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Oakland City, Indiana 

Investigations by Dr. Earhart 1 of Columbia University have 
shown that a very large per cent of the pupils of our public schools 
do not study properly or profitably, and that as a result much 
energy is dissipated and a great deal of waste in time and effort 
is incurred. The cause is not to be found in the motives and 
purposes of the pupils, but in their ignorance of correct habits 
and methods of study. The term study is an enigma to many 
children, and when told to study a lesson they generally do every- 
thing but the right thing. I have frequently heard pupils respond, 
when asked if they had studied their lesson, that they had read 
it over a certain number of times. The recitation showed dis- 
tinctly that their preparation had been entirely wanting in the 
zeal, thoroughness, and definite motivation essential to the mastery 
of an assignment. They had no doubt wasted more energy in 
aimless efforts than would have been required to master two or 
three similar lessons, if judicious habits of study had been made 
use of. 

Of course, this will mean new and increased responsibilities 
for the teachers. It will require on their part a more accurate 
knowledge of home environments, a greater familiarity with school- 
room hygiene, and a more intimate knowledge of the mental traits 
and characteristics of the pupils as individuals. "However, if 
as the result of this endeavor we teach the child how to study 
effectively, we do the most useful thing that could be done to help 
him to adjust himself to any environment of modern civilized life 
into which he may be thrown." 

1 Teaching Children to Study. 



The following study is an attempt to find out some of the factors 
both in and out of school that may influence and perhaps determine 
the habits of study of grade pupils, and to suggest ways by which 
these influences may be modified and even controlled by the class 
teacher. The material upon which the discussions are based is the 
result of a year's observations and carefully kept records in a 
typical town school system of five hundred pupils. The teachers 
who took the records were well qualified on the grounds of scholar- 
ship, successful experience in the school system, knowledge of the 
individuality of the pupils, and familiarity with home conditions. 
Furthermore, the opinion of the individual teacher is corroborated 
in almost every case by the opinion of at least one other teacher. 

In the first place, each teacher was asked to make a very care- 
ful study of the methods and habits of study of the pupils in her 
grade, taking into consideration their habits of application, per- 
severance, and thoroughness in mastering assignments and their 
ability to select, organize, and retain. Considerable time was 
given to the grading of the pupils according to the above points, 
and in cases in which there was some doubt, judgment was not 
passed without consultation with other teachers who knew the 
individuality of the particular pupil under consideration, equally 
well. When the grading was completed, each grade was divided 
into three equal tertiles, designated as Class I, Class II, and 
Class III. By this method of classification, the variation of 
standards of judgment among the different teachers was reduced 
to a minimum, so far as the results as a whole were concerned, 
because each teacher's Class I was grouped with the same class of 
the other teacher's, and similarly, all pupils of Class II were 
grouped together, and likewise Class III. 


In the next place, an effort was made to get the exact status of 
the home environment of each pupil, in order to ascertain, if 
possible, what relations obtained between the habits of study of 
the pupil and the rank of his home surroundings. Data concern- 
ing the homes of 393 children were gathered and graded according 
to the following points : educational interest on the part of parents, 



means to provide adequate food, clothing, medical attention, books, 
papers, magazines, and entertainment, and moral atmosphere that 
would encourage honesty, earnest effort, regard for the rights of 
others, and a due measure of self-respect. The homes were then 
divided into three equal ter tiles and designated as Rank I, Rank 
II, Rank III. 


Habits of Study 

Class I 

Class II 

Class III 

Per cent 


15 3 

Per cent 

Per cent 



Environment Rank III 

In the above table, it is observed that 75 per cent of the pupils 
of environments of the first rank, 32.4 per cent of the second rank, 
and 15.3 per cent of the third rank have habits of study of the 
first class. The large percentage of first-class students in the 
environments of the second and third rank is due to two things: 
first, the home conditions of the town are extraordinarily good, 
and secondly, by grouping in tertiles the character of the homes 
of the third rank are much better than if grouped according to 
some fixed standard of grading, because the number of poor homes 
being relatively few, the third rank includes many homes that 
would be ranked higher under the other system of classification. 
In this particular school the pupils coming from an environment 
of the first rank have two and three tenths the chances of having 
first-class habits of study that a pupil has coming from an envi- 
ronment of the second rank. A further examination of the per- 
centages shows that there is a marked correlation between the rank 
of the home environment and the habits of study of the pupil. 

