ON READING MAYER’S LEARNING AND INSTRUCTION CHAPTER 11 (2008)

Chapter 11: Teaching by Fostering Learning Strategies

“A learning strategy refers to cognitive processing performed by a learner at the time of learning that is intended to improve learning. This definition has three main parts: (1) a learning strategy involves intentional cognitive processing by the learner; (2) a learning strategy occurs at the time of learning; and (3) a learning strategy is intended to improve learning“ (p. 390). “The theme of this chapter is that teaching of learning strategies is an appropriate instructional activity” (p. 427).

“When the goal is to help students memorize paired associates as in foreign language vocabulary, mnemonic strategies are warranted. When the goal is to teach students how to figure out what is important and what is not important in a passage, structure strategies are called for. When the goal is to determine the theme of the passage, generative strategies can be taught. The appropriateness of any strategy training also depends partly on the learner (e.g., whether the learner would normally use the strategy). Before strategy training is carried out, each student should be tested to determine whether he or she knows how to use a particular strategy. If a student is already proficient in using a strategy, training is not needed for that student. (p. 427).

Mnemonic strategies

“Mnemonic strategies are techniques that help students memorize material such as facts” (p. 392). They help transfer in two ways: 1) you remember basic facts easily, 2) they make a difficult material meaningful.

Keyword method (in learning vocab) seems to be more efficient than mere recitation and rehearsal, according to research. For children as old as 12, however, there needs to be imagery cues from the teacher, as children can’t form their own images spontaneously. Important: word + keyword + image + vocab word. Research endorses keyword method a lot. I hate it.

Elaboration strategies (help students create a story). But this is for low-skilled students. Like with keyword, I think there is too much unnecessary cognitive load.

Structure strategies

“Structure strategies such as writing an outline or drawing a graphic enable the learner to impose organization on the material” (p. 398). “Structure strategies prompt active learning by encouraging learners to mentally select relevant pieces of information and relate them to one another within a structure” (p. 399). Good for memory, enhances transfer (inference skills) on problem-solving tasks. Structure methods are all about internal connections.

Let’s distinguish between prose narratives (stories) and expository narratives (explanations). Generally, learners are good at remembering stories but have troubles with the expository narratives. Structure strategies can help low-skilled students with organizing unfamiliar expository narratives.

Mapping (graphic outlines). Knowledge mapping: break a passage into parts (ideas) & identify relations among them (part of, type of, analog of, characteristic of, evidence for, leads to). Good for remembering main ideas but not details. High-skilled students don’t benefit, they have their own strategies. Knowledge mapping involves spacial learning strategy. Another such strategy is concept mapping.

Outlining (written outlines). Students should know top-level structures: description, sequence, causation, problem/solution, comparison. There’s another (more sci classification) structure: generalization, enumeration, sequence, classification, compare/contrast. Helps in high-level memory (retention; but not low-level fact retention) and problem-solving transfer. Also, matrixes can be useful for both retention and transfer.

top-level structure

Chart of the top-level structure. Underline key words in passages

Generative Strategies

“Generative strategies are learning strategies aimed at helping the learner integrate presented information with existing knowledge and experience” (p. 413). They are all about (external) connections among ideas. One way to do it is by notetaking. Mathemagenic activities give birth to knowledge: “taking notes, underlining, answering questions, or repeating aloud all are mathemagenic activities” (p. 413). “Generative strategies are intended to promote deep understanding by prompting the learner to put the material into his or her own words, distill its main message, and relate it with other knowledge” (p. 414).

Summarizing strategies. “[T]he increase in far transfer performance is most consistent with the idea that notetaking in this study resulted in building external connections” (p. 414). Verbatim notes are worse than summary notes for retention (the latter promote transfer).

Questioning strategies. Make sense as you read, be cognitively involved, do self-explanations (paraphrase, explain what a passage means, what does the statement mean, what do I not understand, etc.). Involve in self-questioning—helps focus on the main material and learn more deeply (explain why/how, what is the main idea of, what’s the difference between, what conclusions can you draw about, etc.). A teacher can ask questions, too (review questions, probing questions)—it helps even with remembering facts as well as organizing and integrating new knowledge.

Self-regulated learning strategies. “[S]elf-regulated learners—learners who take responsibility for managing their learning activities” (p. 423). “[W]e can provide direct instruction in learning strategies that promote self-regulated learning” (p. 425). “This section showed that learning-even learning from lecture–can be an active process. The student can control the learning process by using generative techniques such as summarizing, questioning, and self-regulating” (p. 426).

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