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8:7 Learning strategies: Learning tools in the portfolio
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The previous sections discussed the importance of student goal-setting and self-evaluation, which are examples of learning strategies. This section discusses other types of learning strategies and how the teacher can incorporate strategies instruction in the portfolio classroom.
Learning strategies: actions and thoughts students apply for the purpose of comprehending, remembering, producing, and managing information and skills for learning. Learning strategies are actions and thoughts students apply for the purpose of comprehending, remembering, producing, and managing information and skills for learning. (For a list of strategies and definitions, see Learning Strategies Model). Teaching learning strategies and making them a part of the portfolio can help students develop a sense of control over their learning. By reflecting on the techniques they use to help them learn, students can attribute their success to their own abilities, leading to increased confidence and self-efficacy. Through the explicit teaching of strategies such as goal-setting, self-evaluating, using one's background knowledge, monitoring, and cooperating, teachers can help students develop life-long skills for learning.
If you decide to incorporate strategies reflection in the portfolio, we encourage you to teach strategies explicitly. Although strategies may already be used by students, many of these learning processes are subconscious. By making students conscious of their strategies, you can help them develop greater control over their learning processes. Explicit instruction means giving the strategies names for easy reference, defining the strategies, explaining why and when to use the strategies, and modeling how to use strategies. You do not want to overwhelm students with a lot of strategies at one time, so you might want to limit the number of strategies you focus on and introduce them individually.
You may be surprised at how many strategies your students already use. Research at the NCLRC shows that students of all ages (from first grade through university) can describe the techniques they use to help them learn. However, students are not always aware of these techniques until you directly ask them to reflect on their strategies. Teachers have found several approaches effective in activating student awareness of strategies: conducting class discussions before and after activities on what students do to help themselves complete the task, arranging small-group student discussions on strategies, having students keep individual learning logs, and having students complete strategies questionnaires. Included is a sample learning strategies questionnaire that students can complete to provide more details on their strategic learning skills. (See Sample Learning Strategies Questionnaire for Reading: Russian and Sample Learning Strategies Questionnaire for Speaking: Russian)
Strategies instruction and portfolios: a natural combination which promotes students' understanding of why and how they are learning.
Strategies instruction and portfolios are a natural combination for promoting goal-setting, self-assessment, and an understanding of why and how progress in learning occurs because portfolios are designed to help students provide evidence of progress in their own learning. For each student work included in the portfolio, students identify the strategies used for completing the work on the annotation worksheet. (See Student's Annotation for Artifacts) Students can also use a learning diary or log to keep track of the strategies they have used. Through a strategies log, students may be able to identify why and how they are or are not making progress. The Student Learning Log illustrates how strategies are incorporated in the learning process with planning, goal-setting, and evaluating.
Students can also keep track of their learning strategies use through a think-aloud record. A think-aloud is a pair interview in which students share their learning techniques while actually working on a language task. (See Learning Strategies Think Aloud Record) As one student is working through a language task, he thinks aloud about how he is completing the activity. The partner records the strategies and prompts for additional strategies by asking questions such as what are you thinking, how did you know that, why do you think that, how are you going to figure that out. Then students switch roles so each has opportunity to think aloud about strategies. By teaching students the names of strategies in the target language and some simple think aloud questions, the activity can be done in the target language. Evidence of student work in the area of learning strategies can be placed as artifacts and attestations in the portfolio. In addition, rubrics for assessing individual pieces can be adapted to include items related to learning strategies.
To assist you as you teach strategies and to organize the sequence of instruction, we have included a strategies instruction checklist that can be used to monitor your instruction (see Teaching Learning Strategies: A Checklist for Teachers). If you would like more information on teaching strategies, please contact the NCLRC for additional instructional materials.