a prize of some sort when you’ve accomplished a task. It could be
something as simple as sweets or something greater like a vacation.
(Remember, you have to stipulate the exact conditions that you need to fulfill in order to receive the wonderful
2. Remember Past Successes
You need to form a positive image in your brain about your studies. All of us have, on
occasion, experienced success .… we can remember these past successes feel more motivated to
3. Write Down Your Goals
Don’t just think them, don’t just say them, write them down! The written word is so powerful,
that’s why you find salesmen always wanting you to write something down before you actually make
a purchase. By writing your name down, you are in a sense giving your support for their cause. If
then asked to make a purchase you will feel more inclined to do that than if you hadn’t signed the
4. See Your Goals
Don’t just write them down and leave it like that. Put them up on the wall, paste small post-it
notes all over the place. You have to keep on reminding yourself the purpose behind your studies
and what type of results you’re expecting to achieve.
Exercise your brain. Regularly “exercising” the brain keeps it growing and spurs the development of
new nerve connections that can help improve memory. By developing new mental skills… especially
complex ones such as learning a new language or musical instrument … and challenging your brain
with puzzles and games, you can keep your brain active and improve its physiological functioning.
Try crossword puzzles or Sudoku for several minutes every day.
Brain training games: http://www.lumosity.com/
General Tips to Improve Memory
In addition to exercising your brain, there are some basic things you can do to improve
your ability to retain and retrieve memories:
1. Pay attention. You can’t remember something if you never learned it, and you
can’t learn something if you don’t pay attention to it. It takes approximately eight
seconds of intentional focus to process a piece of information through your
hippocampus and into the appropriate memory center. Therefore, NO
multitasking when you need to concentrate.
2. Tailor information acquisition to your learning style. Most individuals are visual
learners; they learn best by reading or seeing what it is they have to know.
3. Involve as many senses as possible. Even if you are a visual learner, read
out loud what you want to remember.
4. Relate information to what you already know. Connect new material to
information you already remember.
5. Organize information. Write things down in datebooks and calendars; take
notes on more complex material and reorganize the notes into categories later.
Use both words and pictures.
6. Understand and be able to interpret complex material. For more complex
material, focus on understanding basic ideas rather than memorizing isolated
details. Be able to explain it to someone else in your own words.
7. Rehearse information frequently and “over-learn”. Review what you’ve
learned the same day you learn it, and at intervals thereafter.
8. Be motivated and keep a positive attitude. Tell yourself that you want to
learn what you need to remember, and that you can learn and remember it.
Telling yourself you have a bad memory actually hampers the ability of your brain
to remember, while positive mental feedback sets up an expectation of success.
Critical Thinking
Critical thinking skills are developed through the practice of questioning. An inquisitive
attitude and a willingness to challenge assumptions – one’s own as well as others’ – help spark
critical thought. However, skepticism must be balanced by the ability to evaluate the source of
information and ideas, distinguish fact from opinion, and adjust one’s own thought processes to
accommodate new perceptions. The best way to develop critical thinking skills is to actively
engage in the learning process.
Tips for those choosing to think critically:
1. Become an expert at distinguishing between fact and opinion. View opinions as
curious, interesting ideas not to be taken seriously or acted upon.
2. Challenge opinions at every opportunity, in an agreeable, non-confrontational
3. Become familiar with practices that are characteristic of critical thinkers. If you
value these qualities and recognize their usefulness, you will quite naturally
practice them in your own life situations. (Source: adapted from S. Ferrett, Peak
Performance [1997]).
 Ask pertinent questions
 Assess statements and arguments
 Readily admit a lack of understanding or information
 Maintain of sense of curiosity
 Be interested in finding new solutions
 Be willing to examine beliefs, assumptions, and opinions
 Listen carefully to others and give feedback
 Make critical thinking a lifelong process of self-assessment
 Suspend judgment until all facts have been gathered and
 Look for evidence to support assumptions and beliefs
 Look for proof
4. Take pride in becoming a flip-flopper. Flip-flopping can be a good thing;
changing your mind in the face of new evidence is difficult and contrary to human
nature, but might be evidence of critical thinking. According to Bob Ludlow,
“there is only one way to think, and that’s in accordance with the rules for
scientific inquiry. Sound and reliable evidence is the gold standard for decisionmaking. Humans are not hard-wired for scientific thinking, which requires a great
deal of discipline and humility, as well as a willingness to suspend judgment.
Degree Navigator
Degree Navigator (DN) is Buffalo State College’s web-based degree audit system. You could
look up Intellectual Foundations courses, major requirements of your major, as well as, grades
and additional degree information.
To find your username and password for BSC, Degree Navigator and ANGEL:
* Go to BSC homepage, click on MYBUFFSTATE, and click on “Students”. Choose
“Username/Banner ID Lookup”.
If you need assistance, visit the Computer Help desk in the reference area of Butler
The default password is the first six (6) digits of your Social Security number.
Using Degree Navigator (DN):
Go to Degree Navigator www.buffalostate.edu, click on MYBUFFSTATE and click
“Students”. DN is in the Toolbox section.
If entering DN for the first time, you may be asked to read and adopt the BSC Code
of Conduct.
On the right side of the screen, click on degree program to view your audit.
Help Finding Your Audit Report:
Contact your department or email: audit@buffalostate.edu
Complete list of Intellectual Foundation courses: visit the IF website at:
http://www.buffalostate.edu/intellectualfoundations and navigate to courses.
Navigating the Banner System
Banner is the student information/registration system of Buffalo State College. The following is
a quick guide in navigation of the Banner system.
Log in to Banner:
* go to:
* click on the banner icon and enter your Banner ID.
For assistance in retrieving your Banner ID go to:
For assistance in retrieving your username:
* Log in to Banner
* Choose Student and Financial Aid
* Choose Registration
Banner Help for Students
Banner Web site:
Registrar’s Office:
Moot Hall 210
Phone: (716) 878-4811
Helpful Website Addresses
Academic Calendar
Academic Departments
Advisement, Policies, Support
Buffalo State College
Campus maps (parking maps and info)
Course Listings
Refund and liability schedule
Registration and deadline calendar by semester
Registration related links
Undergraduate Catalog
Veteran’s Attendance Form
Memory tips
Concentration tips
Critical thinking
Successful Learner