Learning Strategies that Generate Better Outcomes

By: Inas Essa

Learning strategies are not created equal and so are their outcomes. This means that effort is not the only important factor in the learning process and should be exerted in the right direction, within the right strategy, to get better outcomes.

Needless to say, certain learning strategies can lead to better outcomes more than others, even if both have the potential to help learners improve their understanding of the learned material.

Therefore, teaching learners to use effective learning strategies on their own is as important as teaching teachers to implement that in their teaching process.

Effective Learning Strategies

Everything changes depending on the context and so is the case with implementing learning strategies. While some strategies could be superior to others for achieving specific outcomes, this does not mean that the others are not effective; they may be more powerful and efficient with different goals within different contexts.

To help learners better remember information and proceed with their learning, here are six effective learning strategies to be implemented:

1. Space out your Studying over time

Waiting for the last minute to devour the material before an exam is so popular among students; however, this is not right, even if it can help them score well on the test.

What happens, in this case, is that, although the learners appear to have learned the material, the information vanishes from their minds after the exam because it has not been acquired in the right way in the first place.

For better and more durable learning, studying the material should take place in smaller chunks over time, not all at once. This would give the mind space to forget a little information; then relearn it, strengthening the memory, which would help in better learning.

Applying this strategy would require creating a studying calendar to plan out how to divide the whole content into small pieces to be reviewed daily rather than big chunks every week.



2. Retrieve Information without the Help of Materials

Reading and re-reading directly from sources, like notes, textbooks, and other materials is fundamental for studying; however, it is not the sole practice for studying.

Retrieving information from memory is also helpful to memorize them, and this requires putting the studying material aside for some time to help the mind memorize what you have just learned. In other words, recalling information without the supporting material that includes it enhances our learning.

Recalling the information could be applied through sketching or writing down in short notes or speaking them out loud or teaching a friend, followed by checking the material for accuracy. This would help you store information in your mind in an easier way to be recalled when needed.

3. Elaborate with Different Details and Examples

While recalling information is helpful, going beyond that by making the connection with different examples within the context would double the effect.

Educators could present the ideas to learners, who in turn could ask open-ended questions about the material, and then answer in as much detail as possible.

This would help them relate the information to accessible examples from their daily lives, and help them memorize the information even if they are complex.



4. Switch between Ideas while Studying

Every time our minds get distracted while studying, we try to re-focus on the material and not get entangled in other distractions. Another strategy to compete against distraction is the repetition of what we are reading.

While focusing and repetition are vital, mixing them with other skills is important; this is known as interleaving. So, if you face a problem in math regarding learning to calculate the area of a triangle, instead of doing 20 problems with triangles, you may do one of a triangle, then one of a circle, then a triangle, then a square.

Although this would be harder, it would help you learn something very important, which is how to choose a particular strategy for each problem, as opposed to just repeatedly doing the same thing.

5. Use Specific Examples to understand Abstract Ideas

Although this strategy may be already implemented, the examples meant here are the ones mentioned by learners themselves, not the ones introduced to them by educators.

This means educators should allow learners to explain the abstract ideas they learn through examples of their own, and check if this is correct or are not close or relevant to the true meaning.



6. Combine Words and Visuals

Visuals attract attention better than words, meaning that, if the information presented to us lacks a sufficient number of visuals, our attention may be shifted to another thing and may lose our focus. This could result in not acquiring the information even if they are truly important.

The visuals that would help in learning could differ between images, charts, or graphs, etc. When learners get introduced to this material, they would link visuals to words and better retrieve the information. After that, they can also make visuals of their own that represent the main concepts and ideas they have just learned.

Finally, these helpful strategies should not always be used in isolation; they could be implemented in different learning stages and they can also be combined if necessary to generate better outcomes.