Learning Strategies That Work | Harvard Extension School (2023)

Learning Strategies That Work | Harvard Extension School (1)

How do we learn and process new information? Which learning strategies really work and which are just myths?

Such questions are at the center of the work ofMarkus McDaniel, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for Integrative Research on Cognition, Learning, and Education at Washington University in St. Louis. McDaniel is co-author of the book.Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.

In this question and answer session adapted from aPodcast-Episode des Academic and Career Resource Center, McDaniel discusses his research on human learning and memory, including the most effective strategies for lifelong learning.

questions and answers

Harvard extension:In his book, he discusses strategies designed to help students learn better inside and outside of the classroom. They write: “We deeply believe that we learn best through single focus and persistent repetition. And those beliefs are reinforced time and time again by the visible improvements that occur during practice, practice, practice.”

McDaniel:That judgment that repetition is effective is hard to shake. There are signals that your brain picks up as you reread, when you repeat something that gives you the false impression, metacognitively, that you have learned these things really well.

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Older students shouldn't feel like they're definitely disadvantaged because they aren't. Older students really want to try to build on their prior knowledge and use it as a basis for structuring, framing and understanding new incoming information.

And two of the most important keys are familiarity. The further you read, the more familiar you will become with the material. And we mistakenly assume that familiarity means solid learning.

And the second sign is fluency. It is very clear from many reading tasks and cognitive processes during reading that when reading again, the processes are more fluid at all levels. Word identification is smoother. Analysis of sentence structure is more fluid. Idea extraction is smoother. Everything is more fluid. And we misinterpret these fluency signals that the brain receives. And these are accurate signals. It's more liquid. But we misinterpret that to mean I actually have that. I really learned that. I won't forget that. And that's really misleading.

So let me give you another example. It's not just rereading. These are situations, say, in STEM subjects or anywhere you need to learn how to solve certain types of problems. One of the standard ways that instructors present homework is to present the same type of block problems. Maybe you found that in your own math class, your own physics class.

For example, you might be solving a specific type of problem in a physics class. And the parameters in it, the numbers can change, but in your task you try to solve two or three or four of these working problems in a row. Well, it's getting more and more liquid, because what formula to use. You know exactly what the problem is. And as you get more fluent, and as we say in the book, it seems like you're getting better. You get better at these problems.

But the problem is, can you remember how a week later you can tell what types of problems go with what types of solutions when you are asked to take a quiz where you have different types of problems? And the answer is no, you can't after doing these block exercises. So, although the instructors think that their students are doing the block drills very well and the students feel that they are doing very well, they do this type of block drill very well, but now they are not good at all information about what specifics or Problems indicate specific courses of action.

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What you want to do is build practice into these problems. You happen to want to have a problem of one type, and then solve a problem of a different type, and then solve a problem of a different type. And in doing so, it feels difficult and does not feel smooth. And the signals to your brain are:I do not understand that. I'm not feeling very wellBut actually, when I encounter a different type of problem, this effort to figure out what kinds of approaches I need to take for each problem leads to learning. That produces solid skills that stick with you.

So this is an enticing thing that we need to understand, both teachers and students, and we need to go beyond those initial judgments. I haven't learned much, and I trust that the harder the schedule, the better the learning.

And since then I've written more about itlet it stick. And one of my strong theoretical tenets now is that in order for students to truly embrace these techniques, they must believe that they work for them. Every student needs to believe that it works for them. So I put together demos to show the students that these techniques work for them.

The net result of adopting these strategies is that students don't invest more time. Instead, they have a more effective time. you work better. You work smarter.

When students take a test after doing a lot of makeup practice, they see how well they did. The class will be very exciting. Student acceptance is high. There is a lot of energy. There are many incentives to want more of this recovery practice, more of this difficulty. Because trying to retrieve information is much harder than reading it back. But it leads to solid learning for a number of reasons.

I think the students have to trust these techniques and I think they also have to see that these techniques work for them. You create better learning. And then, as a learner, you are more motivated to replace those ineffective techniques with more effective techniques.

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Harvard extension:you talk aboutTips for studentshow to glue it. And there are several methods or tips that you share: elaboration, generation, reflection, calibration, among others. Which of these techniques is better?

McDaniel:It depends on the learning challenges you face. So retrieval exercises that attempt to retrieve information from memory are actually very effective when your course requirements require you to reproduce factual information.

For other things you might want to try to generate understanding, to create mental models. So when your exams require you to draw conclusions and work through new types of problems that illustrate principles but are new problems that you have never seen before, a good technique is to try to connect the information to what i would do. call mental models. This is your representation of how the parts and aspects fit together, relate to each other.

It's not that one technique is better than the other. It is that different techniques produce specific types of results. And depending on the desired result, you can choose one technique or another.