If these results stand for anything, they indicate that home 
environment is a potent factor in fastening upon the child habits 
of behavior that are utilized in other kinds of activity. Certain 
parents said to the teachers when spoken to concerning the habits 
of work of their children, "That is just the way they do every- 
thing at home." One good mother in conversation with the 
teacher of her son remarked, when told that her son was very care- 



less about his habits of study, "That is a family failing, he takes it 
after his father." 

It may be true that an element of heredity enters into the 
problem, but for the purposes of this study, it will be passed by 
with the explanation that the pupil may adopt many of his habits 
of behavior through imitating activities seen in the home, or that 
he unconsciously takes up bad habits and the home unwittingly 
permits them to become established in his conduct. At least, the 
study points out the fact that the possible origin of many of the 
habits and attitudes of school children is in the home. 




Rank I 

Rank II 

Rank III 

Home study 

Per cent 


Per cent 

Per cent 



No home study 

In Table II, we see 179 pupils who did home study and 207 
who did no home study, distributed according to their 
home environment. It is interesting to see that the large 
percentage of pupils doing home study come from environments 
of the first and second rank, and that the large percentage doing 
no home study come from environments of the second and third 
rank. The percentages indicate that the large number of pupils 
coming from homes of the first rank do home study, while the 
large majority of those coming from homes of the third rank do no 
home study. The pupils who come from homes of the second 
class are very evenly divided. From an analysis of the above 
table, it is easy to see what class of pupils is kept under parental 
discipline, and what class is permitted to loaf on the streets during 
their out-of-school hours. For some time I have recorded my 
observations of the pupils who seem to spend the greater part 
of their time on the streets, when out of school, and I find that 
the great majority come from homes of the third rank. Is it any 
wonder, then, that more than 50 per cent of the pupils doing no 
home study belong to homes of the lowest rank ? 



In a previous study, 1 I have shown that high-school pupils who 
do regular home study take higher standing in school than those 
who do no home study. I take the same position with reference 
to grade pupils. While I know that there are conditions under 
which home study is not advisable, yet in the large majority of 
cases it is advisable, as is shown by Table III. 


Habits of Study 

Home study. . . . 
No home study . 

Class I 

Per cent 


Class II 

Per cent 


Class III 

Per cent 


Table III shows the pupils of Table II distributed according 
to their habits of study. The large percentage of pupils doing 
home study have habits of study of the first and second class, and 
the large percentage who do no home study have habits of the 
second and third class. The small percentage of home-study pupils 
having habits of study of the third class and the small number of 
pupils who do no home study, having habits of study of the first 
class, convinces me that so far as this particular school is con- 
cerned home study is of great value. 

The objection is sometimes made that it is not within the power 
of the teacher to control the home study of the pupils, and there- 
fore, it is better to have them do none. Under the old method of 
schoolroom procedure, there may have been some validity to this 
objection, but under the changing methods, I am led to believe 
that a great deal of home study can be very satisfactorily done. 
Formerly the chief work of the teacher was to test by means of 
recitations the character of the pupils' study, and little attention 
was given to the direction and supervision of study. Now, the 
work of the class hour is often given up to study recitations, and 
to teaching the pupils how to study particular lessons or, in a word, 
to teaching them how to think. Consequently, the pupil may now 
engage in home study with some degree of efficiency, and if par- 

1 School Review, XIX, 395. 


ticipated in by the parent, the work may take the form of a reci- 
tation rather than teaching. 

The problems of school and home study may be rendered more 
effective by finding out home conditions and securing the intelli- 
gent co-operation of the parents through home visitation by the 
teachers. It is one of the best means of gaining the confidence 
of parents, for, when they find that the teacher is more than a 
salaried official, as a rule the majority are both ready and anxious 
to co-operate in any way the teacher may suggest. Thus, through 
a mutual understanding between parents and teacher, the work of 
the pupil in school may be greatly improved. 


An analysis of the study process will reveal nine mental traits 
that should be thoroughly understood and made to function as 
habits in the mental work of a student. The interpretation of 
these traits are as follows: 

i. Speed — the rate of accomplishment. 

