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Learning Strategies and Diverse Learners (page 2)

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

According to Palincsar, David, Winn, and Stevens (1991), learners who most effectively respond to the intentional learning demands of school classrooms are those students who use conspicuous learning strategies, actively monitor task demands in relation to their own learning, and adjust their learning strategies on the basis of their own learning outcomes. A similar model is provided by Johnston and Winograd (1985), who referred to students who monitor their own learning outcomes as “active learners.” Active learners use strategic, goal-directed behaviors to plan, monitor, and evaluate their learning. Palincsar and Klenk (1992) observed that these active or intentional learning behaviors are problematic for diverse learners across a number of academic domains.

Researchers have attempted to determine whether the use of different strategies or the less efficient use of similar strategies distinguishes diverse learners from average achievers. Although it appears that both instances do occur, the general finding is that diverse learners and average achievers use similar strategies but differ in how efficiently they use them. For example, Griswold, Gelzheiser, and Shepherd (1987) investigated whether diverse learners and average achievers used the same strategies for memorizing the definitions of vocabulary terms. They found that although average achievers learned more unknown words than diverse learners, the groups did not differ in the kind of strategies they used, nor in the time they spent studying the vocabulary words.

Diverse learners also may be reluctant to give up strategies that are useful in the initial stages of learning, but which over time should be replaced with more efficient strategies. For example, a high level of automaticity in basic fact math problems is needed to solve higher-level math problems (Silbert, Carnine, & Stein, 1990). Initially, most students learn to solve basic fact problems by invoking some type of counting strategy. Not only do diverse learners take more time than average achievers to master counting strategies, but they also take longer to master automaticity of basic facts. For example, students may learn initially to solve division problem “50/5” the long way. After some practice, students should not need a paper and pencil to work the problem out, but should know the answer “automatically.” An overreliance on counting strategies to solve basic fact problems prohibits a student from being able to successfully perform more complex operations. Problems at this level tend to persist for diverse learners even in the higher grades (Dixon, 1990).

Kirby and Becker (1988) indicated that lack of automaticity in basic operations and strategy use—either the use of an inefficient strategy or the use of the right strategy at the wrong time—were responsible for the majority of math problems that children experience. As they stated, the results of their studies “do not suggest that children with learning problems in arithmetic have any major structural defect in their information processing systems or that they are qualitatively different from normally achieving children in any enduring sense. Instead, the results are consistent with the interpretation that such children may not be carrying out even simple arithmetic in the correct manner, and that they require extensive practice in the correct strategies” (p. 15).

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