I truly believe that to the extent that you can make learning fun, and to the extent that a technique actually sounds like more fun to you, that can be your technique of choice. I teach a learning strategy course and make it very clear to the students. It is not necessary to use all of these techniques. Find a few that really work for you, then put them in your toolbox and replace re-reading with these techniques.

Harvard extension:It relates to lifelong learning and lifelong learning. You talk about the brain being plastic, the mutability of the brain in a way, and you give examples of how some lifelong learners approach their learning.

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McDaniel:In a way, the more mature students, the older students, have an advantage because they have more knowledge. And part of learning is relating new information that feeds into your prior knowledge, relating it to your knowledge structures, relating it to your schemas, how you think about certain types of content.

So, older adults have the advantage of having this richer knowledge base with which to attempt to integrate new material. So older students shouldn't feel like they're definitely disadvantaged because they aren't. Older students really want to try to build on their prior knowledge and use it as a basis for structuring, framing and understanding new incoming information.

Our challenge as older students is that we have these study habits that aren't very effective. We turn to these habits. And if these aren't overly effective habits, we can blame our failure to learn on age or a lack of innate ability, etc. And indeed, that's not all. As you use more effective strategies at any age, you will find that your learning is stronger, more successful, and more relevant.

You can learn these strategies at any age. Successful lifelong learning is about implementing these effective strategies, trusting them, and making a habit of how you approach your learning challenges.

The net result of adopting these strategies is that students don't invest more time. Instead, they have a more effective time. you work better. You work smarter.

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What is a learning strategy examples? ›

Learning strategies refer to a range of strategies that can be implemented to improve learning. Examples include using memory cards, spaced repetition, practice tests, strategic highlighting, and reciprocal questioning.

What are the six most effective learning strategies? ›

These six strategies for effective learning are based on evidence-based research and the science of learning. We will explore: spaced practice, retrieval practice, elaboration, concrete examples, dual coding and interleaving.

What is your most effective learning strategies and why? ›

The most effective strategy according to Dunlosky's research is practice testing. It consists of studying and reviewing by answering questions and actively bringing information back to mind. When this is done, information is reconsolidated, new connections are created, and memory and understanding are strengthened.

What learning strategies are effective? ›

The six strategies for effective learning, as we call them on the Learning Scientists Blog, are spacing, retrieval practice, elaboration, interleaving, concrete examples, and dual coding. (The table below briefly describes the strategies and gives one application example.

What are the 4 types of learning strategies? ›

There are 4 predominant learning styles: Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, and Kinaesthetic. While most of us may have some general idea about how we learn best, often it comes as a surprise when we discover what our predominant learning style is.

Can you identify 3 kinds of learning strategies? ›

The three basic types of learning styles are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. To learn, we depend on our senses to process the information around us.

What are three learning strategies examples? ›

studying and remembering information. writing and taking notes. improving assignment and test performance. effectively interacting with others.

What kinds of strategies are most effective within your classroom? ›

Every teacher's classroom practice is unique, so here are 7 effective teaching strategies you can use for inspiration to give your students a fulfilling learning experience.
  1. Visualization. ...
  2. Cooperative Learning. ...
  3. Differentiated Instruction. ...
  4. Using Technology to your Advantage. ...
  5. Student Centred Inquiry. ...
  6. Professional Development.
Mar 14, 2023

What are high five teaching strategies? ›

The High Five strategy is a reading comprehension learning strategy that consists of five steps, namely activating background knowledge, questioning, analyzing text structure, creating mental images, and summarizing. This strategy is believed to be able to improve students' reading comprehension skills.

What type of learning is most effective? ›

Practice (by) doing. Practice by doing, a form of "Discover Learning", is one of the most effective methods of learning and study. This method of study encourages students to take what they learn and put it into practice – whereby promoting deeper understanding and moving information from short-term to long-term memory ...

What is a learning strategy for school students? ›

Learning strategies are operations and actions that students use in order to optimize the processes of obtaining and storing information and course concepts. The ultimate goal of these strategies is that students are able to extract this information from memory in order to apply it.

What are two learning strategies for all students? ›

Types of Learning Strategies in The Classroom
  • Individual Learning. When students are each working at their desks, this is individual learning. ...
  • Centers. Centers are popular in elementary classrooms. ...
  • Group Work. ...
  • Concept Mapping and Charts. ...
  • Summarizing. ...
  • Acronyms. ...
  • Role-Playing. ...
  • Discussion.

What are the 4 C's teaching strategies? ›

The 21st century learning skills are often called the 4 C's: critical thinking, creative thinking, communicating, and collaborating. These skills help students learn, and so they are vital to success in school and beyond. Critical thinking is focused, careful analysis of something to better understand it.

What learning style is most common? ›

The most popular learning style preference is the kinesthetic category. These students prefer to be taught in a concrete way with real life examples and exploration. They learn best through all of their senses. A student with a kinesthetic learning preference will want to physically show or demonstrate their learning.

