Learning strategy training approach

Learning strategy training approachWhy Blended Learning Is Really Just Blended Training

Blended learning is a hot phrase in the training world, and it usually refers to a mixing of traditional face-to-face classroom facilitation with computer-based modules — usually self-paced online training. Proponents of blended learning point to several benefits of the approach, including:

1. Blended learning extends training beyond a single “event.”

2. Blended learning allows trainees to absorb training on their own time, leaving valuable classroom time for more skill-building activities.

3. Blended learning saves money by reducing the travel and work-stoppage costs of classroom training.

There’s merit in many of these points. But there are also some holes in that logic that can’t be ignored:

1. The blended learning model doesn’t exactly extend training beyond an event — it simply extends the event. There’s an important difference there.

2. The blended learning model allows for some lessons to be delivered online instead of in a classroom lecture. But whether any of that information is actually absorbed is another question.

3. Done right, a blended learning program can reduce can produce cost savings. But that has nothing to do with learning and performance effectiveness, only money.

It’s Blended Training, Not Blended Learning

Blended learning has really emerged as a buzzword in the last decade. In 2003, the American Society for Training and Development identified blended learning as one of its Top 10 trends to emerge in the knowledge-delivery industry.

And that’s precisely why I’ve never been a fan of blended learning — its really not about learning at all.

Look again at what the ASTD describes the industry as: the “knowledge-delivery”industry. There’s a big difference between knowledge delivery and learning. Amazon can deliver a book to my house, but I still have to read it to learn anything.

Webster’s defines learning as the act or experience of one that learns; knowledge of skill acquired by instruction or study; modification of a behavioral tendency by experience.

What part of that definition do you think describes how the majority of workplace learning takes place? Without question, it’s the “modification of a behavioral tendency by experience.” (Practice!)

How People Really Learn

Most real workplace learning takes place within peoples work, on the job. It happens through informal sharing, observation, and coaching from peers. It’s learning by actually performing.

Let’s return to the definition for another question: In which section of the definition do you think the work of trainers resides? I believe most of the work of trainers falls in the middle section, “knowledge of skill acquired by instruction or study.

Most of what trainers do involves transferring knowledge and explaining its potential applications on the job. Explaining something isnt the same as doing it. And doing it — performing it — is how people really learn.

So in reality, what we’re talking about when we describe blended learning is just how us transferring the responsibility of delivering content from a person to a computer. Again, this isn’t a learning strategy; it’s a training strategy.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If learning professionals can start focusing more on improving people’s performance than on simply delivering content,” we can create a true “blended” learning model — one that gets away from the “knowledge-delivery” industry.

Online and Classroom Isn’t Enough

Most blended learning models today consist of classroom training and self-paced online courses, which are made up of information on a screen, occasional quizzes, and sometimes some student-to-student (or student-to-instructor) interactions.

As I said earlier, that’s a training delivery strategy. But that’s hardly the only way people learn to do their job.

People learn from one another, from job aids, Internet searches, blogs, webcasts, and countless other places. The challenge for most trainers is that these resources aren’t “approved,” and can’t be tracked and reported on by an LMS .

Approved sources and tracking learning activity are training concerns, not performance concerns. If we really want to enable workers to succeed, we need to focus more on what will really help the most. It’s usually not a course, and it’s usually not a knowledge-delivery system.

We need to start seeing at our role as one of performance support, connecting workers with the resources they need at the time that they need them. Ironically, once we start doing that, we’ll have built a true blended learning model.

David Kelly is the director of training at Carver Federal Savings Bank and ember of the ASTD National Advisors for Chapters . He is also the author of the blog Misadventures in Learning , where he discusses the future of the learning field and curates the backchannel of learning conferences.

For more Daily Mindflash articles on Learning and Development, click here .

Image used under Creative Commons by Flickr user Sarah M Stewart .


It has been claimed that successful language learners have their own "special ways of doing it". Stern (1975) and Rubin (1975) were probably among the first researchers who brought up the idea of successful language learners. The idea can probably help us with both understanding more about the nature of language learning and also to facilitate the language learning process for others. Since this premise, most of the research in the area of language learning strategies has focused on the identification, description, and classification of useful learning strategies. The research has been descriptive with the aim to elicit the useful strategies applied by successful language learners assuming that it could help other learners to become more successful. Rubin (1975), suggested that good L2 learners are willing and accurate guessers; have a strong drive to communicate; are often uninhibited; are willing to make mistakes; focus on form by looking for patterns and analyzing; take advantage of all practice opportunities; monitor their speech as well as that of others; and pay attention to meaning. Naiman, Frohlich, and Todesco (1975) made a list of strategies used by successful L2 learners, adding that they learn to think in the language and address the affective aspects of language acquisition as well.

