How can teachers effectively teach study skills strategies?
Page 3: Models for Teaching Strategies
If students are to succeed academically, they must be able to use different types of study skills strategies (e.g., comprehension strategies, note-taking). However, some students, especially those with learning difficulties, need to be explicitly taught specific study skills strategies as well as when, where, and how to use them. When he is able to use a strategy fluently, a student no longer has to use his working memory to recall the steps of the strategy at the same time he is processing the information being learned. To make sure that the student learns to use a study skills strategy in an automatic or fluent manner, the teacher needs to use strategy instruction, instruction designed to teach students the elements or steps for implementing strategies successfully.
To teach students with learning difficulties how to effectively use study skills strategies, teachers should use a research-validated strategy instruction model. In fact, some research suggests that the way in which students are taught to use study skills strategies might be just as important as the strategies themselves. Effective strategy instruction typically includes the following:
Students who have learning disabilities need high structure, explicit teaching and extended opportunities to practice strategies until they develop independent skills.
Explicit instruction: Teach the specific steps of a strategy and also discuss how, when, where, and why to use the strategy
Modeling: Demonstrate, while thinking aloud, how the strategy is used
Guided practice: Provide ample opportunities for students to practice the strategy, making sure to offer guidance and corrective feedback
Independent practice: Allow students to use the strategy independently and continue to monitor performance and provide corrective feedback
Self-regulation strategies: Encourage students to be self-directed in their learning by teaching them to use strategies such as self-monitoring and goal-setting
Maintenance and generalization: Incorporate activities that encourage students to continue to use the strategy and to use it in other settings
The Importance of Practice Opportunities, Maintenance, and Generalization
“We kind of learned it, and then moved on…. [If] they taught us, like, a note-taking strategy or something like that, they might have us take notes that way for the day, but it wasn’t really something that they gave us time to practice. They just showed it to us, and then let us do what we would with it.” — Erin
“I’ll learn a new strategy, and I’ll use it for, like, a week in school then over the weekend I might forget it or, like, forget the way it works so I won’t use it as much as I should.” — Kyra
Because teachers have limited time for classroom instruction, it is common for them to teach a strategy and then quickly move on. Don Deshler discusses the importance of providing ample practice opportunities and of intentionally addressing maintenance and generalization of the strategy (time: 3:32).
Don Deshler, PhD Professor, Special Education Director, Center for Research on Learning The University of Kansas
In order for kids who are struggling in learning to acquire strategies that will make them effective learners and performers, they generally need to be immersed in the learning experience and practice with the strategy. If a strategy cannot be used fluently, it is not a meaningful tool in their toolbox. When given a task that they need to invest a lot of time and energy in remembering what the steps of the strategy are and how do I use it, they’re draining their energy off of the content that they indeed need to be focusing on. We then find out they just don’t do it. They go back to their old habits of learning. And so we need to be very deliberate in the ones we choose and teach them well. Once a student acquires a strategy, the temptation can be, “Okay, let’s go onto the next thing,” and fail to do the generalization and maintenance phases of instruction, and they are very explicit instructional stages that we need to take students through. There’s very explicit things that need to happen, including having conversations about “Okay, you’ve been applying the strategy with these materials. Now, think about your science class. Let’s take a look at your science book and the science things you’re doing. How would this strategy work? Are there some adaptations or changes that we need to make to this strategy?” Then you give some actual practices where you have the students actually apply it. And then you have to build into the environment some prompts or scaffolds where we’re looking at their actual application and generalization. So it means that if a student’s been taught this strategy in a supplemental class that we go out and have a conversation with the history teacher, the science teacher, the math teacher, say in essence, “Here’s what the strategy is. Under these circumstances, Jason should be using it. Could you prompt him to do it? If he struggles, here’s what you might say to him.” Well, doing those kinds of things is time-consuming. Logistically it’s difficult. There’s a lot of reasons why we get away from teaching the generalization and maintenance phases of the strategy instruction.
Another reason is sometimes kids get bored with it. They’ve mastered this strategy. They’ve demonstrated mastery on some of your probes, and then you keep going on. And now you’ve got to do it in this class, that class, and so forth, and so you have to be very creative and take fresh looks at it to keep them engaged. Often that’s something new, as opposed to something they’ve been working with. But at the end of the day, where our research has been taking us is it’s often better to teach fewer strategies but teach them deeper than to skim over the surface. And that’s often what’s happened in study skills programs is that there’s sort of the study skill of the week, and you do it for one week and then you’re on to another one, and you’re on to another one, and you’re skimming over the surface.
