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The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC)
ERIC EC Digest #E638
Author: Pat Beckman
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 are discussed in this digest:
What has been learned about the effectiveness of strategy instruction?
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?
The 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 lifelong learners.
What happens to students when they become strategic?
The following outcomes can be expected:
What are the most essential strategies to teach?
This is 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 not inclusive):
What are the basic steps in teaching strategy use?
The following order of steps should be followed:
To what extent is strategy instruction taking place in classrooms?
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:
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: Heinemann.
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.
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