Learning strategies are defined by O'Malley and Chamot (1990) as "special thoughts or behaviors that individuals use to comprehend, learn, or retain new information" (p.1). Oxford (1994) defines them as "actions, behaviors, steps, or techniques students use, often unconsciously, to improve their progress in apprehending, internalizing, and using the L2" (p.1).

In the 1980s and early 90s, research mainly focused on categorizing the strategies found in the studies of the previous decade. As a result, several taxonomies were proposed to classify them, including classifications of language learning strategies in general and language sub-skills strategies in particular. O'Malley and Chamot (1990), for instance, have divided the strategies into three main branches: cognitive, metacognitive, and socio-affective, each of which includes lots of sub-strategies such as rehearsal, organization, summarizing, deducing, and imagery. On the other hand, Oxford (1990a) has proposed a more comprehensive model in which six categories, classified into two groups of direct and indirect exist. The direct strategies include memory, cognitive, and compensation while indirect strategies include metacognitive, affective, and social.

As Oxford (1990b) mentions, the social and affective strategies are found less often in L2 research. This is, perhaps, because these behaviors are not studied frequently by L2 researchers, and because learners are not familiar with paying attention to their own feelings and social relationships as part of the L2 learning process.

According to O'Malley and Chamot (1990), cognitive (e. g. translating, analyzing) and metacognitive (e. g. planning, organizing) strategies are often used together, supporting each other. The assumption is that using a combination of strategies often has more impact than single strategies. As Graham (1997, pp. 42-43) states, the distinctions between cognitive and metacognitive strategies are important, partly because they help us to indicate which strategies are the most important in determining the effectiveness of learning. Graham believes that metacognitive strategies, that allow students to plan, control, and evaluate their learning, have the most central role to play in improvement of learning. Anderson (2002b) believes that "Developing metacognitive awareness may also lead to the development of stronger cognitive skills" (p.1). Since metacognitive strategies are the focus of this study, a more detailed discussion on this topic follows. [-2-]


Metacognition involves "active monitoring and consequent regulation and orchestration of cognitive process to achieve cognitive goals" (Flavell, 1976, p. 252). Flavell and Wellman (1977), and Flavell (1979) included interpretation of ongoing experience, or simply making judgments about what one knows or does not know to accomplish a task, as other features of metacognition. Along with the notions of active and conscious monitoring, regulation, and orchestration of thought process, Flavell believed through repeated use of metacognition, it might in time become automatized.

Anderson (2002a, p.1) defines metacognition as "thinking about thinking." As Anderson states, the use of metacognitive strategies ignites one's thinking and can lead to higher learning and better performance. Furthermore, understanding and controlling cognitive process may be one of the most essential skills that teachers can help second language learners develop.

Most of the early investigations of metacognition were descriptive in nature in that they sought to describe general developmental patterns of children's knowledge about memory processes. They were particularly interested in processes concerned with conscious and deliberate storage and retrieval of information. However, as studies moved from descriptive to empirical, the kinds of methodology expanded, the number of studies increased, and the need for a scheme to classify this growing corpus of literature on metacognition arose. Several classification schemes have been used to group, analyze, and evaluate these strategies (e. g. Flavel, 1976; 1979; Flavell & Wellman, 1977; Kluwe, 1982) and even though there are important differences among them, overall, three general categories consistently appear: cognitive monitoring, cognitive regulation, and a combination of both.

Anderson (2002a), based on previous research, has proposed five main components for metacognition. They include: 1) preparing and planning for learning, 2) selecting and using learning strategies, 3) monitoring strategy use, 4) orchestrating various strategies, and 5) evaluating strategy use and learning.

By preparation and planning in relation to their learning goal, students think about what their goals are and how they will go about accomplishing them. Students, with the help of the teacher, can set a realistic goal within a set time for accomplishing that goal. Setting clear, challenging, and realistic goals can help students see their own progress and hopefully, by becoming consciously aware of their progress, the students' motivation for learning would be increased.

The metacognitive ability to select and use particular strategies in a given context for a specific purpose means that the learner can think and make conscious decisions about the learning process. Learners should be taught not only about learning strategies but also about when to use them and how to use them. Students should be instructed on how to choose the best and most appropriate strategy in a given situation.

