STUDENT SUCCESS & Writing Down Your Notes Leads to Better Retention With E-Books

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: When I begin my research for my upcoming book on the leadership of John Wesley, I relied heavily on e-books. However because of research that says you will remember more if you write down your thoughts, I continued to write down notes from these e-books in my notepads. This is a learning technique rhat has served me well through my graduate degrees. I have found that having handwritten notes, for me, helps internalize the information and create systems in my mind of how the information connects. Not just for myself, research indicates for most people taking written notes is the best way to learn especially when utilizing e-books.

So in other words, using tablets, e-books and computers makes knowledge accessible. But to retain that knowledge most people will do what I have learned to do, to write it down in order to internalize and systematize it.

Read this helpful overview in TIME Magazine…

Do E-Books Make It Harder to Remember What You Just Read? Digital books are lighter and more convenient to tote around than paper books, but there may be advantages to old technology” by Maia Szalavitz, Time Magazine, 3/14/15.

… I discovered that Google’s Larry Page himself had concerns about research showing that on-screen reading is measurably slower than reading on paper.

This seems like a particularly troubling trend for academia, where digital books are slowly overtaking the heavy tomes I used to lug around. On many levels, e-books seem like better alternatives to textbooks — they can be easily updated and many formats allow readers to interact with the material more, with quizzes, video, audio and other multimedia to reinforce lessons. But some studies suggest that there may be significant advantages in printed books if your goal is to remember what you read long-term…

Context and landmarks may actually be important to going from “remembering” to “knowing.” The more associations a particular memory can trigger, the more easily it tends to be recalled. Consequently, seemingly irrelevant factors like remembering whether you read something at the top or the bottom of page — or whether it was on the right or left hand side of a two-page spread or near a graphic — can help cement material in mind…

This seems irrelevant at first, but spatial context may be particularly important because evolution may have shaped the mind to easily recall location cues so we can find our way around. That’s why great memorizers since antiquity have used a trick called the “method of loci” to associate facts they want to remember with places in spaces they already know, like rooms in their childhood home. They then visualize themselves wandering sequentially through the rooms, recalling the items as they go…

E-books, however, provide fewer spatial landmarks than print, especially pared-down versions like the early Kindles, which simply scroll through text and don’t even show page numbers, just the percentage already read. In a sense, the page is infinite and limitless, which can be dizzying. Printed books on the other hand, give us a physical reference point, and part of our recall includes how far along in the book we are, something that’s more challenging to assess on an e-book…

Read more at …

STUDENT SUCCESS & Research Confirms the Importance of “Interval Studying” Rather Than Cramming

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Research cited in The Journal of the Association for Psychological Science points out that it’s important to study at regular “intervals” during a course, rather than cram for a test or a paper right before it is due. Called “interval studying” this research confirms that this leads to better retention and a more satisfied student experience. Read this important research in this article:

Increasing Retention Without Increasing Study Time

by Doug Rohrer1 and Harold Pashler2 (1University of South Florida and 2University of California, San Diego)

ABSTRACT—Because people forget much of what they learn, students could benefit from learning strategies that yield long-lasting knowledge. Yet surprisingly little is known about how long-term retention is most efficiently achieved. Here we examine how retention is affected by two variables: the duration of a study session and the temporal distribution of study time across multiple sessions. Our results suggest that a single session devoted to the study of some material should continue long enough to ensure that mastery is achieved but that immediate further study of the same material is an inefficient use of time. Our data also show that the benefit of distributing a fixed amount of study time across two study sessions—the spacing effect—depends jointly on the interval between study sessions and the interval between study and test. We discuss the practical implications of both findings, especially in regard to mathematics learning.

Read the article here …

STUDENT SUCCESS & How to Complete an Incomplete

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 1/1/16.

If you have been granted an incomplete, follow these instructions to complete your incomplete.

First, know that as professors we always hope students will not have to take an incomplete in our courses. This is because though an incomplete grants a 10-week extension from the last day of the course, it will usually require a student to double-up and work on two courses at the same time. In this face-paced accelerated format of Wesley Seminary this is difficult to do.

So, the best tactic is to avoid an incomplete. Here are several brief ways to avoid an incomplete:

1) Do your work early each week. Unforeseen events will always occur and if you have completed your work early in the week you will have the flexibility to address these unanticipated events. It is important to develop a rhythm in your academic work week that includes doing your work early in the week.

2) Tell your professor immediately if there are extenuating circumstances.

3) Know the Wesley Seminary Official Policy on late work (repeated below). Adjunct professors cannot deviate from these policies.  But, as a full-time professor I have adjusted late penalties to be less severe. See my late penalties here.

4) Know the Wesley Seminary Official Policy on requesting incompletes (repeated below). I have written more about how to do this here.

