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Learning Strategies Curricula

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What are Learning Strategies? How are they used?

Sample Strategies that help you study and remember

What are Learning Strategies? How are they used?
A person's approach to a task is called a strategy. It includes how a person thinks and acts when planning, executing, and evaluating performance on a task. Strategies that focus on how the learner acquires, stores, and expresses information or demonstrates competence are called learning strategies. A learning strategy helps individuals wisely use what they already know in order to enhance their learning and performance. It should help learners apply the basic skills they have already learned to complete complex tasks. Learning strategies usually consist of sets of steps or procedures that guide the learner in ways to act and think.

Key Elements
A learning strategies curriculum is composed of strategies that are important for the completion of tasks. Learning strategies help adults address common challenges, such as:

  • what to do when they come to an unknown word (e.g., a decoding strategy for word recognition), how to ensure that they understand and remember information as they read (e.g., a strategy for self-directed comprehension questions as they read), how to integrate visual and text information (e.g., a strategy for repeatedly viewing a graphic as they read about it), how to ensure that they write complete and interesting sentences (e.g., a paragraph composition strategy), and

  • how to take a test (e.g., a strategy for keeping track of testing time remaining).

A good learning strategy should give the learner an efficient and effective approach to completing a task. Therefore, the strategy should contain steps that help the learner approach, think through, and complete the task.

Learning strategies should include as many of the following six features as possible:

  1. Information on how to use the strategy
    Identifying characteristics of situations and conditions under which the strategy should be used will help promote appropriate use and generalization. This includes information on why, when, and where to use the strategy.
  2. Specifications of entry-level or prerequisite skills
    Entry-level skills, such as being able to understand sentence capitalization and punctuation in order to write sentences, need to be spelled out if they are required. Then they should either be taught before teaching a specific strategy or included as a step of the strategy itself.
  3. A clearly defined step-oriented approach
    An efficient strategy is a collection of the best ideas for how to complete a task. These ideas should be organized into a clear sequence of steps. Although there is not always one "best" approach to a task (each adult may have a different best approach), there is always one outcome used to judge success: Did the learner successfully complete the required task?

    The step process should do the following:
    • Limit the number of steps to seven or fewer. Fewer steps reduce the memory load on the learner and aid recall of the strategy. If a step is complex, it should be broken down into mini- or sub-strategies. Contain appropriate words. The words selected for the steps of the strategy should be familiar, easily understood, and meaningful. Essential, but unfamiliar words should be taught as part of instruction. Each strategy step should begin with a verb or an action word that relates to the physical or cognitive action to be taken. Words such as underline, ask, decide, and mark convey more meaning and are easier to remember because they describe activity. Prescribe observable actions. A strategy must lead to both information processing and physical action. The physical action, such as listing information, allows both the learner and instructor to observe and monitor progress. Steps that involve observable actions should reflect the thinking behind them. These explanations provide guidance for how to think about meeting the demands of the task. For example, if the steps of a strategy involve self-questioning to improve comprehension, then the explanation for the strategy should provide guidance on how to pose questions to oneself.
    • Include a remembering system for the steps. Adults with learning disabilities often have difficulty memorizing information. Each step of the strategy should be short and to the point, so that minimal memorization is required. In addition, a remembering system, such as a mnemonic device, is useful for promoting recall. The mnemonic device should use easily memorized key action words. For example, if an employee whose duties included taking messages off an answering machine needed to remember and organize the steps, he or she might use the mnemonic PHONE.

      P lay the messages
      H ear each message and write it down
      O rganize the messages by the person for whom each message is intended
      N otify each person of his or her messages
      E rase messages

    The mnemonic device should relate to the overall process. For example, a mnemonic such as CONVERT, related to the steps necessary to convert fractions to decimals, would more easily prompt the appropriate steps than the acronym RADIO.

  4. Specific cognitive strategies Most learning systems include information-processing strategies, such as organizing, interpreting, selecting, storing, and retrieving information. Without information-processing strategies, a procedure is nonstrategic.
  5. Encouragement for the student to use feedback
    It is important to include cues related to self-evaluation, self-monitoring, reviewing, and evaluating in the steps of a strategy. These cues encourage adults to ask questions such as "What do I need to do?" "How should I do it?" and "How did I do?" Many adults with learning disabilities do not realize that good learners "talk to themselves" during learning.
  6. Time limits
    Most strategies must be performed in a short time period. If a strategy needs to be performed over an extended period, it may be ineffective.

Appropriate Use of Learning Strategies Curricula
Because adults with learning disabilities often lack a strategic orientation to learning, it is difficult for them to achieve independence without instruction in learning strategies. The research on the effectiveness of this approach provides a compelling argument for selecting it. For adults who are functioning at or above a 4th- or 5th-grade reading level and who wish to become more effective and efficient readers and writers, serious consideration should be given to this type of instruction.

A learning strategy benefits adults most if it can address problems encountered across many situations. The more often that learners use the strategy, the more likely they see its relevance and use it. Likewise, a learning strategy should also address problems that learners encounter regularly.

Sample Strategies that help you study and remember

Study skills topic pages
This page contains information for students of all ages to improve their study skills. Tips include preparation, listening and reading skills, note taking, and more.

The Learning Tool Box
The Learning Toolbox is an instructional web site designed to help students with LD become more effective learners using research-based strategies. It is designed for independent use by students; use by special education teachers following a systematic, direct teaching approach, and use by parents who want to help their children learn.

Learning Skills: a Comprehensive Orientation and Study Skills Curriculum
The Learning Skills Curriculum is an approach to orientation and the learning process. It can be used to help stimulate the development of key study skills and serve to motivate the learner to believe again in his/her learning abilities. The curriculum is modularized and can be modified to meet varying program needs and situations.


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