The next main component of metacognition is monitoring strategy use . By examining and monitoring their use of learning strategies, students have more chances of success in meeting their learning goals (Anderson, 2002a). Students should be explicitly taught that once they have selected and begun to use the specific strategies, they need to check periodically whether or not those strategies are effective and being used as intended. For example, when reading, they can use context to guess the meaning of some unknown vocabulary items. To monitor their use of this strategy, they should pause and check to see if the meaning they guessed makes sense in the text and if not, go back and modify or change their strategy. [-3-]

Knowing how to use a combination of strategies in an orchestrated fashion is an important metacognitive skill. Research has shown that successful language learners tend to select strategies that work well together in a highly orchestrated way, tailored to the requirements of the language task (Chamot & Kupper, 1989; Wenden, 1998). These learners can easily explain the strategies they use and why they employ them (O'Malley & Chamot, 1990).

Based on Chamot and Kupper (1989), certain strategies or clusters of strategies are linked to particular language skills or tasks. For example, L2 writing, like L1 writing, benefits from the learning strategies of planning, self-monitoring, deduction, and substitution. L2 speaking demands strategies such as risk-taking, paraphrasing, circumlocution, self-monitoring, and self-evaluation. L2 listening comprehension gains from strategies of elaboration, inferencing, selective attention, and self-monitoring. Reading comprehension uses strategies like reading aloud, guessing, deduction, and summarizing. Research shows that use of appropriate language learning strategies often results in improved proficiency or achievement overall or in specific skill areas (Oxford, Park-Oh, Ito, & Sumrall,1993).

One of the most important metacognitive strategies is to evaluate effectiveness of strategy use . Self-questioning, debriefing discussions after strategies practice, learning logs in which students record the results of their learning strategies applications, and checklists of strategies used can be used to allow the student to reflect through the cycle of learning. At this stage of metacognition the whole cycle of planning, selecting, using, monitoring and orchestration of strategies is evaluated.

It should be noted that different metacognitive skills interact with each other. The components are not used in a linear fashion. More than one metacognitive process along with cognitive ones may be working during a learning task (Anderson, 2002b). Therefore the orchestration of various strategies is a vital component of second language learning in general and vocabulary learning in particular. Allowing learners opportunities to think about and talk about how they combine various strategies facilitates strategy use.

Language Learning Strategy Training

The results of the studies on strategy description and categorization have found their implications in language classrooms in helping teachers accelerate the language learning of their students. If learners are to be in a position to be made aware of different strategies that can assist them in the process of learning, they should be familiar with the strategies that are available. In other words, if students have to make their strategy selection, they have to know about the process of making this selection, because "informed selection of strategies presupposes knowledge of strategies and knowledge of strategies presupposes instruction" (Nunan, 1991, p.179). With the expansion of language learning strategy instruction research, the question to be answered is whether training on strategies would result in improvement in language learners. A large body of research supports the positive effects of training on strategies in language learning performance (Carrell, Pharis, & Liberto, 1989; Carrell, 1998; Oxford 1990a, 1990b, 1996; Oxfordet al. 1990). Cottrell (1999) claims that through practice and instruction, learners' use of strategies can be automatized. [-4-]

It has been suggested that learning strategy instruction may help learners in three ways: firstly, learning strategies instruction can help students to become better learners, secondly, skill in using learning strategies assists them in becoming independent and confident learners, and finally, they become more motivated as they begin to understand the relationship between their use of strategies and success in learning languages (Chamot & Kupper, 1989; Chamot & O'Malley, 1994).

To ratify this premise, an abundant body of research has been carried out in recent years. O'Malley and Chamot (1990), and Oxford (1990a) have found that the use of learning strategies in classroom instruction is fundamental to successful learning. Supporting their findings, Oxford et al. (1990, p. 210) in their studies of six cases found that "Strategy training can enhance both the process of language learning (the strategies or behaviors learners use and the affective elements involved) and the product of language learning (changes in students' language performance). They also claimed that the training has some positive effects on the teacher:

Teachers who use strategy training often become enthusiastic about their roles as facilitators of classroom learning. Strategy training makes them more learner oriented and more aware of their students needs. Teachers also begin to scrutinize how their teaching techniques relate (or fail to relate) to their students' learning strategies and sometimes teachers choose to alter their instructional patterns as a result of such scrutiny. (Oxford et al. p.210)

With regard to vocabulary learning, research shows that for most adult learners direct vocabulary instruction is beneficial and necessary, due to the fact that students are not able to acquire the mass of vocabulary just by meaningful reading, listening, speaking and writing. Learners can be taught explicitly how to improve their own vocabulary by teaching them appropriate vocabulary learning strategies in contrast to simply letting students learn vocabulary in their own way (Brown & Perry, 1991). Ellis (1985) notes that we should remember that vocabulary learning also involves the use of individual learning techniques. Ellis has also found that the growing interest in providing a description of vocabulary learning techniques and strategies aims to enhance understanding of the acquisition processes that take place in the learners' mind. Therefore a description of vocabulary learning strategies can be used as a guideline to help learners in their lexical acquisition (Ellis, 1995).

