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close this bookHow Children Learn (IAE - IBE - UNESCO, 32 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe International Academy of Education
View the documentPreface
View the documentIntroduction
View the document1. Active involvement
View the document2. Social participation
View the document3. Meaningful activities
View the document4. Relating new information to prior knowledge
View the document5. Being strategic
View the document6. Engaging in self-regulation and being reflective
View the document7. Restructuring prior knowledge
View the document8. Aiming towards understanding rather than memorization
View the document9. Helping students learn to transfer
View the document10. Taking time to practice
View the document11. Developmental and individual differences
View the document12. Creating motivated learners
View the documentReferences and further reading
View the documentThe International Bureau of Education - IBE

5. Being strategic

People learn by employing effective and flexible strategies that help them to understand, reason, memorize and solve problems.

Research findings

Children develop strategies to help themselves solve problems from an early age. For example, when pre-school children are told to go to the supermarket to buy a list of food items, they often repeat the items on their way to remember them better. These children have discovered rehearsal as a strategy to improve their memory without anybody telling them to do so. When they go to school, children need help from teachers to develop appropriate strategies for solving mathematics problems, when understanding texts, doing science, learning from other students, etc. Research shows that when teachers make systematic attempts to teach learning strategies to students substantial gains can result.

Strategies are important because they help students understand and solve problems in ways that are appropriate for the situation at hand. Strategies can improve learning and make it faster. Strategies may differ in their accuracy, in their difficulty of execution, in their processing demands and in the range of problems to which they apply. The broader the range of strategies that children can use appropriately, the more successful they can be in problem solving, in reading, in text comprehension and in memorizing.

In the classroom

Teachers must recognize the importance of students knowing and using a variety of strategies. The teaching of strategies can be done directly or indirectly. In the latter case, the teacher can give students a task and provide a model of the inquiry process or ask key questions. For example, in reading, teachers can explicitly show students how to outline the important points in a text and how to summarize them. Alternatively, they can ask a group of students to discuss a text and summarize it. They can help in this process by participating in the discussion and by asking critical questions. In science, teachers can show students how to conduct experiments: how to form hypotheses, how to keep a systematic record of their findings, and how to evaluate them.

It is important to ensure that students learn to use these strategies on their own and do not always rely on teachers to provide the necessary support. Teachers need to gradually fade their assistance and allow students to take greater responsibility for their learning.

References: Mayer, 1987; Palincsar & Brown, 1984; White & Frederickson, 1998.