Learning strategy

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According to Jasmina Hasanbegovic[1] “learning strategies refer to Students' self-generated thoughts, feelings, and actions, which are systematically oriented toward attainment of their goals”.

Therefore, implementation of appropriate learning strategies is related to student's self-regulation behavior which in turn should be encouraged by pedagogical designs.

Typical strategic questions a learner might ask, are:

  • How to write a project thesis. How do I have to do a literature review?
  • How to structure my course and lecture notes? How can I cope with note taking ?
  • How to organize my time and keep track of various assignments ?
  • How can I tackle a difficult exercise, e.g. a math problem ?

Types of learning strategies

Globally, one could distinguish among the following kinds

Warr & Allan (1998) distinguish between three categories according to the kind of resources used in the regulation of behavior:

  1. Cognitive learning strategies: skills in rehearsing a material to be learned or in organizing it into main theme
  2. behavioral learning strategies: preferences for seeking help from others, for trial and error or for written instruction
  3. self-regulating strategies: controlling emotions, motivation and comprehension [1]

Learning styles vs. learning strategies

Issues regarding learning style are somewhat related, i.e. students that willing and able to think in more abstract terms and/or to critically examine what they do may show better performance.

A learning style refers to the relationship between individuals and their ways of learning [2] whereas learning strategies refer to attitudes and behavior that is oriented towards goals. As an example, one could compare/oppose:

Learning style Learning strategy
self-assessment self-assessment
field-dependent field-independent
cognitive level plus meta-cognitive level
learner preference learner competence

Instructional design considerations

It is important to engage students in strategic thinking, in particular more open designs like project-oriented learning.

There exist instructional design models like POME or at least simple pedagogical activities like asking students to blog from time to time about their own progress.

Learning Strategy in different domains

Weinstein and Mayer (1986) defined learning strategies (LS) broadly as "behaviours and thoughts that a learner engages in during learning" which are "intended to influence the learner's encoding process" (p. 315). Later Mayer (1988) more specifically defined LS as "behaviours of a learner that are intended to influence how the learner processes information" (p. 11). These early definitions from the educational literature reflect the roots of LS in cognitive science, with its essential assumptions that human beings process information and that learning involves such information processing. Clearly, LS are involved in all learning, regardless of the content and context. LS are thus used in learning and teaching math, science, history, languages and other subjects, both in classroom settings and more informal learning environments.

In this part, we will discuss LS in different domains.


  • Barrell, J. (1995). Teaching for thoughtfulness: Classroom strategies to enhance intellectual development. White Plains, NY: Longman.
  • Blakey, E., & Spence, S. (1990). Developing metacognition. ERIC Digest [2]
  • Paris, S.G, Cross, D.R., & Lipson, M.Y. (1984, December). Informed strategies for learning: A program to improve children's reading awareness and comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76(6), 1239-1252.
  • Swartz, R.J., & Perkins, D.N. (1989). Teaching thinking: Issues and approaches. Pacific Grove, CA: Midwest Publications.


  1. Hasanbegovic, Jasmina (2006). IGIP Course materials, Module 5 - Tutoring and Collaboration
  2. IGIP Course materials