2. Neatness — orderly arrangement of all written material. 

3. Accuracy — reliability of results. 

4. Initiative— power to originate, opposite of imitative. 

5. Self-reliance — self-confidence, as opposed to self -deprecia- 
tion and subservience to teacher, books, and classmates. 

6. Perseverance — continuity of attention and effort. 

7. Ability to organize — power to arrange things according to 
some definite sequence or order. 

8. Ability to select — i.e., to arrange or pick out facts according 
to their relative value, or with reference to some given theme. 

9. Ability to retain — power of making associations. 

In order that it might be ascertained whether or not there was 
a relation between these characteristics and the pupils' school 
work, the teachers above the fourth grade were asked to study 
each pupil carefully and grade him according to the nine traits, 
using the following scale: 

I. When the trait was decidedly pronounced. 

II. When the trait was noticeable, yet not distinctly marked. 

III. When the trait was very weak. 


This task was faithfully performed. Although it was done in 
a quantitative rather than a qualitative way, I attach much value 
to the judgments. As a matter of fact, the teacher's judgment 
of the intelligence of elementary-school children is more reliable 
than any qualitative standards yet devised have been able to give. 
This has been clearly demonstrated by David Heron of the Galton 
Laboratory of Eugenics. While the personal equation of the 
teacher enters into the judgments, still they probably furnish the 
most reliable data that could be obtained. 

The tables and the discussions that follow will show the possi- 
bility of modifying or changing the habits of the pupils that are 
factors in the process of study, and will open up a field of new 
work for the teachers who have made no effort to direct and con- 
trol the study of their pupils. 

Table IV shows the correlation of the pupils' habits of speed, 
neatness, and accuracy, and the distribution of the grades in 
arithmetic according to the correlation involved. The habits 
were grouped in threes, because of the facility gained in tabulating 
the results, and because of the possibility of discovering the rela- 
tive value of the various habits. Arithmetic was selected for the 
reason that there were more pupils ranking low and high in that 
subject than in any other, consequently, the correlation obtained 
between the marks in arithmetic and the habits of study would 
be more significant than if the pupils' grades had been relatively 
uniform in character. 

In correlating the three habits, it was found that there were 
twenty-seven different combinations. Of these there were three 
perfect correlations in which each of the three habits had equal 
development, six in which the relation between neatness and 
accuracy was uniform with speed as a recessive character, six in 
which the relation between speed and accuracy harmonized and 
neatness was the varying factor, six in which the relation between 
speed and neatness obtained and accuracy passed into recession, 
and six in which each of the three habits were different in character 
of development. 

From this grouping, I was able to find the combination of 
habits that gave the best results, and thus was able to study the 



pre-eminence or the recessive character of the different habits 
as they appeared in the results of the marks in arithmetic, which 
were obtained through the teacher's judgment of the pupil's 
worth in that subject, after a consideration of the daily class record 
and the written work. The results, therefore, ought to be reliable, 
and should throw some light on the question under discussion. 





No. of Popils ra 

Rank I 

Rank II 

Rank III 




























cAA '. ... 





























Note. — In the above table, the recessive trait is written in small letters, the correlating traits in 
capitals, and the combinations in which the correlation is perfect or in which the three traits differ i 
written in capitals. 

By bringing certain habits to the foreground, either individually 
or in correlation with another, and by reducing, similarly, the 
other habit or habits to the background, we are able to see in 


Table IV that the best combination of habits for arithmetic are 
first-class habits of accuracy, first-class habits of neatness, and 
second-class habits of speed. This conclusion may seem some- 
what absurd, because the above combination is placed ahead of the 
group of three first-class habits between which the correlation is 
perfect; but after a careful consideration and an analysis of individ- 
ual cases, it is easy to verify. When speed is too highly developed 
in elementary pupils, it often defeats its own end by interfering 
with the pupil's accuracy and neatness. Thus, by over-develop- 
ment, it becomes negative in character with reference to the other 

The table also shows that habits of neatness are a very close 
second in importance to the habits of accuracy. This is not at 
all strange, when we take into consideration that in doing work 
neatly, the pupil must necessarily be more attentive to processes 
and results. Hence, habits of neatness are very intimately asso- 
ciated with habits of accuracy in efficient work; and by cultivating 
the one, improvement is likely to be gained in the other. 