In relation to vocabulary learning strategies, Sanaoui (1995) reported that there were two approaches to vocabulary learning among students: a systematic approach and an unsystematic approach. In systematic approach learners were more organized and independent, used extensive records of lexical items, and reviewed words more often. In unsystematic approach, learners were dependent on the course, used minimal or no records of lexical items, and reviewed words little or not at all.

Coady (1997), arguing on the importance of context in vocabulary learning, recommended the use of vocabulary learning strategy instruction approach to enhance lexical acquisition:

The proponents of this approach (learning strategy instruction) also believe that context is the major source of vocabulary learning but they express some significant reservations about how well students can deal with context on their own. As a result, there is considerable emphasize on teaching specific learning strategies to students so that they can effectively learn from context. (Coady, 1997, p. 276) [-5-]

Husltijn (1997) claimed that the teaching of vocabulary learning strategies especially at the intermediate and advanced level by the use of keyword strategy would bring significant result. He added, "Modern foreign language pedagogy stresses the importance of teaching students appropriate learning and studying strategies" (1997, p.127). Parry (1997) carried out a study that showed how cognitive strategies had dramatic impacts on the success or failure of students in terms of their acquisition of academic words. Altman (1997) showed the significance of metacognitive awareness in the process of using words in oral communication.

Language Learning Strategy Training Models

Finding the usefulness of strategy training, some researchers tried to present a model including the steps to be taken by teachers for this kind of instruction (Oxford et al. 1990; O'Malley & Chamot, 1990).

O'Malley and Chamot (1990) found two approaches in teaching learning strategy, direct (overt in Oxford's model) and embedded (covert in Oxford' model). Direct training is "learning strategy instruction in which students are informed about the value and purpose of learning strategies" (O'Malley & Chamot, 1990, p. 229). Whereas, embedded training is "guidance in the use of learning strategies that is embedded in the task materials but not explicitly defined to the learner as strategy instruction" (O'Malley & Chamot, 1990, p. 230). They added that embedded approach had little effect on learners. Wenden (1987) has also criticized embedded instruction since with this kind of training the learners who were not familiar with cognitive or socio-affective strategies that were available to them, could not use the metacognitive ones and as a result no transfer occurred. As a result, she recommended the use of a more direct approach for the instruction.

Later, Chamot & O'Malley (1994) working on a project called Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA) provided a useful framework for direct language learning strategies instruction. The sequence of instruction in CALLA approach is a five-phase recursive cycle for introducing, teaching, practicing, evaluating, and applying learning strategies. In this approach, highly explicit instruction in applying strategies to learning tasks is gradually faded so that students can begin to assume greater responsibility in selecting and applying appropriate learning strategies. The cycle repeats as new strategies or new applications are added to students' strategic repertoires (Chamot & O'Malley, 1994; Chamot Barnhardt, El Dinary, & Robbins, 1999).

CALLA model of Chamot and O'Malley (1986) relies on Anderson's (1985) distinction between declarative knowledge and procedural knowledge. Declarative knowledge is defined as "A special type of information in long term memory that consists of knowledge about the facts and things that we know. This type of information is stored in terms of propositions, schemata, and propositional networks. It may also be stored in terms of isolated pieces of information temporal strings, and images" (O'Malley & Chamot, 1990, p. 229), whereas, procedural knowledge is the "Knowledge that consists of the things that we know how to do. It underlies the execution of all complex cognitive skillsЉ and includes mental activities such as problem solving, language reception and production, and using learning strategies" (O'Malley & Chamot, 1990, p. 231). They also suggested that all the three main categories of learning strategies could be taught through the CALLA approach. [-6-]

To have a successful and helpful learning strategy instruction some requirements must be met by the teachers. These are summarized by Oxford (1994) into the following principles that she left subject to further investigation: 1) L2 strategy training should be based clearly on students' attitudes, beliefs, and stated needs, 2) strategies should be chosen so that they mesh with and support each other and so that they fit the requirements of the language task, the learners' goals, and the learners' style of learning, 3) training should, if possible, be integrated into regular L2 activities over a long period of time rather than taught as a separate, short intervention, 4) students should have plenty of opportunities for strategy training during language classes, 5) strategy training should include explanations, handouts, activities, brainstorming, and materials for reference and home study, 6) affective issues such as anxiety, motivation, beliefs, and interests--all of which influence strategy choice--should be directly addressed by L2 strategy training, 7) strategy training should be explicit, overt, and relevant and should provide plenty of practice with varied L2 tasks involving authentic materials, 8) strategy training should not be solely tied to the class at hand; it should provide strategies that are transferable to future language tasks beyond a given class, 9) strategy training should be somewhat individualized, as different students prefer or need certain strategies for particular tasks, and 10) strategy training should provide students with a mechanism to evaluate their own progress and to evaluate the success of the training and the value of the strategies in multiple tasks.