What are learning styles and strategies? ›

Learning styles are habitual patterns of perceiving, processing, or reacting to information. Learning strategies. Learning strategies are the specific actions one takes and/or techniques one uses in order to learn.

What are the different major types of learning techniques? ›

differentiates between 4 types: Learning type 1: auditive learning (“by listening and speaking“), Learning type 2: visual learning (“through the eyes, by watching”), • Learning type 3: haptic learning (“by touching and feeling”), • Learning type 4: learning through the intellect.

What are examples of flexible learning strategies? ›

Examples of strategies include: digital media-based assignments; iClicker and on-line quizzes; a librarian- created tutorial and links to copyright-cleared readings; use of Calibrated Peer Review as formative feedback; TurnItIn for self-review; wiki sites, group blogs and community work through Community-based Action ...

What are three word learning strategies to teach students? ›

Since students encounter so many unfamiliar words in their reading, any help provided by such strategies can be useful. Word-learning strategies include dictionary use, morphemic analysis, and contextual analysis.

What 3 effective classroom management strategies are based on? ›

The five components of effective classroom management include developing behavioral standards, establishing working relationships with students, valuing your time as a teacher, familiarizing students with teaching methods, and anticipating student behavior.

What are 5 strategies of classroom management? ›

5 Effective Classroom Management Strategies
  • Write Down the Rules.
  • Let Students Help.
  • Encourage Questioning.
  • Let Students Lead.
  • Encourage Group Projects.
Sep 21, 2021

What are the five instructional strategies? ›

These strategies are sometimes broken into five types: direct, indirect, experiential, interactive, and independent. (Learn more about the types of instructional strategies here.)

What are the Big Eight teaching strategies? ›

In the morning you will learn about the Big 8 classroom management strategies from the book Class Acts. These are: Expectations, Cueing, Tasking, Attention Prompts, Signals, Voice, Time Limits, and Proximity.

What are 7 ES teaching strategies? ›

The 7E Instructional Strategy

These phases, Elicit, Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate and Extend, according to Gok et al. (2014), allows students to correct their misconceptions through exploration, and facilitate clarification by the teacher, and aided by explanations by the students themselves.

What is the most common learning style for kids? ›

All young children learn through meaningful hands-on experiences—through touching, doing, and moving. And children also learn through seeing and hearing.

What is the most simplest form of learning? ›

The simplest form of learning is nonassociative learning such as habituation and sensitization. These refer to a decrease or an increase in a behavioral response dependent on the number and intensity of stimulus presentations.

How do you set a learning strategy? ›

The 7 Steps To A Robust L&D Strategy
  1. Know where you're going. What direction is the business going? ...
  2. Identify who will determine the learning and development vision and objectives. ...
  3. Know what success looks like. ...
  4. Conduct an internal skill gap analysis. ...
  5. Identify core learning needs. ...
  6. Create learner profiles.

How do you write a learning strategy? ›

The 7 Steps To A Robust L&D Strategy
  1. Know where you're going. What direction is the business going? ...
  2. Identify who will determine the learning and development vision and objectives. ...
  3. Know what success looks like. ...
  4. Conduct an internal skill gap analysis. ...
  5. Identify core learning needs. ...
  6. Create learner profiles.

What are active learning and learning strategies examples? ›

What is considered an Active Learning Strategy?
  • clustered in small groups to discuss a course topic,
  • reflecting individually at the end of each class session about what they have learned and what questions they still have,
  • working through an application problem with a partner before presenting to the larger class, or.

How do you plan a learning strategy? ›

Developing an Effective Learning Strategy
  1. 1) Structuring your strategy. ...
  2. 2) The importance of being goal-driven. ...
  3. 3) Short-term versus long-term business goals. ...
  4. 4) Assessing needs. ...
  5. 5) Legislative requirements. ...
  6. 6) Put the learner at the centre of the strategy. ...
  7. 7) The key to successful implementation. ...
  8. 8) Measure!
Jul 25, 2017

What are the three most common learning styles? ›

There are three primary types of learning styles, as defined by teacher Neil Fleming: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Most people learn best through one or two of these methods, but there are ways to use all three learning styles to your advantage.

Why are learning strategies important for students? ›

Strategies help students begin to understand the process of learning. Strategies help students to bypass their areas of weakness and to perform at the level at which they are capable. Strategies promote flexible thinking and teach students the importance of shifting their approaches to different tasks.

What is your strategy in teaching? ›

Teaching strategies are methods and techniques that a teacher will use to support their pupils or students through the learning process; a teacher will chose the teaching strategy most suitable to the topic being studied, the level of expertise of the learner, and the stage in their learning journey.

Why are learning strategies important? ›

Learning strategies allow educators to teach students how to learn, as opposed to teaching them specific content or skills. This helps ensure that learners are active participants in the classroom.


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