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ASC Success Strategies: Reading Retention

Reading Retention

We’ll be beefing up this section later, but for now, explore the following tried and true techniques  to improving reading retention: SQ3R, KWL, The McDowell Grid, and Bloom's Taxonomy.

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SQ3R (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review or alternatively Survey, Question, Read, Record, Recite): There are plenty of resources online that detail this method, but really Darthmouth’s Academic Skills Center, Utah State University's Academic Success Centerand Borough of Manhattan Community College do the best job. Jen Jonson's video on SQ3R and George Wilson’s video on SQ3R are excellent as well.

If you’re looking to get started putting this practice into place, Literacy Counts’s blog has an excellent worksheet available.

If you’re interesting in incorporating these practices with your time management skills, you might want to check out Study Guides and Strategies’s recommendations as well. Here the process is broken down over the course of a week.


KWL (Know, Want, Learn): This is another, less intensive reading strategy that is really summed up by its acronym (What do I already Know? What do I Want to Know? What did I Learn?). Learn more at the National Education Association's page on KWL.

The McDowell Grid

The McDowell Grid: Named by Josh Kaufman and developed by Tyson McDowell, the McDowell Grid is a wonderfully formatted reading/note-taking approach that embraces contextualizing readings around the reader’s intentions, needs, and purposes. This worksheet, created by Personal MBA, makes the process simple.

Bloom's Taxonomy

Regardless of your approach to reading and retention, you’ll want to self-assess not only what you’ve learned but to what degree you understand what you’ve read. This is where Bloom’s Taxonomy comes in.

Developed by Benjamin Bloom in the mid 50s and later revised by his understudies, Anderson and Krathwohl, Bloom’s Taxonomy conceptualizes the learning process as a hierarchy. Anderson and Krathwohl’s revised interpretation is below:

Bloom's Taxonomy

What Bloom referred to as “lower order thinking skills” are towards the bottom, while “higher order thinking skills” are on the top. The goal, of course, is to ascend up the pyramid, from Remembering to Creating.

The key to this pyramid then is determining how much you’ve learned about a specific subject. Hopefully, just by reading your material, you will have remembered and understood the information, but are you able to apply it? If, for instance, you were a student in our EdD program and read Gardner’s theory on multiple intelligences, would you be able to apply what you’ve learned to your own students? Would you be able to analyze the theory, synthesize it with other things that you’ve learned? Would you be able to evaluate the theory, critique it, perhaps consider problematic approaches to its implementation? And finally, would you be able create something new based on what you’ve learned? Would you be able to create a new intelligence or a new approach to better understand different learning styles? (This is really where a thesis, perhaps one for your dissertation, is born.)

Employing Bloom’s Taxonomy is particularly important to your studies at Walden given the university’s scholar-practitional model. Walden invites you create positive social chance, but to do so, one must start at the foundation of Bloom’s pyramid.