Nevertheless, not all L2 strategy training studies have been successful or conclusive. Some training has been effective in various skill areas but not in others, even within the same study (Oxford, 1989). Therefore the present study was conducted to shed some light on this issue. Considering that different variable of gender, cultural background, motivation, learning style, and attitudes and beliefs may affect strategy use and learning, the present study can add to the previous literature on strategy training.

Justification for the Study

Most of the research in the field of learning strategy instruction has focused on reading strategies as one of the important language skills (Carrell, 1998), and on cognitive strategies as one of the main categories of learning strategies. In addition, most of the research on vocabulary learning strategies has focused on cognitive strategies. Due to the importance of metacognitive learning strategies and vocabulary learning, the present study focused on explicit metacognitive strategy instruction and its impact on lexical knowledge improvement of adult EFL students.

The importance of metacognitive strategies has been emphasized by O'Malley, Chamot, Stewner-Mazanares, Russo, and Kupper (1985, p. 561) by stating, "students without metacognitive approaches are essentially learners without direction or opportunity to review their progress, accomplishment, and future directions". According to Anderson (2002b, p. 1), developing metacognitive awareness in learners may also lead to the development of stronger cognitive skills and much deeper processing. It results in critical but healthy reflection and evaluation of thinking.

In addition, vocabulary knowledge is known to play a key role in the individuals' proficiency in both first and second language. Vocabulary size was shown to be the best predictor of reading comprehension in L1 and L2 (Coady, 1997). Also it has been shown to correlate highly with global assessment of writing quality and with general language proficiency scores (Bachman & Palmer, 1996). [-7-]

Finally, as it has been suggested by some researchers including, Brown (1994), Chamot et al. (1999), Chamot and O'Malley (1992) Coady (1997), McCarthy (1990), and Oxford (1990a, 1991,1996) one of the areas that teachers could help their students in relation to learning strategies could be to familiarize them with different lexical learning strategies, which would lead to more autonomy in students. Moreover, most of the studies in learning strategies have concentrated on identification, description and classification of learning strategies used by language learners. As a result, more attention should be paid to finding whether strategies used by successful students can be taught to unsuccessful students, and if so, what instructional approaches teachers should use to teach the strategies.

To achieve the purpose of the study the following research question was proposed:

"Does the metacognitive strategies instruction significantly increase the lexical knowledge of Iranian EFL students?"


The participants of the study were 53 male and female Iranian EFL students taking part in an intensive course of English in Tehran Institute of Technology aged 19 to 25. The average age of the subjects was 21.86. They were studying English to enroll later in either English business classes or information technology classes. They had passed Headway elementary achievement test with at least 65 percent of the whole score. They were assigned into two classes and considered at pre-intermediate level of language proficiency. Twenty-nine of the subjects were female, and twenty-four were male. One of the classes was randomly selected as the control group and the other class as experimental group. To be sure of the homogeneity in the groups regarding lexical knowledge of the book that they were supposed to study during the experiment, a vocabulary achievement test (VAT) was developed and used. The reliability and validity of the vocabulary test was checked against Nelson language proficiency test administered to the subjects. The result of the vocabulary pre-test showed that there was no significant difference between the control and experimental groups in terms of lexical knowledge to be taught in the experiment period. The number of the students in the control was 26 and there were 27 subjects in the experimental group.

This study had an intact group, pretest-posttest, experimental design. The subjects were already assigned in groups by the institution. Two classes were selected for this study and one was randomly assigned as experimental and the other as the control group. The homogeneity of the two groups in terms of vocabulary knowledge and language proficiency was checked using a vocabulary achievement test and Nelson English language proficiency test respectively.


Two instruments were used in this study. The first one was Nelson Language Proficiency test which was used as a standardized measure to check the homogeneity of subjects in terms of language proficiency and also to be used as a standardized measure to check the reliability and validity of our vocabulary test. [-8-]

The second one was a 40 item multiple-choice test of vocabulary, which was developed by the researchers. The vocabulary items in the test were mainly selected from the new lexical items taught and exposed to during the course. The validity and reliability of the test was checked against a standardized test (Nelson Test). The test was used as the assessment tool in the pre-test and the post-test phase of the study.

