ERIC Identifier: ED433669
Publication Date: 1999-08-00
Author: Boudah, Daniel J. - O'Neill, Kevin J.
Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education Reston VA.
Learning Strategies. ERIC/OSEP Digest E577.
As students shift from the skills emphasis of elementary grades to the
content emphasis of secondary grades, they face greater demands to read
information from textbooks, take notes from lectures, work independently, and
express understanding in written compositions and on paper and pencil tests
(Schumaker & Deshler, 1984). For students who haven't acquired such
important academic skills, the task of mastering content often comes with
failure, particularly in inclusive general education classes. In response to
this challenge, many students with learning problems, including those with
learning disabilities (LD), have acquired and use specific learning strategies
to become successful despite their knowledge and skill deficits.
Simply put, a learning strategy is an individual's approach to complete a
task. More specifically, a learning strategy is an individual's way of
organizing and using a particular set of skills in order to learn content or
accomplish other tasks more effectively and efficiently in school as well as in
nonacademic settings (Schumaker & Deshler, 1992). Therefore, teachers who
teach learning strategies teach students how to learn, rather than teaching them
specific curriculum content or specific skills.
WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SAY ABOUT LEARNING STRATEGIES?
of the research and development of learning strategies for students with
learning disabilities has come from researchers and educators affiliated with
The University of Kansas, Center for Research on Learning. In general, their
research suggests that use of learning strategies can improve student
performance in inclusive settings or on grade appropriate tasks. In reading, for
example, results from a study of the use of the Word Identification Strategy
indicated that the number of oral reading errors decreased while reading
comprehension scores increased for all students on ability level and grade level
materials (Lenz & Hughes, 1990). Another study revealed that students using
the Test Taking Strategy improved average test scores in inclusive classes from
57% to 71% (Hughes & Schumaker, 1991).
Other researchers in the area of learning strategies have also found positive
results. For example, Graham, Harris, and colleagues (e.g., Graham, Harris,
MacArthur, & Schwartz, 1991) have validated strategies for improving the
quality of student compositions, planning processes, and revisions. In another
line of research, Palincsar and Brown (e.g., Palincsar & Brown, 1986)
successfully tested and replicated reciprocal teaching, a strategy to improve
student reading performance. Scruggs and Mastropieri (e.g., Scruggs &
Mastropieri, 1992) have validated several approaches to teach students how to
construct and use mnemonics. Strategies tested by Miller and Mercer (e.g.,
Miller & Mercer, 1993) have resulted in improved student performance in math
calculations as well as in solving word problems.
HOW DO TEACHERS TEACH LEARNING STRATEGIES?
Educators at the
University of Kansas, Center for Research on Learning, have validated an
instructional sequence in which students learn each strategy following these
teacher-directed steps: (a) pretest, (b) describe, (c) model, (d) verbal
practice, (e) controlled practice, (f) grade-appropriate practice, (g) posttest,
(h) generalization (Schumaker & Deshler, 1992). After a teacher assesses the
current level of student performance on a strategy pretest, students commit to
learning a new strategy. The teacher then describes the characteristics of the
strategy and when, where, why, and how the strategy is used. Next, the teacher
models how to use the strategy by "thinking aloud" as the strategy is applied to
content material. During the verbal practice step, students memorize the
strategy steps and other critical use requirements. Afterwards, controlled
practice activities enable students to become proficient strategy users with
ability level materials. Teachers provide specific feedback on performance, and
then students use the strategy with grade-appropriate or increasingly more
difficult materials. Finally, after a posttest, teachers facilitate student
generalization of strategy use in other academic and nonacademic settings.
Each strategy has multiple parts that students remember with the aid of a
mnemonic. For example, in the Paraphrasing Strategy (Schumaker, Denton, &
Deshler, 1984) students learn a reading comprehension strategy that is
remembered by the acronym RAP:
*Read a paragraph
*Ask yourself, "What were the main idea and details in this paragraph?"
*Put the main idea and details into your own words.
If students need to learn prerequisite skills, such as finding main ideas and
details, teachers teach those before teaching the strategy, and reinforce
student mastery of those skills during strategy instruction. Students typically
learn to use a learning strategy in small groups, sometimes in a resource room,
through short, intensive lessons over several weeks.
