Why do some students struggle with learning and completing tasks?
Page 2: Importance of Teaching Study Skills Strategies
Perhaps one of the most important skills [students with learning disabilities] need to learn is how to learn.
Because students with learning difficulties, particularly those with LD and ADHD, have executive function deficits, they often do not approach academic tasks in a planful, strategic manner. They might lack knowledge of an appropriate strategy, or they might make use of inappropriate or ineffective ones. Whatever the case, the result is that they often perform poorly on academic tasks or fail to complete them in a timely manner, if at all. Therefore, these students need to be explicitly taught how to strategically approach academic tasks in order to gain and use information effectively. In other words, they need to be taught effective study strategies, often referred to as study skills. The table below lists several study skills strategies that can help students address their executive function challenges and tackle academic demands in a more effective, planful manner.
Retaining and Recalling Information
Organizing Materials and Managing Time
Selecting, Monitoring, and Using Strategies
Note: Each of these strategies is discussed in detail in the IRIS Module “Study Skills Strategies (Part 2): Strategies that Improve Students’ Academic Performance.”
Although effective study skills strategies are critical for academic success, for many reasons students are seldom taught them. Perhaps chief among these reasons is simply that teachers assume students already possess such skills, having picked them up in the earlier grades. For this reason, study skills instruction improves the academic outcomes of all students, especially those with LD and ADHD. Mary Anne Prater, whose research interests include instructional methods for students with mild to moderate disabilities, discusses the importance of teaching learning strategies in the general education classroom. Next, Don Deshler, an expert in the field of instructional interventions in content-area classes and learning strategies for at-risk learners, further discusses the importance of teaching learning strategies and outlines several reasons why teachers often do not teach such strategies. Finally, Erin shares her experiences before and after she applied effective study skills strategies to her schoolwork.
Mary Anne Prater, PhD Professor Brigham Young University
In many ways, study skills or learning strategies are prerequisites to learning content. So if students don’t have these basic skills, they’re going to have difficulty succeeding and learning the content. We know that students with disabilities are those who often do not have study skills strategies, but all students could benefit from study skills instruction. There are two major reasons for teachers to teach study skills strategies. First, students with learning disabilities and ADHD do not spontaneously generate their own effective study strategies. Many students without disabilities may learn by experience how they learn best, which leads to their ability to develop effective study skills strategies sort of on their own, often a trial-and- error process. But students with high-incidence disabilities generally don’t do that. They have difficulty learning from their experience in that way. They don’t know what helps them, particularly them as an individual, learn, as well as they’re not as aware of general effective learning strategies that will work for most students.
The second reason to teach students with high-incidence disabilities study skills strategies is because research shows that it does improve their academic performance after they learn and apply these strategies. And who, as a teacher, would not want to help students achieve academically? Teaching study skills strategies doesn’t have to be difficult. Effective teachers actually embed study strategies in their instruction. For example, they might develop guided notes, which could be an outline of the content that’s being presented to help students identify the relevant information in verbal presentations or in textual information. Or a teacher might provide visual representations of the material like graphic organizers so that the learners can place the content they’re learning in context, and it provides them the relationships between content that they’re learning.
Transcript: Don Deshler, PhD
All students can benefit from exposure to learning strategies. So I strongly believe there is a place for strategies instruction to be woven and integrated into the content instruction that is taking place in the general education classroom. It’s important to teach adolescents with learning disabilities learning strategies to empower them to independently approach and navigate the curriculum demands that they encounter in the general education classroom. What we have found through our research is that often these students haven’t acquired ways to approach their academic work. And so what we need to do is to explicitly carve out time to teach strategies to them. There’s several reasons why teachers may not teach strategies. Number one, teachers are under enormous pressure to teach large volumes of content in order to meet state standards and guidelines and now the common core state standards. And there’s more content than there is time, and this pressure then causes them to invest most of their time in teaching the content, as opposed to taking part of that time and invest it in teaching students how to learn the content or apply some specific strategies that would enable them to independently learn the material. Secondly, learning strategies appear to be pretty simple and straightforward—somewhat common sense—and indeed all of us use strategies in one form or another. What we don’t recognize sometimes is that for students who struggle in learning, it’s not merely a matter of being familiar with the strategy and have a working knowledge of it and then go ahead and apply it to a trial and error method, but rather students who are struggling in learning need to be taught the strategies at an explicit, direct level.
For years, I just looked at the textbook, and I thought that was studying ’cause that’s what I always saw. I just looked at it and read it, and I thought, well, that’s what I see everyone else doing and that seemed to be the appropriate way to study. And it wasn’t until I started looking into it and learning that I have ADHD that I learned that that’s not actually the way I need to be studying because I don’t process or retain information that way. So now I tend to try and interact with it more, maybe talk to people or read it out loud so that I can hear it and see it in multiple ways. But studying is still a challenge for me. I didn’t really start learning effective study strategies until the later years in high school. And it was very interesting to see the difference it did make because instead of just reading it, if I were to talk about it to someone, then it was much easier for me to grasp the information at a different level than if I just tried to look at it or hear it even. I learned to talk to my parents or my friends about the information, and the constant interaction was able to help me learn the information.
The results of a meta-analysis indicate that study skills strategies are highly effective for middle and high school students with disabilities (i.e., LD, emotional and behavioral disorders, and mild intellectual disabilities, or a combination of these) in the content-areas of science, social studies, and English. (Scruggs, Mastropieri, Berkeley, & Graetz, 2009–2010)