Learning strategies seem to be "tricks" learners how to
help them remember things better or to do tasks more
efficiently. Several researchers have studied what learning
strategies are and why they are effective in the learning
Oxford (1990) takes us to a definition which breaks the
term learning strategies down to its roots--the word
strategy. She informs us that this word comes from the
Greek word 'strategia' which means generalship or the art
of war. Strategy meant the management of the troops,
ships, or aircraft in a war situation. She points out a similar
word tactics which are tools to achieve the success of
strategies. These two words, used interchangeably mean
planning, competition, conscious manipulation, and movement
toward a goal. In a problem solving situation, it would
imply "using a plan, step or conscious action toward
achievement of an objective." Oxford continues to expand on
this definition by stating that "learning strategies are specific
actions taken by the learner to make learning easier, faster, more
enjoyable, more self-directed, more effective, and more
transferrable to new situations."
Weinstein and Mayer in Witrock (1986) have coined one definition
of learning strategies as "behaviors and thoughts that a
learner engages in during learning and that are intended
to influence the learner's encoding process." They go on to
state various learning strategies that could be used with learners.
Nisbet and Shucksmith (1986) define learning strategies simply
as "the processes that underlie performance on thinking tasks."
They go on to explain that "strategies are more than simple
sequences or agglomerations of skills; they go beyond the 'strings'
or routines advocated in some study manuals. They are almost
always purposeful and goal-oriented, but they are perhaps not
always carried out at a conscious or deliberate level. They can
be lengthy or so rapid in execution that it is impossible to
recapture, recall, or even be aware that one has used a strategy."
They move toward a metacognitive approach to strategy use and
learning. They believe that since not all learning strategies are
equal in terms of usability and ease of acquistion, there exists a
hierarchy of strategies which are related to metacognition , or
knowledge of one's own mental processes.
Masters, Mori, and Mori (1993) move toward a definition of
cognitive strategies rather than the term learning strategies.
They refer to a defintion of cognitive strategies coined by Alley
and Deshler (1979, in Masters, Mori, and Mori) as "techniques,
principles, or rules that will faciltiate the acquisition,
manipulation, integration, storage, and retrieval of information
across situations and settings." They go on to say that "cognitive
strategies are a fundamental part of the process of acquiring
knowledge as well as the tool skills of reading, writing, speaking,
listening, note taking, questioning, vocabulary acquisiton, time
management, reasoning, problem solving, and memorization."
From reading through the definitions coined by researchers in
the area of learning strategies, it would be appropriate to state
that learning strategies, in essence, are actions taken by the
learner to assist in learning more effectively.
Why are the use of learning or cognitive strategies necessary?
In the next segment of this website, the rationale behind the use
of learning strategies will be examined.