Investigating students’ learning strategies : usage, motives, and perceptions of effectiveness




Alarcón, Cynthia

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For many students, the first year of college presents a series of challenges because there is a gap between their high school experiences and college expectations. Students’ first college exam often serves as a critical turning point in their education: they realize that they must improve the way they study in order to meet the demands of college learning. Thus, the objectives of the present research were to understand how students learn outside the classroom, the reasoning driving their decision to use specific learning strategies, and the source of their preferred strategies. I conducted a large-scale survey that was administered to 5,810 students from 99 high schools in Texas. In an open-ended question, students selected a former class they had taken and described the way they studied and prepared for that class. Students’ strategy use was analyzed overall and also as a function of their demographic profile, parental education, and reasoning. Results from this survey suggest that students generally adopt similar strategies, regardless of their diverse backgrounds and parents’ level of education. The most commonly used strategies were rereading, help-seeking, and retrieval practice, whereas spacing, outlining, and summarizing were the least reported learning strategies. This research suggests that most students do not understand the conditions for learning that improve long-term retention of knowledge. Therefore, instructors should focus on promoting the use of effective learning techniques among all students.


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