As a relatively new medical student, something that is often on my mind is metacognition or ‘thinking about thinking’. What I mean by this is that I often wonder about how I learn and if how I’m studying is the best way to support my learning. Recently, I had a meeting with my academic adviser to discuss my current study strategies. She encouraged me to continue with my group studying, approach to anatomy lab, and utilization of study hours and tutors. Her strongest suggestion was switching to a study approach called frontloading.
Prior to lecture:
- Fill out study guide (based on objectives provided by professors)
- Read through PowerPoint, notes, or readings
- Self-assess (either through refilling study guide or available self quizzes)
- Highlight what I’ve missed
- Focus on highlights during lecture, fill out study guide more thoroughly during lecture
My biggest concerns – Is this reasonable with how much time I have? Will I save more time in the long run? Am I smart enough to teach myself the material beforehand? How can I best discipline myself to keep up with this? What if the professors don’t post assignments early enough?
Thus, I’ve decided to slowly make the transition to frontloading my work rather than learning and reviewing topics after lecture.
An easy way to frontload that I’ve implemented is ‘previewing’ lectures. Before, I would simply scroll through the next day’s powerpoint to get an idea of what we’d be discussing. Now, I do the same thing but with a bit more focus. I create a list of key words that I don’t know. Basically, I form a vocab list and I also include new acronyms so that during lecture, I can reference my created cheat sheet to help keep track of all the new information. This only takes about 10 minutes to do but helps me feel a lot more prepared. It really helps especially when topics have dozens of acronyms and new terms to keep track off. That way, I can be more focused on understanding the themes and concepts during lecture instead of the meanings of a few words.
Additionally, I am taking the professor provided self quizzes after lecture prior to my studying. The thought is that by assessing what I already know, I can avoid wasting time reviewing concepts that I am already comfortable with and instead hone in on the questions I got incorrect.
I started utilizing this technique this week and plan to continue it into my next med school block to see if I like it and to see how it impacts my success. I’m excited to see how it goes! Do any of you frontload? If so, let me know how you like it and if you have any tips – I’d really appreciate it 🙂