Learning Strategies and Diverse Learners

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Daneman (1991) noted that learners can absorb new information only in relation to what they already know. For example, an individual who knows nothing about baseball would have trouble understanding a “sacrifice bunt.” However, an individual who understands chess and the strategy of sacrificing a pawn to improve board position could gain an understanding of a sacrifice bunt as a strategy for improving the chances of scoring a run. To make this analogy, the learner engages in a strategy to compare the two situations. A strategy can be thought of as a reasonably efficient and intentional routine that leads to the acquisition and utilization of knowledge (Prawat, 1989). It is possible that two people with the same advanced knowledge of chess but minimal knowledge of baseball might acquire knowledge about a sacrifice bunt differentially because of differences in how they use knowledge.

Important learning and instructional considerations regarding diverse learners’ knowledge and use of strategies are presented in this table:

Learning and Instructional Considerations in Addressing Diverse Learners' Strategy Knowledge and Use

Important Considerations for Diverse Learners Instructional Implications for Diverse Learners
  • Inactive learners- difficulty monitoring learning and adjusting to tasks demands and learning outcomes
  • Difficulty adjusting to structure of intentional learning environments - i.e., being focused and goal directed
  • Uses similar strategies as average achievers, but uses them less efficiently
  • May use different strategies than average achievers to compensate for difficulties with fundamental aspects of problem
  • Difficulty giving up basic, successful strategies for more powerful ones
  • Ensure that necessary skills underlying efficient use of target strategy are firm
  • Provide multiple examples of when to use and not use particular strategy
  • Make each step in new strategy explicit; have learners demonstrate proficiency using each step as well as combining steps to use whole strategy

The use of learning strategies occurs in many different school-related contexts, including solving math verbal problems by creating diagrams of known and unknown quantities; grouping items into discrete categories (e.g., food, clothing, furniture); writing stories by integrating awareness of story grammar, background knowledge, and the intended audience; and studying for a test using a combination of note-taking, rehearsal, and summarization techniques. In general, research has found that diverse learners do not use these and other types of learning strategies as effectively as average achievers (Wong, 1991).

Strategy use in the classroom is critical to educational success. Palincsar and Klenk (1992) provided a framework for understanding the importance of learning strategies. They suggested that learning demands placed on students in the home are fundamentally different than the learning demands placed on students in school. Home experiences provide multiple opportunities for incidental learning to occur. In incidental learning, knowledge is a natural by-product of everyday experiences. Learning environments are unstructured, and it is generally assumed that a child’s natural curiosity is the only condition necessary for important outcomes to occur. In school, however, learning opportunities are organized so that intentional learning occurs. In contrast to incidental learning, intentional learning opportunities are characterized by structure, stated expectations, and time constraints. Learners are encouraged to be purposeful, goal directed, self-regulated, and actively engaged.

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