Teaching learning strategies: a challenge for teachers and educational psychologists at all educational levels

Roces, Cristina
University of Oviedo,

It is very common for teachers of secondary schools, high schools and universities to complain about the way their students study. There seems to be a general agreement that too many students do not know how to study. It is also customary for teachers from each educational level to blame the preceding level, where the students “should have” acquired the basic learning skills.

The fact that each educational level has an extensive curriculum to accomplish seems to leave little room for teaching and training students in effective learning strategies.

In elementary education the general priorities are reading, writing and arithmetic. In secondary education, acquisition of knowledge in various areas is added to the former broad areas. In high school, both teacher-to-student transmission of knowledge and acquisition of knowledge by reading are emphasized. At the university this emphasis on knowledge transmission and acquisition frequently continues and becomes more pronounced, even though the goals of university education are broader and include, often explicitly, fostering self-regulated learning and independent thinking to develop lifelong learners.

As a result of all the above, in many cases, students pass through the different educational levels without developing the appropriate study skills. The stress placed on knowledge does not allow time to teach learning strategies explicitly, no one teaches the students important strategies such as how to find the main ideas, summarize, make graphic representations, organize their study time, etc.

The following points are required to put an end to this situation:

Educational programs at all levels should explicitly include learning strategies among their goals. As with the remaining areas, this topic would be taught progressively.

Teachers should be trained in the use and teaching of learning strategies in order to be able to help their students to develop them.

Departments or institutions should be created with the mission of helping to develop these goals. Training teachers and, in some cases, also the students directly, would also be their mission. In these orientation departments, learning centers, or however they are called, educational psychologists would play an important role.

Exams and evaluations of students should change, so that the students would exhibit, not only their knowledge, but also many different types of skills, among them learning strategies.

More research is needed on how to teach and develop effective learning strategies. The wide boundary between using learning strategies and being a strategic and autonomous learner is not clear enough. Can any of you help us advance?