5)  Do not violate the attendance policy. “The issuance of an incomplete cannot be given if the student fails to meet the attendance requirements.”

6) Following these rules allows professors to be fair to all students. Professors will be reluctant (justifiably so) to grant an extension if you do not follow the rules. It would be unfair to those students who did follow the stipulations.

Official Wesley Seminary Late Policy:

Late Policy:

  • No credit is available for postings of any kind made in the discussion forums after a given workshop ends.
  • If your instructor approves your submission of late assignments, each assignment score will be penalized 10% per day up to six days late. After the end of the sixth day, late assignments will not be accepted. An assignment is a paper, a project, a team presentation, etc., but not a discussion or quiz/test.
  • No late assignments will be accepted after the close of the final workshop.

Incomplete Policy:

Students are expected to complete the course requirements by the last class session. There may be instances when crisis circumstances or events prevent the student from completing the course requirements in a timely manner. However, the issuance of an incomplete cannot be given if the student fails to meet the attendance requirements. In these rare situations, a grade of “I” (incomplete) may be issued but only after completing the following process:

  • At least 65% of the work must be completed at the time of the request.
  • The student must request an “I” from the instructor at least one week prior to the end date of the course.
  • The instructor must obtain approval from the Dean of Wesley Seminary.

Because “incompletes” are granted only for extenuating circumstances, the student’s grade will not be penalized.

A student who receives an “incomplete” has 10 weeks from the final meeting date of the course to complete course requirements and turn them in to the instructor. If, at the end of the 10-week extension, the student has failed to complete the course requirements in order to receive a passing grade, the “incomplete” will become an “F.” A student with more than one incomplete on record is subject to academic suspension.

Therefore, students must meet the following criteria and follow the steps below:

1)  The withdrawal request or incomplete request must be submitted before 5 PM on the Thursday of week 14 for a 16-week course.  If you are in an 8 week course, then you must request an incomplete before 5 PM on the Thursday of week 7.

2)  A withdrawal request must be made to the IWU Registration Change Counselor in the Office of Student Services (email them at

3) Remember, “the issuance of an incomplete cannot be given if the student fails to meet the attendance requirements.”

4) An incomplete request must be made to your professor (

  • Again, the request must be made before 5 PM on the Thursday of week 14 or week 7 (for 16 week or 8 week courses respectively).
  • You must have at the time of the request have completed at least 65% of the coursework.

From the above policies you can see that typically,

  • No credit is allowed for postings in a workshop after a given workshop ends.
  • If a late posting is approved, it still will receive a 10% a day reduction due to tardiness and fairness.
  • No homework will be accepted after the last day of a course.
  • But, a withdrawal or incomplete can be requested
    • on the last day of week 14 in a 16-week course or the last day of week 7 in an 8-week course
    • if the student has 65% of their coursework completed (the student must demonstrate to the professor that they have completed this percentage.)

So, knowing the above how do you complete an incomplete?

TIMING:  First an incomplete allows you an extra 10-weeks after the last scheduled day of the course. No further extension can be granted.

CONTENT:  An incomplete is very similar to an “independent study course” which means:

  1. The student must present a plan to the professor of the assignments that they will redo or do (if they have not been completed).  Creating this plan counts as part of your 10-week extension.
  2. The professor cannot give feedback on assignments or feedback on the final grade. Feedback was given for assignments submitted on time during the course. Additionally detailed input was given in the instructions for each assignment. Because this is similar to an “independent study course” the student will not receive feedback from the professor, but must independently complete the assignments from the instructions and the feedback given during the course. This rule cannot be broken, since the professor will have moved on to instructing other students. It would unfair to them to take time away from them and allow a student’s tardiness to affect current students.
  3. The student must compute how many days each and every assignment is late (add up the total days each was overdue from the day it was due to the day the incomplete was requested). For my students, follow my lesser late penalties here.
  4. The student will submit the following in one (1) email before the end of 10-weeks (counting from the last day of the scheduled course):
    • One email with all forum postings, written assignments, etc.
    • Each completed assignment will have a “heading” that includes:
      1. title, number and student name,
      2. points possible,
      3. days late and total percentage each assignment is to be reduced,
      4. followed by the assignment (follow the syllabus instructions, e.g. forum postings do not need to be in APA format, but end-of-week papers do need to be in APA format).
    • The professor will submit your grade within six weeks after receiving your email with the above assignments.
  5. The above must be followed carefully or the homework cannot be accepted. Because an incomplete adds considerably to a professor’s workload after the course was completed, these rules ensure the professor’s current students are not penalized.
  6. Your professor will be praying for you.  We want all students to succeed and to increase their world-changing impact.

