Basic Study Skills: Our Responsibility or the Students’?

PA educators are in an enviable position of receiving hundreds of applications from potential students. Despite many accepted students having exceedingly high GPAs, it isn’t uncommon for students to struggle academically, especially during the first year of the PA program. Some students experience difficulty when adjusting to the vast amount of information required to learn in PA education.

Basic study skills are lacking

Setting aside the various other reasons students may struggle, there is a common theme among the majority: they often lack foundational study skills, such as notetaking, reading skills, and time management. Personally, I have seen dozens of students with top-tier academic records suddenly endure significant growing pains as they begin the professional PA program. I’ve worked with students with high science GPAs as they struggle to find success in the PA curriculum.

Should we as PA educators take responsibility for teaching our students basic study skills? Responses to this question span across the spectrum depending on who you ask.

Those opposed to teaching PA students basic study skills believe:

  • Our students already know these skills, or they should already know basic foundational skills; It’s not our job to teach basic study skills to graduate students

  • Students lacking basic skills will fail anyway; there is no reason to invest time teaching individuals these skills. It’s better for our programs to be cleansed of students who lack basic skills

  • It’s not our job to babysit our students. Let them sink or swim

  • There is not enough time to teach skills. With an already packed curriculum, there is simply no place for foundational skills in a graduate program

Those in favor of teaching basic study skills believe:

  • We accepted these students into the program, they are our responsibility now: after screening these applicants and accepting them, we have a social and moral responsibility to ensure they are successful

  • It’s our duty to embrace the “learner-centered” philosophy and ensure the students learn these skills

  • Mentoring is an important concept; providing basic study skills can facilitate student success and ensure students with challenging academic records can succeed and become excellent PAs

This isn’t a clear-cut issue; both sides hold validity. I’m curious—as a PA educator, what are YOUR thoughts on teaching students basic study skills? Do you believe they should already have these skills? If they don’t, do we have any role in bolstering them? Or should students learn them on their own time, in their own way? Let us know in the comments below or on our LinkedIn post here.