By following Table IV through carefully, a teacher can easily 
locate a pupil with reference to his habits of study, and may be 
able to meet in an efficient way the individual need. To illus- 
trate, a pupil may be exceedingly rapid in his habits of work and 
as a result fall low in his marks, because of inaccuracies and slovenly 
work. The teacher should hold the speed in check to a certain 
extent, and insist upon neat workmanship and reliable results, 
instead of indulging the habits of speed and permitting the pupil 
to pay the penalty in classmarks. Such a scheme, although 
possessing some limitations, is a step toward the control and 
direction of the pupils' methods and habits of study, and will no 
doubt bring beneficial results, if consistently followed by the class 

Similar tables were prepared to show the significance of (a) 
initiative, self-reliance, and perseverance; and (b) of habits of 
organization, selection, and retention. 

The results of the comparison (a) show that perseverance is 
slightly more important than self-reliance, and that self-reliance 
is a shade more important than initiative. However, the table 


shows that after the group containing the three first-class habits, 
the combination of first-class habits of initiative, second-class 
habits of self-reliance, and first-class habits of perseverance prob- 
ably make the best group. 

To anyone who has studied carefully the mental traits of chil- 
dren, it is evident that the above triad of habits is a character- 
making group. The pupil who possesses any one of them in a 
marked degree is fortunate, for with any one as a basis the other 
two may be developed. In school work, then, the three should 
receive practically equal attention from the teacher, for the pupil 
who fails to develop strength along some one of these lines, at 
least, loses a very valuable asset for later life. 

The charge has often been made against much of our teaching 
— and with some justice — that in the school the pupils are enter- 
tained rather than exercised, that they are guests of the school 
rather than hosts, and that they are taught imitativeness and 
dependence rather than initiative, self-reliance, and perseverance. 
I have no doubt that these conditions, when they do exist, are due 
primarily to neglect on the part of the parents and teachers to 
cultivate and encourage self-activity in the pupils. Self-activity 
and a feeling of responsibility are the foundation of initiative, 
self-reliance, and perseverance, and unless these traits receive 
some direction and gratuitous exercise or, in a word, made to func- 
tion as habits, they are likely to become dwarfed or abnormally 

The two groups of habits discussed in connection with Table 
IV and in the last few paragraphs are general in character, and 
although of great value in study, they are equally valuable in any 
field of human activity. But the habits considered in the final 
subdivision (b) are more specialized in character, and their chief 
value is to be found in mental activity. Measured according to 
the traditional purpose and aim of education, this group of habits 
is THE group that ought to be most thoroughly understood and 
most carefully directed by the teacher, for the success of the pupil 
in mastering book material will depend very largely upon his 
ability to select, organize, and retain. 

The investigation showed that the factor of greatest importance 


is retentiveness. The other two are very similar in value, although 
the power to organize seems to be slightly more important than the 
ability to select. This should not appear strange, for the power 
of establishing and mastering associations carries with it more or 
less of the ability to organize, while selection is more of an analytical 
process. An extended discussion of these habits would involve 
a consideration of apperception, a topic with which every reader 
should be somewhat familiar. Suffice it to say that by directing 
and supervising the study of the pupils, as a part of school work, 
the teacher can give attention to the development of these special 
habits in special subjects, so that they may be carried over to a 
certain extent into any mental work that the pupil may have to do. 


In concluding this study I am thoroughly conscious of the limited 
character of the investigations I have made. Some of the points 
I hope to work out more fully at some future time. However, I 
do think that the data warrant several conclusions that should 
enable the teacher to supervise more effectively the habits of study 
of the pupils, during a period nascent to habit formation. 

i . Home environment is a factor in the formation of study habits. 
Its influence may be either for good or for bad. It is possible for 
the teacher to exert some modifying influence over environmental 

2. Home study is desirable, because it acts as a check on the 
formation of habits out of school, that would be negative in their 
influence on habits in school. Furthermore, the pupils who do home 
study are as a rule stronger students than those who do none. 

3. By analyzing the habits of study of a pupil, his weakness 
may be discovered and active and conscious steps may be taken 
to form, strengthen, or inhibit certain habits that may need atten- 
tion. This work is entirely within the province of teaching and 
should receive as careful attention as the teaching of the formal