OPERATIONAL LEADERSHIP & A Quiz to Help Discover if You Are a Shepherd (a leadership exercise)

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 12/15/15.

Are you a shepherd or a visionary (or a little of both)? 

Here is a posting explaining the difference: STO LEADERSHIP & An Overview: Are you a shepherd or a visionary (or a little of both)?

But what if you are primarily an operational-style of leader, the type we classify as “shepherd?”  Will you ever lead a large, growing ministry?

Yes you may, for I have seen many “shepherd leaders” who build leadership teams that lead large flocks. Read the excerpt from my book here to find out the difference (not for public distribution, so if you enjoy the chapter please support the publisher and author by purchasing a copy): BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CHANGE REACTION Chpt. 2 STO Leaders.

A Questionnaire to Discover If You are Primarily a Shepherd Leader

If you feel you are an “operational leader” more than a “strategic leader,” that is fine.

As I said above, I’ve seen many leaders of large ministries that are primarily operational leaders. This is because they build together a great team to lead the organization.

So how do you know if you are an operational (shepherd) leader?  How do you tell?

A good place to start is Randall Neighbour’s self-exam called the “Pastor’s Relational Survey.”  It came from the Appendix of his book, The Naked Truth About Small Group Ministry.

You can complete Neighbour’s the “Pastor’s Relational Survey” self-exam in about 10 minutes here: “Pastor’s Relational Survey.”Take this short questionnaire and it may help you focus on your unique leadership gifts.

STUDENT SUCCESS & Posting Early in the Week Can Increase Your Grade

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/15/15.

Students often begin their coursework by posting late in the week. I understand why this happens, because they are undertaking a new academic element in their life. But, I also like to alert them to a potential problem that can affect their grade.

If you as a student post late in the week, you do not always give other students as well as your professor, sufficient time to probe more deeply your analysis.  This has the following results:

1.)  Your analysis may not be as helpful to your organizational context as it could be, if other students and your facilitator do not have sufficient time to further question you and help you more precisely define your analysis.

2.)  Other students may not have time to respond, and thus they may forfeit points for online interaction because there is not enough time left in the week for interaction among students.

3.)  And finally, I am not able to question you further to understand what is going on in that fertile mind of yours 🙂  As you know, my job is to assess how well you are grasping the concepts and strategic processes outlined in the reading and as applied to your organizational context (e.g. your case study).  Thus, I am unable to fully comprehend your thinking without, at times, positing follow-through questions.

Thus, I would like to tender a potential schedule that students have found works very well in the past.

Friday:  read each week’s readings of the first day of the week (Friday) and also post your answers to the questions in the downloadable weekly assignments on Friday too.

Saturday and Sunday: take two days off 🙂

Monday: get back online and interact with fellow students, asking them about what they are learning and giving them advice.

Tuesday through Thursday: work increasingly less on your online interaction and increasingly more on your paper (which is due Thursday at midnight).

This schedule is not mandatory, only an example of what I have seen work best for most students in our program.  This will not only help your grade, but will also help fine-tune your analysis and its benefits for your organizational context … as well as benefiting our goal of creating World-changers (Matthew 28:19ff).

STUDENT SUCCESS & What to Do If You Must Withdraw or Request an Incomplete @WesleySeminary

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/4/15.

I always hope none of my students will need this option, but if a student feels that they must withdraw or request an incomplete for a Wesley Seminary at IWU course, they must meet the following criteria and follow the steps below:

1)  The withdrawal request or incomplete request must be submitted before 5 PM on the Thursday of week 14 for a 16-week course.  If you are in an 8 week course, then you must request an incomplete before 5 PM on the Thursday of week 7.  In the Doctor of Ministry program you must follow the appropriate rules above or in a 20 week course, submit your request by week 18.

2)  A withdrawal request must be made to the IWU Registration Change Counselor in the Office of Student Services (email them at

3) An incomplete request must be made to your professor (

  • Again, the request must be made before 5 PM on the Thursday of week 14 or week 7 (for 16 week or 8 week courses respectively). A Doctor of Ministry student enrolled in a 20 week course should request this during week 20 at the latest.
  • You must have at the time of the request have completed at least 65% of the coursework.
  • If you do request an incomplete, you must still keep up with all postings, etc.  An incomplete gives you extra time to do your papers, but because of the synchronous nature of the live discussion, official seminary policy does not allow for making up discussion after a week has ended.

As I said, I hope no one needs to use these options. But, I want to make my students aware of the timeline and criteria, since they will not be able to withdraw or receive an incomplete after the due dates.

STUDENT SUCCESS & Harvard linguist points out the 58 most commonly misused words and phrases

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  If my students would read this, it would cut down considerably on my grading (and raise up their total points).  Here to help!

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