I’ve seen it now in every semester now – used textbooks that have pages littered with highlighter marks that does little if anything to improve your retention of facts and I’m always confused as to why people think it helps.
I know the reasoning behind it.
It’s a simple tool to focus on what you think is the most important facts in the chapter, but the overall technique of simply highlighting sentences isn’t magically going to make you remember what that sentence or paragraph is telling you.
All you are effectively doing is ruining a page in the textbook and in some cases, I’ve had textbooks where every other page has highlighter marks over everything.
I do my best to ignore it and read the chapter, but it is a pain to have some text be unreadable because the previous owner decided to turn it into a coloring book.
Highlighting does not give students any benefits in their studying.
A study done by the Society of Psychological Science showed that highlighting has little to no benefit to students in retaining information in textbooks.
What is actually beneficial is proper notetaking and study groups.
Those two techniques blow highlighting text right out of the water and helps students learn material faster and without the cost of ruining a textbook for another student to use.
Textbooks were not made for students to pick and choose certain sentences to be more important than others.
The whole chapter is important for the student to read. If there was a sentence that wasn’t important the author would not have put it in the book.
When we pay large amounts of money at the beginning of the semester for books, even used books, we shouldn’t have to put up with getting books that were treated with disrespect and heavily marked up.
There are ways you can properly use your textbooks in your studying, besides of course, reading the textbook.
You can use textbook-friendly post-it notes that you can put on important pages to quickly be able to turn to them and write on the post it notes snippets of what the page is talking about.
It all ends up being just a courtesy for students to return a textbook at the end of the semester in the same shape it was in when you received it.
Header photo courtesy of Flickr.