Two strategy instruction models that incorporate the elements listed above have been proven to be effective for teaching strategies to students with learning difficulties.
Research over the last twenty-five years has helped us to develop an effective framework for teachers to teach writing strategies to students and we call that framework SRSD, Self-Regulated Strategy Development. While most of our work has been done in writing, teachers use the same framework very successfully in math and reading as well. The six basic stages are Develop Background Knowledge, Discuss It, Model It, Memorize It, Support It, and Independent Performance. We do not promise students that the strategy can do more for them than the strategy is actually capable of doing. We’re also very careful here that we emphasize the role of effort. No trick, no strategy, no matter how good, will work for you if you don’t work. So your effort is absolutely critical. We talk through what the strategy components are, what the strategy steps are. We tie it back to the goals we talk about with students. Why are we learning this strategy?
Not only are the stages of SRSD not linear—in other words, you don’t go from one to the next and you’re done with the stage before it—but it’s important to emphasize that the stages are recursive in the sense that you can return to any stage at any point. And, in fact, teachers typically do. You may be up to modeling and realize that there’s some background knowledge that the student you’re working with don’t have clear enough yet. So you’ll take some time after modeling and go back and work further on a key concept or construct that students need to go further successfully. This is in all senses, not a once-and-done model of instruction. You don’t do a stage once and you’re done with it. You don’t do all six stages and you’re done. Furthermore, when you’re done, you’re still not done. One of the things we know about students with learning difficulties and learning disabilities is that they often don’t maintain what they’ve learned well. Research shows us this is typical not just of students with learning difficulties, in fact, but of many students. And we have the answer. It’s called booster sessions. We need to plan for these drops in maintenance. We need to do that by reviewing the strategies we’ve learned so far from time to time.
Transcript: Don Deshler, PhD
SIM, or the Strategic Instruction Model, is effective because it has emerged through years and years of research. And, for us, the criterion that we hold ourselves to is that students need to be able to not just move from an F to a D, but move from an F to a high C or B so that they indeed can hold their own. At the core is an expectation that students become self-regulated learners. There’s self-regulation components built in so students can practice that, have an understanding of what does self-regulation mean? What does it look like, what does it feel like, what do I need to be doing in order to own my own learning? If we’re not successful in helping students become self-regulated learners, ultimately they’re going to fail because we can’t be with them at all times, and the demands of the situation that they’re facing is going to continually change, and they need to be able to change with it and to regulate how they’re learning in light of these new demands that they’re coming across. So that’s a part of the instructional process. It’s not just teaching them a specific strategy. Here are the steps of the strategy. Now let’s practice it. Now let’s apply it. Now… It’s also us having ongoing conversations with them about what good learning looks like, what it feels like, what failure feels like, and how you deal with failure and how you back up, do some self-talking, self-regulation, how you seek out some assistance within your environment and so forth, so that you can go at it again and be successful. So I think that’s something that is often lost when we think about strategy instruction. We just look at the strategy in isolation. We see it, the steps of it listed on the page and so forth. Effective strategy instruction involves much more than just teaching the strategy.
More information about SRSD can be found in the following IRIS resources:
Studies that included at-risk students and students with disabilities demonstrate that students who were taught writing strategies using SRSD outperformed those in the control groups. (Graham & Harris, 2005)
A review of more than twenty studies of adolescents that received strategy instruction using the eight steps of SIM indicates that, in general, the students used the strategy more effectively after they received strategy instruction. (Deshler & Schumaker, 2006; Block & Parris, 2008)
A meta-analysis of instructional approaches indicates that students with LD show the greatest improvement in academic behavior when the teacher uses strategy instruction. (Swanson, 2001)
Students with LD show greater improvement than do their peers when strategy instruction is incorporated into the curriculum. (Meltzer, Katzir, Miller, Reddy, & Roditi, 2004)
“A strategic teacher is one whose classroom drips with ongoing conversations and experiences around strategic learning and strategic instruction.” Don Deshler (Interview, 2012)