Two internal consistency estimates of reliability which included coefficient alpha and a split-half coefficient expressed as Spearman-Brown corrected correlation were computed for the vocabulary test. For the split-half coefficient, the test items were split into two halves based on odd and even numbers to nullify the effects of unwanted factors such as tiredness of the test takers. The value for coefficient alpha was .73 and the value of the split-half coefficient was .80, each indicating satisfactory reliability.

Considering the other main characteristics of the test, namely validity, first, most of the vocabulary items in the vocabulary achievement test (VAT) and the distracters were selected from the new lexical items of the book and were also used in the glossary and the accompanying workbook. This strategy helped to increase the content validity of the VAT. To check the criterion-related validity of the test, Nelson language proficiency test, which is a standardized test, was used which showed .81 of coefficient of determination, which is satisfactory for a test like this.

Both experimental and control groups enrolled in an English course which lasted for 10 weeks (four hours a day, three days a week). The textbook used for this course was Headway pre-intermediate. The authors have emphasized the role of lexical knowledge in learning the English language and have put some sections on vocabulary learning strategies in the book. One of the researchers taught both classes.

Both groups received the usual training based on the procedures suggested in the Headway Teacher's book. The vocabulary strategies which were covered in the book were summarized and taught in the first session for both groups. The instruction and use of vocabulary learning strategies continued throughout the course for both groups of subjects. It is believed that metacognitive strategies are responsible for controlling other strategies and as a result they have their best effects if students are aware of other strategies that are available to them at the beginning of the course (O'Malley & Chamot, 1990, p. 230).

Only the experimental group received explicit instruction on metacognitive strategies beginning from the second day of the course. The training was based on CALLA model of teaching learning strategy which includes five steps:

1. Preparation: The purpose of this phase was to help students identify the strategies they are already using and to develop their metacognitive awareness of the relationship between their own mental processes and effective learning. In this step the teacher explained the importance of metacognitive learning strategies and a handout including different metacognitive strategies was distributed to the students. In relation to vocabulary learning, which was the subject of this study, students with the help and guidance of the teacher set specific goals for mastering the vocabulary from certain chapters in the textbook within a certain time frame, and they planned their time in order to accomplish the task (time-management). [-9-]

2. Presentation: This phase focused on modeling the learning strategy. The teacher talked about the characteristics, usefulness, and applications of the strategy explicitly and through examples and illustrated his own strategy use through a reading task in relation to unknown vocabularies. Learners were explicitly taught about the variety of strategies to use when they do not know a vocabulary word they encounter in a text and they judge the word to be important to the overall meaning of the text. But more importantly, they received explicit instruction on how to use these strategies. They were told that no single vocabulary learning strategy would work in every case. For example, word analysis strategy (dividing the word into its component morphemes) may work with some words but not with others. Using contextual cues for guessing the meaning of unknown words may be effective in some rich-context cases but not in context-reduced texts. The preparation and planning, the selection of vocabulary learning strategies, monitoring of strategy selection and use, orchestrated use of several strategies, and evaluation of effectiveness of metacognitive strategies for vocabulary learning were illustrated through several examples.

3. Practice: In this phase, students had the opportunity of practicing the learning strategies with an authentic learning task. They were asked to make conscious effort using the metacognitive strategies in combination with vocabulary learning strategies. The students, by the teacher's assistance practiced monitoring while using multiple strategies available to them. The students became aware of multiple strategies available to them by teaching them, for example, how to use both word analysis and contextual clues to determine the meaning of an unfamiliar word. Students were shown how to recognize when one strategy isn't working and how to move on to another. For example, a student may try to use word cognate to determine the meaning of the word football . But that strategy won't work in this instance The English equivalent of the word Persian Football is soccer . The students need to be able to turn to other strategies like using contextual clues to help them understand the meaning of the word.

4. Evaluation: The main purpose of this phase was to provide students with opportunities to evaluate their own success in using learning strategies, thus developing their metacognitive awareness of their own learning processes. Activities used to develop students self-evaluation insights included self-questioning, debriefing discussions after strategies practice, learning logs in which students recorded the results of their learning strategies applications, checklists of strategies used, and open-ended questionnaires in which students expressed their opinions about the usefulness of particular strategies.

