How can teachers effectively teach study skills strategies?
Page 4: Considerations When Teaching Strategies
High-achieving students typically approach an academic task with confidence. They face challenging assignments with the belief that they can complete them successfully. They are engaged in learning and maintain their commitment to the task until it is complete. These students typically find learning study skills strategies easy and are able to apply them when needed. However, this is not the case for many students with learning difficulties who have experienced repeated academic failures and who, by the time they have entered middle or high school, are often disengaged and unmotivated. These students frequently have negative perceptions about their abilities, and might be unmotivated or unwilling to learn study skills strategies even when teachers discuss how doing so will improve their academic performance. To illustrate this point, Hannah and Erin discuss how they view and respond to challenging academic assignments. Notice that Hannah is often motivated to do well on these types of assignment, whereas Erin is frequently discouraged.
I’m not really discouraged when I see a big, long homework assignment or a huge test coming. Maybe a test, I take it more as a challenge. I want to do my very best I can do on it. I have to take a step back and kind of take a break for a minute, and then once I realize this isn’t as terrible as it seems I think it’s easier for me to not think about all of it at one time. Just kind of break it down into smaller goals to try to accomplish.
I often become discouraged in school. I always feel like I’m studying very hard and that I’m working, and I don’t ever really see the results. So a lot of times, as soon as the grades start failing or I miss one assignment, I find myself not really trying much anymore because it gets harder and harder to correct it. My natural response would be to just stop working on it and go do something else. I’ve been trying to work through that and to break it down into steps or bits of information that I can work with one at a time. Some classes are no challenge for me at all. If it’s especially a topic that I’m really, really interested in then I feel perfectly fine and motivated to continue on in that line of study. I’m not particularly fond of any mathematics, and so in those classes I find myself getting very discouraged and thinking, “Oh, I’m never going to learn this. I’m not good with numbers.” But if it’s something that I like or I’m interested in then I can study it and do just fine.
After repeated failures, students with LD display learned helplessness (which was displayed through lack of motivation or effort when faced with challenging tasks), feelings of hopelessness, low self esteem, and negative affectivity (e.g., irritability, shame, nervousness, guilt). (Sideridis, 2003)
Students with LD report feeling lower levels of hope—which reflects belief in one’s ability and elicits motivation—than do high-average and high-achieving groups. (Lackaye & Margalit, 2006)
When presented with writing tasks that they consider difficult, students with LD are more likely to use fewer strategies and put forth less effort. (Meltzer, Katzier, Miller, Reddy, & Roditi, 2004)
Students with LD who have positive self-perceptions about their academic ability tend to put forth more effort and to use strategies more often than do students with LD who have negative self-perceptions. (Meltzer, Reddy, Pollica, Roditi, Sayer, & Theokas, 2004)
Don Deshler, PhD Professor, Special Education Director, Center for Research on Learning The University of Kansas
Don Deshler discusses the importance of acknowledging students’ struggles with learning as well as their resistance to trying new strategies (time: 2:35).
In order to learn anything, we need to have engaged, motivated learners. Almost by definition, if a student is struggling in learning, especially adolescents, they have started to disengage and become unmotivated. And it’s easy to understand. Any of us do that if we fail repeatedly at something. Often job number one is to get the kids engaged and sufficiently motivated that they are willing to give it a try. So there’s certain things that we have found necessary to do in order to engage students and to motivate them, and it’s right up front. We need to be very genuine and honest with them, recognizing that they often have been sold a bill of goods: “Hey, we’ve got this new reading program! We’ve got this new X, Y, Z!” They’ve gone into it with good hope, and often it has not delivered so their hope has gone up and then their hope has been dashed and that often has happened multiple times. So we need to recognize that we’re, maybe in all likelihood, working with a student who’s had that history. We need to recognize that learning may be a painful thing for them, and we don’t dodge that bullet. And we’ll indicate, “What I’d like you to do, if you’d be willing, is I’d like to share with you an alternative way of approaching some tasks. I’m going to tell you. I’m going to show you, model it for you, so you can see what it would look like, feel like. I’m going to tell you about how much time I predict it will take us to learn it. I’m going to share with you what I think will happen with your performance in your classes here. And then in light of that information, I’d like you to make a decision. Maybe we could have a conversation around what you think about that?” And we have found that having some conversations like that is an important thing right up front. We’re being honest. We’re being respectful of students. We’re recognizing that they have a choice in this. Because if we don’t, they still are maintaining that control inside, and they can bob their head all they want to make us happy, but if they’re being resistant inside we’re going nowhere.
Transcript: Don Deshler, PhD
We need to use engaging materials, things that are so attractive to them that the content of the materials serves somewhat as a hook to have them there. So the time we’re spending, the ideas we’re working with, have some motivational pull to them. Another part of the motivational engagement process is we need to demonstrate, early on for them, success. Where they can see, “Oh, my word. I apply it, and I can feel a difference. I can see a difference.” Why see? Because we are charting their performance and behavior. Actually, we have them chart it. That’s part of it, so they can physically see their performance going up on a graph. We have ongoing conversations with them. “Hey, what are you thinking about this? Let’s just get our concerns out on the table.” Then we continue to move along at a rapid pace, because oftentimes we find that in any kind of supplemental instruction the pace sometimes slows down and that becomes boring for kids. So there’s this sense of urgency. The other thing is to set high expectations for the student and express a belief in them as a learner. “Hey, listen, we all struggle in learning one way or another. You seem to be struggling here. I struggle in this way on this particular thing. That doesn’t make us bad people. That just lays out where we need to address and acquire some new skills, perhaps more explicitly than we’ve done in the past. I know you can learn this strategy, and once you get this one down it’s going to just really open some doors for you.”