Professional Practice Skills

PPS-26  Self-Directed Learning

Gaining knowledge and skills  through reading


Pre-class assignment

  1. Read sections What is It?, Why Do It?, New Concepts, How to  Do It, and Learning Objectives
  2. Establish your Baseline on this skill on the Reader Feedback Form.
  3. Be able to describe these aspects of


What is It?

Learning knowledge through reading is a method to help improve the comprehension and retention of knowledge.


New Concepts

Survey, Question, Read, Apply, Teach, Review


Why Do It?

One of the primary ways to learn new material is by reading.  Many students complain that they “studied really hard and still flunked the test.”  A more organized approach to reading may help.


How to Do It

Once you have found and evaluated your sources, you need to find a way to shove that information in your head in such a way that it doesn’t all leak out or get distorted.  Much of the time you will be dealing with written information, so this section focuses on reading.


We’ll sue the Acronym SQuRAT for

  • Survey
  • Question
  • Read
  • Apply
  • Teach
  • Review


We assume you have established a specific learning goal.



The first task is to read any abstract/summary or scan the headings to see if this article is worth your time.  If it is useful, the survey gives you an overview of what you will be seeing.  If the article is not useful, move on.



Reading for knowledge is goal oriented.  The things you are trying to learn (goals) can often be stated as questions (How do you ___?  What are the ___?  Why do they ___?)

Write these questions on a piece of paper with space for the answers. 


Your initial survey of the article should also have raised some questions specific to the article.  Add these questions to your list and have the list in front of you as you read.

A generic question sheet that you can use when reading a resource is shown on page __.  The primary questions are

  • What was the goal/purpose/topic of the work?
  • What are the key points/results/conclusions?
  • How are the key points/results/conclusions supported?



When you read a novel, you are letting the author take you for a ride.  When you read technical information, you need to ride and drive.  Technical information should be read actively and critically.


In active reading, you are a partner with the author.  You are

·         making notes in the margins, underlining, and/or highlighting

·         looking for answers to meet your learning goals

·         writing down questions regarding things you don’t understand


In critical reading, you are the adversary of the author.  You are asking

·         is the logic ( or mathematical modeling) correct?

·         are the conclusions justified by the evidence?

·         if I said this to someone else, would they believe me?

·         what is the other side of the position?

·         what are they not telling me?

Critical reading is particularly important for vendor’s materials and persuasive articles, but should be used in all reading.



Since you are learning this stuff for some reason, try it as you go.  If you are reading about how to hit a golf ball, go out on the range and hit some.  If you are learning software, apply it to a practical problem.  If you are bicycle designer looking at making the switch from aluminum to titanium, start running the numbers for sizes or costs as you learn.


People learn what they practice better than they learn what they see.  This is why professors are so hot for you to do homework and why, despite watching Emeril religiously, you still can’t cook.



Once you have read some sources, it is time to organize the information.  A good technique is to prepare teaching notes for a person just like yourself.  These teaching notes will serve as review notes for you or an introduction to the topic for someone else.


The teaching notes should

·         Clearly identify the key points

·         Provide solid justifications for conclusions or positions

·         Identify sources so you can go back

·         Provide instructions and/or examples for skills or calculations

Since these are areas covered on your question sheets, developing teach notes is primarily a matter of collating, evaluating, and summarizing.


The act of preparing the notes helps organize and solidify the information in your mind so that it is more retrievable.  The knowledge can still leak out, so you will need to review.



While you may never forget how to ride a bicycle, most people remember little of their high school Spanish.  The ones who retain their skills are the ones who periodically use them. 


If you want better retention, experts who study learning say that reviewing should be done on a schedule.  They recommend reviewing be done immediately after learning, after one day, one week, one month and four months.  Developing the teaching notes serves as the initial review.  In the later reviews, you try to replicate the key points from your teaching notes and then compare your current efforts with the original notes.  The parts you missed deserve a little extra practice.




In-Class Exercise

Exercise 1

As an individual

  • Describe how you would generate questions before reading a chapter in this course.

As part of a group

  • Compare your responses


Reading Question Form

Date of Review:_____________


Article Reference:

Title: _____________________                                 Author:____________________

Bibliographic info _____________________________________________________






Key Points/Results/Conclusions?                              Support for Key Points?







Reading Feedback Form


Name _______________________                     


1.       At the outset of this unit, place a “B” in each category to indicate your self assessment of your initial, or baseline skill level.

2.       At the end of the unit place an “A” in each category to indicate your self assessment of your skill level after practicing the skill.  Be prepared to provide documentation for your assessment.



(less successful)


(shows few expert behaviors)



Good Start

(some expert behavior)


Getting There

(many   expert behaviors)


Almost There

(mostly expert behavior)



(shows all expert behavior)




(more successful)

Start reading without a plan






Have questions related to goal ready before reading

Let the author lead






Read actively and critically with author as partner and rival

Disconnect reading and doing






Apply knowledge as it comes in

Assume that if I read it, the information is in my head and usable






Collect, evaluate, and organize material so you could teach it

Skip the review, or do it just before test






Review information on a schedule to assure retention



Reflection of the Listener

What did I learn from this?




Which of the skills do I do pretty well?  (List Evidence)




Which skills could use some work? (List Evidence)