5. Expansion: In this final phase students were encouraged to: a) use the strategies that they found most effective, b) apply these strategies to new contexts, and c) devise their own individual combinations and interpretations of metacognitive learning strategies. They were asked to consider not only vocabulary learning but also other domains of language learning. [-10-]

As time went by less time was spent on the checking since it was believed that the use of strategies had changed from factual knowledge to procedural and as a result automatic. According to Cottrell (1999, p. 22), "A skilled student uses strategies, and with practice the strategies become nearly automatic". However, throughout the semester, in order to sustain students' awareness, they were periodically asked whether they used the strategies and if they had found them useful. The use of strategies was also systematically reinforced by the teacher. Moreover, in teaching new vocabulary items the teacher made the students aware of the importance of using metacognitive strategies in combination with vocabulary learning strategies. Students could do this by asking questions about the strategies they used to learn new vocabulary items.

At the end of the course both the control group and the experimental group were given the vocabulary achievement test and the results of the tests were compared to find the effects of the training.

Data analysis

Statistical analysis of t-test was used to test possible differences between the two groups at the beginning and end of the study.

In order to establish the homogeneity of the two groups in terms of vocabulary knowledge an independent-samples t-test was conducted to examine the difference among the performance of the two groups on the vocabulary test before the experiment. The result indicated that there was not any significant difference (t (51) = 1.00 a

The Power of Strategy Instruction

If youve ever played the game of chess, chances are you used a fairly unsophisticated approach when first making your way around the board. Its also likely that basic tactics quickly emerged after just a few gamesmoves that were at first aimless and erratic became much more planned and organized. You may have even found yourself thinking several moves ahead, beginning to develop a strategy . Some obvious strategies may have easily become part of your regular chess-playing arsenal. Other, more advanced strategies, however, may not develop without additional training or lots of practice.

Its always a good idea to have a plan of attackand not just for chess. When it comes to teaching and learning, having a planor strategyis definitely the way to go.

Strategy instruction is a powerful student-centered approach to teaching that is backed by years of quality research. In fact, strategic approaches to learning new concepts and skills are often what separate good learners from poor ones. Considering that many students with disabilities struggle with developing strategies for learning and remembering on their own, a parent or teacher skilled in introducing this process can make a world of difference.

Strategy instruction supplies students with the same tools and techniques that efficient learners use to understand and learn new material or skills. With continued guidance and ample opportunities for practice, students learn to integrate new information with what they already know, in a way that makes sensemaking it easier for them to recall the information or skill at a later time, even in a different situation or setting. Not only does an impressive body of research exist with respect to strategy instruction, but that library of knowledge is also extremely broad and has direct and immediate application to practice in almost every area of the educational curriculum.

Even better, this method of instruction is appropriate and effective for students who have disabilities, as well as for those who do not. Thats right, all students can benefit from understanding the strategies that good learners use. Whats more, a skillful teacher can play a critical part in guiding students to use strategies until their use becomes an automatic part of each students repertoire.

Let us begin by looking more closely at strategy instruction: its roots, outcomes of the multitude of studies, and its promise as a powerful research-based practice that results in improved student performance.

Early Studies of the Good Learner

As a youth, the well-known mathematician George Polya found that he much preferred the challenge of solving new problems over the simple memorization of solutions to old ones. It is little wonder, then, while studying for a career in law, he grew so tired of having to memorize boring legal terms that he dropped out of law school. Only later did he earn a degree in mathematics.

Early in his professional career Polya tutored students who were struggling in math and developed an approach that equipped these students with the general skills needed to identify and solve problems across a range of circumstances. Polya would later become professor of mathematics at Stanford University where he dedicated a significant portion of his career to the study of problem solving. In 1945 he published the best-seller How to Solve It . where he laid out his problem-solving model in four easy steps: Identify, Plan, Monitor . and Check .

Strategy instruction has its earliest roots in this and similar work exploring the approach of the good learnerthat is, what good learners do when they read, write, listen, do math, study, or prepare an oral presentation for class (Belmont, Butterfield, Ferretti, 1982; Flavell, Beach, Chinsky, 1966; Garner, 1982; Hayes Flower, 1980; Logan, Olson, Lindsey, 1993; Pressley, Heisel, McCormick, Nakamura, 1982; Pressley, 1989; Rubin, 1975). The underlying premise of these investigations was, if we discovered what good learners do, we could teach poor or struggling learners to do these things and thereby improve their performance.

This early research showed that, indeed, good learners take very specific and systematic actions that less effective learners typically do not. Effective writers, for example, use three recursive stages in preparing written work: planning . writing . and revising . Within those general areas, more strategies are deployed. Strategies also play a key role in the effectiveness of good readers. In fact, strategies play a key role in all learning tasks. As important, this research also demonstrated that students can be taught to use strategies that they have not developed themselves.