WHAT RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE FOR TEACHERS?
strategies curriculum developed at the University of Kansas is organized into
three strands: (a) information acquisition, (b) information storage, and (c)
expression and demonstration of understanding.
The information acquisition strand features the Word Identification Strategy,
the Paraphrasing Strategy, and others. The Word Identification Strategy (Lenz
& Hughes, 1990) enables students to decode multisyllabic words. Students use
the Paraphrasing Strategy (Schumaker, Denton, & Deshler, 1984) to improve
reading comprehension of main ideas and details through paraphrasing.
The information storage strand includes the FIRST-letter Mnemonic Strategy,
the Paired Associates Strategy, as well as others. Students who master the
FIRST-letter Mnemonic Strategy are able to scan textbooks to create lists of
critical information and devise first letter mnemonics to remember the material
(Nagel, Schumaker, & Deshler, 1986). To better study and recall content, the
Paired Associates Strategy enables students to pair pieces of new information
with existing knowledge by using a visual device (Bulgren, Hock, Schumaker,
& Deshler, 1995).
The expression and demonstration of understanding strand includes the
Sentence Writing Strategy, the Test Taking Strategy, and others. The Sentence
Writing Strategy is designed to teach students how to write simple, compound,
complex, and compound-complex sentences (Schumaker & Sheldon, 1985). The
Test Taking Strategy is an integrated strategy used by students to focus
attention on critical aspects of test items, systematically answer questions,
and improve test performance (Hughes & Schumaker, 1991).
In large measure, the learning strategies research conducted over the last 20
years at the University of Kansas, Center for Research on Learning, has been
funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs. Additional funding has
come from sources including the State of Kansas, The Casey Family Foundation,
and the National Council for Learning Disabilities. The content of this
publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the funding
agencies, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products, or
organizations imply their endorsement.
For further information on the University of Kansas Learning Strategies
Curriculum, teacher training, and how to implement strategies instruction
throughout a school, contact: Center for Research on Learning, University of
Kansas, 3061 Dole Center, Lawrence, KS 66045, (785)864-4780 (www. ku-crl.org).
Bulgren, J. A., Hock, M. F., Schumaker, J. B., & Deshler, D. D. (1995). The effects of instruction in a paired associates
strategy on the information mastery performance of students with learning
disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 10(1), 22-37.
Graham, S., Harris, K. R., MacArthur, C. A., & Schwartz, S. (1991).
Writing and writing instruction for students with learning disabilities: Review
of a research program. Learning Disability Quarterly, 14(2), 89-114.
Hughes, C. A., & Schumaker, J. B. (1991). Test-taking strategy
instruction for adolescents with learning disabilities. Exceptionality, 2,
Lenz, B. K., & Hughes, C. A. (1990). A word identification strategy for
adolescents with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 23(3),
Miller, S. P., & Mercer, C. D. (1993). Using a graduated word problem
sequence to promote problem-solving skills. Learning Disability Research &
Practice, 8(3), 169-174.
Nagel, D. R., Schumaker, J. B., & Deshler, D. D. (1986). The FIRST-letter
mnemonic strategy . Lawrence, KS: Edge Enterprises.
Palincsar, A. S., & Brown, A. L. (1986). Interactive teaching to promote
independent learning from text. Reading Teacher, 39, 771-777.
Schumaker, J. B., Denton, P. H., & Deshler, D. D. (1984). The
paraphrasing strategy. Lawrence, KS: The University of Kansas.
Schumaker, J. B., & Deshler, D. D. (1992). Validation of learning
strategy interventions for students with LD: Results of a programmatic research
effort. In Y. L. Wong (Ed.), Contemporary intervention research in learning
disabilities: An international perspective. New York: Springer-Verlag.
Schumaker, J. B., & Deshler, D. D. (1984). Setting demand variables: A
major factor in program planning for LD adolescents. Topics in Language
Disorders, 4, 22-44.
Schumaker, J. B., & Sheldon, J. (1985). The sentence writing strategy.
Lawrence, KS: The University of Kansas.
Scruggs, T. E., & Mastropieri, M. A. (1992). Classroom applications of
mnemonic instruction: Acquisition, maintenance, and generalization. Exceptional
Children, 58(3), 219-229.