ERIC Identifier: ED474302
Publication Date: 2002-12-00
Author: Beckman, Pat
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Disabilities and Gifted Education Arlington VA.
Strategy Instruction. ERIC Digest.
For more than two decades there has been an abundance of research regarding
strategy instruction. Originally, most of this research focused on the effects
of strategy instruction on students with learning disabilities. Researchers are
currently looking at how strategy instruction affects all learners.
WHAT IS A STRATEGY?
In general, a strategy is a tool, plan,
or method used for accomplishing a task. Below are other terms associated with
strategy instruction, some of which will be discussed in this digest:
* Cognitive Strategy: a strategy or group of strategies or procedures that
the learner uses to perform academic tasks or to improve social skills. Often,
more than one cognitive strategy is used with others, depending on the learner
and his/her schema for learning. In fact, research indicates that successful
learners use numerous strategies. Some of these strategies include
visualization, verbalization, making associations, chunking, questioning,
scanning, underlining, accessing cues, using mnemonics, sounding out words, and
self-checking and monitoring.
* Cues: visual or verbal prompts to either remind the student what has
already been learned or provide an opportunity to learn something new. Cues can
also be employed to prompt student use of a strategy.
* Independent, Strategic Learner: the student who uses cues and strategies
within his/her learning schema, asks clarifying questions, listens, checks and
monitors his/her work and behavior, and sets personal goals. A strategic learner
knows the value of using particular strategies through experience, and is eager
to learn others that might prove beneficial.
* Learning Strategy: a set of steps to accomplish a particular task, such as
taking a test, comprehending text, and writing a story. A first-letter mnemonic
is often used to help the learner follow the steps of the strategy.
* Metacognition and Self-regulation: the understanding a person has about how
he/she learns (personal learning schema) including the strategies used to
accomplish tasks, and the process by which the learner oversees and monitors
his/her use of strategies.
* Mnemonic: a device for remembering, such as a first- letter mnemonic for
writing: PLAN (Pay attention to the prompt, List main ideas, Add supporting
ideas, Number your ideas) (DeLaPaz, Owen, Harris and Graham, 2000). Rhyme,
rhythm, music, and key-word mnemonics are also useful memory tools.
* Strategy Instruction: teaching students about strategies, teaching them how
and when to use strategies, helping students identify personally effective
strategies, and encouraging them to make strategic behaviors part of their
* Learning Schema: the sets, or mixes, of strategies that the individual
learner uses automatically to perform, produce, communicate, or learn. It can
take years to develop a personal learning schema.
WHAT HAS BEEN LEARNED ABOUT THE EFFECTIVENESS OF STRATEGY
Many students' ability to learn has been increased through the
deliberate teaching of cognitive and metacognitive strategies. This is
especially true for students with significant learning problems--strategy
instruction is crucial for them. It has been demonstrated that when struggling
students are taught strategies and are given ample encouragement, feedback, and
opportunities to use them, students improve in their ability to process
information, which, in turn, leads to improved learning. Because not all
students will find it easy to imbed strategy use in their learning schema,
differentiation of strategies instruction is required, with some students
needing more scaffolding and individualized, intensive instruction than others.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO TEACH CHILDREN TO BE STRATEGIC?
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1997 and the No Child Left
Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 focus on improved achievement by all students. IDEA
mandates that all students access and progress in the general education
curriculum. This includes students with disabilities, English language learners,
and gifted students. NCLB has established performance goals that drive the
efforts of public schools, especially in establishing proficiency in
reading/language arts and mathematics by all students by the year 2013-2014. The
outcomes listed below help ensure student progress. Additionally, when students
become strategic, independent learners, they also become literate and productive
WHAT HAPPENS TO STUDENTS WHEN THEY BECOME STRATEGIC?
following outcomes can be expected:
* Students trust their minds.
* Students know there's more than one right way to do things.
* They acknowledge their mistakes and try to rectify them. They evaluate
their products and behavior.
* Memories are enhanced.
* Learning increases.
* Self-esteem increases.
* Students feel a sense of power.
* Students become more responsible.
* Work completion and accuracy improve.
* Students develop and use a personal study process.
* They know how to "try."
* On-task time increases; students are more "engaged."
WHAT ARE THE MOST ESSENTIAL STRATEGIES TO TEACH?
determined, in large part, by assessing what successful, efficient learners do.
It has been found that they use numerous strategies across subjects and tasks,
such as those listed above under "cognitive strategies". They know when to use
strategies and for what purposes. An attempt to identify the most essential
strategies students should learn is an impossible task; it depends on the needs
of the learner and the requirements of the curriculum. However, student use of
the following strategies often leads to improved student performance (lists are
* Computation and problem-solving: Verbalization, visualization, chunking,
making associations, use of cues.
