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Student learning

A page within CATL Teaching Improvement Guide

This section focuses on strategies teachers can use to influence how students learn. Some are basic learning strategies that can help students acquire and remember new material. Others help students engage in more complex thinking and transfer of learning. Consider two examples.

  • Practice Testing is a strategy in which students study and then try to recall what they have learned. It is a simple yet very potent learning strategy (Karpicke & Blunt, 2011). To take advantage of the practice testing effect, teachers could use regular, low stakes practice quizzes in classes to improve student learning.

  • Metacognition is awareness of and ability to regulate one’s own learning and thinking. Metacognitive skill is what makes students more strategic and better able to plan, monitor, assess and improve their own learning. It is not a single strategy per se, but a collection of strategies and skills (Hacker, Dunlosky, & Graesser, 2009). For instance, comprehension monitoring, is a crucial metacognitive skill. Students who monitor their comprehension recognize when they don’t understand something and then can do something about it, such as ask a question, stop and work through the comprehension problem, or decide it doesn’t matter and move on (Baker, 1989).

The strategies in this section have good research reputations, and have been shown to enhance student learning in multiple contexts. However, when applying any of these in a class for the first time, you may need to experiment, monitor and revise the procedures to make them work best with your students. If you have any questions or want additional information please contact Bill Cerbin, Director of the UWL Center for Advancing Teaching & Learning. 

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