Why don’t students use effective learning strategies?

Dr Flavia Shechtman-Belham (Seneca Learning) – 22 Feb 2019

Flavia gave a TILE (‎@TILEnetwork) talk about some of the most effective learning strategies – Dual Coding, Spacing and Interleaving, and Retrieval Practice. She also discussed reasons why students don’t tend to use these  – they are perceived to be ‘hard work’, or unnecessary (students think their current methods work), etc. The message I took away from this excellent talk was that pointing my students to effective strategies for learning is my responsibility.

Actually no, my responsibility goes further than that. The published evidence Flavia discussed suggests that students cannot easily be persuaded to use these strategies. Chatting with a colleague who made earnest efforts in this direction during a course he delivered last year reinforced that impression. A full-on campaign in one course seems likely to single out that course in students’ minds, as awkward and difficult. So my responsibility might be not only to inform – but to nudge students towards the best strategies.

Nudges have a chance of working.  I feel that an approach mixing evidence from the literature (in small doses) with some reinforcement, in occasional short practical sessions, could provide the right environment for students to decide to adopt (some of) these strategies for themselves. My idea is to intersperse such sessions in occasional 15-20 minute bursts, into ‘regular’ maths workshop hours. These will take a little planning.

Maybe this will help – but maybe I would then single out my teaching as awkward and difficult! An ideal approach would then involve a coordinated effort involving other colleagues, perhaps covering the teaching across a whole level.

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