Researchers then focused on naming and categorizing the strategies that good learners use and found that certain strategies tend to be very task-specific, meaning that they are useful when learning or performing certain tasks. Researchers call these concrete, action-based activities cognitive strategies . Examples include taking notes, asking questions, or filling out a chart. However, researchers also found that an essential element arched across how good learners approach tasks metacognitive awareness (Campione, Brown, Connell, 1988). Metacognitive awareness, simply, is the learners awareness of the learning process and what it takes to achieve good results in a specific learning task.

Various strategies exist under the umbrella of metacognitive awareness, but a particularly illustrative one is self-evaluation, or the ability to stand back from ones worksay, a paper on the causes of the Civil War for history classand evaluate it objectively, making corrections or revisions based upon that analysis. Similarly, a good reader will monitor comprehension while reading and take action when something does not make sensefor example, look back in the text for clarification or consciously hold the question in mind while continuing to read.

Because of the executive nature of metacognitive strategiessimilar to a foreman overseeing all parts of a project and directing the action, including any problem solving that needs to occurthey are often referred to as self-regulatory strategies . Its easy to see why self-regulated learners tend to achieve academically. They set goals for learning, talk to themselves in positive ways about learning, use self-instruction to guide themselves through a learning problem, keep track of (or monitor) their comprehension or progress, and reward themselves for success.

The next wave of strategy research, not surprisingly, focused upon translating these findings into instructional approaches to teach less effective learners how to approach academic tasks in the systematic manner of the good learner (Ellis, Deshler, Lenz, Schumaker, Clark, 1991; Mastropieri Scruggs, 1991; Scruggs Wong, 1990; Thompson Rubin, 1996; Weinstein Mayer, 1986). After more than 20 years of such research, the field has definitive knowledge about what works in strategy instruction and why. We know now, for example, that the most effective strategy interventions combine the use of cognitive and metacognitive strategies. A plethora of approaches abound (we will spotlight a sampling of the most well-documented below and in future editions of Evidence for Education ).

Teacher-ready materials are steadily emerging to translate this research into classroom practice. As publishers respond to federal mandates that instruction be based on scientific evidence of effectiveness, the latest student textbooks frequently incorporate strategy instruction as an explicit part of their materials. This is visible in textbooks that begin chapters by asking students to think about what they already know about the topic to be addressed, in literature series that ask students to predict what will happen next, and in student materials that require students to create concept maps or graphic organizers for the information presented. All of these activities relate to strategies of the good learner; all are derived from decades of research into effective teaching and learning.

The remainder of this Evidence for Education is devoted to spotlighting several of the most notable and well-documented strategy interventions. These summaries are provided, not as recommendations to exclude other intervention approaches, but to illustrate how powerfully research can inform educational practice and how appropriate application of research can lead to well-packaged and well-specified educational interventions that can make a positive difference in student learning and student outcomes.

Spotlight onthe SIM Model

Researchers at the University of Kansas have been deeply involved in researching learning strategies since the 1970s and have done much to define and articulate the benefits of strategy instruction, particularly for students with learning disabilities (LD). This work has resulted in one of the most well-researched models for teaching students to use learning strategies. This model has been known for years as the SIM . which stands for the Strategic Instruction Model . Over the past 25 years, SIM has emerged into a multi-system, comprehensive school-wide approach with coordinated evidence-based teaching and learning components at its core.

The teaching component of SIM is made up of a series of teacher-focused Content Enhancement Teaching Routines designed so that a teacher can deliver organized content in an engaging and learner-friendly manner. One set of routines, for example, walks teachers through the planning of individual lessons, whole units, or even complete courses. Other routines offer practical recommendations for guiding students through an exploration of overarching concepts that may connect to material learned previously.

The Learning Strategies Curriculum of SIM is a series of interconnected, student-centered strategies designed to transform weak or passive learners into students who know how to learn and apply their knowledge and skills actively across various learning environments. The Learning Strategies Curriculum has seven discrete strands and contains more than 30 strategies to improve skills and performance related to:


Expressive Writing

Math and Problem Solving

Studying and Remembering

Assignments and Test Taking


Interacting with Others

Taken together, these teaching and learning strategies can greatly improve learning outcomes for students entering the classroom with different learning styles and abilities. When this sort of strategic instruction is coordinated and implemented across teachers and environmentssay, a general education and special education classroomstudent successes can be even more pronounced!

More on SIM Research

Content Enhancement Teaching Routine:

The Course Organizer Routine is designed to help teachers plan courses around core content. The routine is used to introduce central concepts to students at the beginning of a course and is revisited throughout the course to relate newly acquired knowledge to main ideas already learned.

Research Findings: