Learning Strategies That Work

March and April can be times of the most challenging learning each school year. The cognitive load increases, sports are in transition, and even theatre may add new demands. It can be a time when learning support is needed, and parents often ask, “What will help most?”

Fortunately, John Hattie and fellow researchers have studied the “effect size,” which seeks to quantify the impact of various learning strategies. After performing thousands of meta-analyses (to include over 400,000 students), Hattie found that the overall impact on learning is an effect size of 0.40. Thus, any strategy that has an effect size above 0.40 is an accelerator of learning. In the following paragraphs, I will discuss a few of the strategies with the greatest impact, but the entire list of strategies ranked by student achievement can be found at the following link: 256 Influences Related to Achievement

(0.86) Transfer Strategies
Any new learning must be moved from working memory into long-term memory in such a way that it can be recalled. This transfer of learning can be helped if the student focuses on the relevance of what is being learned; taking time to explain the concept to self or someone else; using various media to aide memory (pictures, narration, text); adding novelty (new setting for study, new timeline, or different colors); identifying gaps in knowledge through practice testing; using analogies and metaphors.

(0.79) Deliberate Practice
Differing from “regular practice,” deliberate practice focuses on skill improvement of each piece in the learning process. It includes goal setting, reflection, and feedback for improvement.

(0.76) Mnemonics
Putting learning into a sentence aids long-term learning. We all recall colors of the rainbow through ROY G. BIV. There are many examples of mnemonics on the Internet, but students can create ones themselves; the sentence only needs to make sense to the learner.

(0.75) Elaboration & Organization
This is a process of connecting new knowledge to prior knowledge as well as connecting new knowledge to knowledge from other disciplines, areas of life, or audiences. The more one can elaborate, the greater the ability to access that learning because it has been stored in multiple pockets of knowledge.

(0.75) Evaluation, Reflection, and Help Seeking
Self-evaluation and reflection regarding error analysis and improvement strategies is a lifetime skill. Students are often unwilling to seek help because they fear they will “look stupid.” This idea comes from confusing help-seeking with learned helplessness. Help-seeking is a strong learning strategy in which the student works as far as possible, but when confused, seeks additional support from the teacher or a peer. The key in help-seeking is for the student to go as far as he or she can and then allow the teacher to help close the gap in learning. This is a skill that will be needed through college and beyond.