Strategy instruction, which can be used for instruction in all content areas, teaches learners to apply the planning, drafting, and revising strategies that are used by proficient writers. An explicit and systematic approach to instruction that is based in research on what successful learners do and areas in which struggling learners falter, strategy instruction helps learners to understand, acquire, and retain new knowledge and skills. Strategies help make explicit the routines and techniques employed by effective learners so that all learners can be more effective.
The instructional sequence is critically important for strategy instruction. When a learning strategy is taught in a systematic manner, learners can internalize the steps and techniques. This approach is a good match to the gradual release approach discussed throughout this guide.
Self-regulated strategy development (SRSD), adds self-regulation to strategy instruction. SRSD has been applied to reading, writing, and even history instruction and has been studied extensively for writing instruction. In this section, we present ideas on how to bring this approach to the adult education classroom. (See the TEAL Center Fact Sheet on Self-Regulated Strategy Development at the end of this section for more information.)
“The concept of revising to make it ‘better’ was interesting because it allowed for the individual growth and differences while suggesting specific categories. This embodies the concepts of self-regulated learning and differentiated instruction! Teacher and student awareness equals ‘better’ products.”
Teacher, California TEAL Team
Strategy Instruction for Adult Learners
When working with adults learning academic material in college, Simpson and Nist (2000) insist that strategy instruction should take several points into consideration. Here, these points are presented in bold, with contextualizing ideas for adult learners in italics.
- “Task understanding is critical to strategic learning” (p. 529). Don’t assume that learners automatically know what they have been asked to do. Discussing strong and weak examples of the assignment can help clarify the expectation for learners.
- “Beliefs about learning influence how students read and study” (p. 530). The power of belief and how to instill a more positive sense of self-as-learner are discussed in more detail in the Set and Monitor Goals section.
- “Quality instruction is essential” (p. 531). That is, instruction should be intense, of significant duration, metacognitive, explicit and direct, and use relevant content.
- “It is important to teach a variety of research-based strategies” (p. 532). No one strategy fits all! This is essential to remember as you try to teach a mnemonic or set of steps for an academic task: It may make sense to some of the learners but not to others. Remember the options mantra from UDL (See the Apply Universal Design for Learning section).
Graham, S., & Harris, K. R. (2005). Writing better: Effective strategies for teaching students with learning difficulties. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.
Simpson, M. L., & Nist, S. L. (2000). An update on strategic learning: It’s more than textbook reading strategies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 43(6), 528–541.