* Memory: Visualization, verbalization, mnemonics, making associations,
chunking, and writing. These are usually more effective when used in
* Productivity: Verbalization, self-monitoring, visualization, use of cues.
* Reading accuracy and fluency: Finger pointing or tracking, sounding out
unknown words, self-questioning for accuracy, chunking, and using contextual
* Reading comprehension: Visualization, questioning, rereading, predicting.
* Writing: Planning, revising, questioning, use of cues, verbalization,
visualization, checking and monitoring.
HOW ARE STUDENTS TAUGHT TO USE STRATEGIES?
strategy instruction is an integral part of classroom instruction, regardless of
the content being taught; it is not an additional subject. In the transactional
strategies instruction (TSI) model, strategies instruction takes place all year
long with the teacher giving explanations and modeling. Teachers continually
praise students for using strategies and use teachable moments to discuss them.
Students are encouraged to help their peers become more strategic.
WHAT ARE THE BASIC STEPS IN TEACHING STRATEGY USE?
following order of steps should be followed:
* Describe the strategy. Students obtain an understanding of the strategy and
its purpose-why it is important, when it can be used, and how to use it.
* Model its use. The teacher models the strategy, explaining to the students
how to perform it.
* Provide ample assisted practice time. The teacher monitors, provides cues,
and gives feedback. Practice results in automaticity so the student doesn't have
to "think" about using the strategy.
* Promote student self-monitoring and evaluation of personal strategy use.
Students will likely use the strategy if they see how it works for them; it will
become part of their learning schema.
* Encourage continued use and generalization of the strategy. Students are
encouraged to try the strategy in other learning situations.
TO WHAT EXTENT IS STRATEGY INSTRUCTION TAKING PLACE IN
Currently, there are little data available to determine how many
teachers teach strategic learning skills, how many are even aware of their
existence, or if they are aware, have the skills to teach them. Few teachers
demonstrate to their students their own personal strategy use. In general,
teachers are not aware of the importance of these skills. The fact that there is
such little data leads to the assumption that strategy instruction is not a
general classroom practice. Following are a few possible explanations for this:
* Early strategy instruction research was done specifically with learning
disabled populations. General education preservice and inservice programs have
not generalized these research findings to all learners.
* How students learn takes a back seat to what is learned. Teachers assume
students will "get it" on their own, or with more teacher-directed instruction
* The idea of focusing on the learner is still in its infancy.
* "Educator overload" is a factor. Teachers, experiencing the pressures of
accountability for student progress, feel they don't have time to "learn one
more thing," especially something they are not convinced will improve student
Numerous researchers are assisting educators in turning strategies research
into practice. An increasing number of strategies instruction curricula are
available, especially in reading and writing.
Beckman, P. & Weller, C. (1990). Active,
independent learning for children with learning disabilities. TEACHING
Exceptional Children, 21/22, 26-29.
Cornford, I. R. (2002, 7 December). Learning-to-learn skills for lifelong
learning: Some implications for curriculum development and teacher education.
Paper presented at the AARE annual conference, Sydney.
De La Paz, S. (1999). Self-regulated strategy instruction in regular
education settings: Improving outcomes for students with and without learning
disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 14, 92-118.
De La Paz, S., Owen, B., Harris, K. & Graham, S. (2000). Riding Elvis'
Motorcycle: Using self-regulated strategy development to PLAN and WRITE for a
state writing exam. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 15, 101- 109.
Deshler, D. D., Schumaker, J. B., Lenz, B. K., Bulgren, J. A., Hock, M. F.,
Knight, J., & Ehren, B. J. (2001). Ensuring content-area learning by
secondary students with learning disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research
& Practice, 16, 96-108.
Hamman, D. (1998). Preservice teachers' value for learning-strategy
instruction. Journal of Experimental Education, 66, 209-222.
Harris, K. R. & Graham, S. (1996). Making the writing process work:
Strategies for composition and self- regulation. Cambridge: MA: Brookline Books.
Keene, E. O. & Zimmermann, S. (1997). Mosaic of thought. Portsmouth, NH:
Logan, J. W., Olson, M. W., & Lindsey, T. P. (1993). Lessons from
champion spellers. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 13, 89-96.
Meichenbaum, D. & Biemiller, A. (1998). Nurturing independent learners.
Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books.
Pressley, M. & Woloshyn, V. (1995). Cognitive strategy instruction that
really improves children's academic performance. Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books.