Benefits Of Strategy Instruction For Students With Learning Disabilities

Benefits of Strategy Instruction for Students with Learning Disabilities

What is “Strategy Instruction”?

Strategy instruction refers to the “tools and techniques we use to help ourselves understand and learn new material or skills, integrate this new information with what we already know in a way that makes sense, and recall the information or skill later, even in a different situation or place (1).” The alternative to strategy instruction would be direct instruction, which focuses on content knowledge acquisition.

Strategy instruction is when the teacher provides clear cognitive strategies to help students process a problem or assignment and then create their response or solution. These strategies include planning before writing, realizing when we do not understand what we are reading, remember what you have already learned on the topic of study, how to take notes, or creating sequence chains for main events in a story. “Research has shown that using knowledge about learning strategies, including which strategies to use in different situations, can help make students more effective, purposeful, and independent learners (2).”

How Does Strategy Instruction Benefit Students with Learning Disabilities?

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), the most effective instructional strategies for students with learning disabilities are those that combined direct instruction with strategy instruction. A study conducted by H. Lee Swanson reviewed 227 studies on instructional strategies for students with learning disabilities that were conducted over the last 30 years (3). Swanson research supports NCLD’s findings that the most effective instructional strategies combined strategy instruction with direct instruction.

According to Swanson’s research, the main successful strategies for this combined approach to instruction include (4):

• Sequencing (e.g., breaking down the task, providing step-by-step prompts)
• Drill-repetition-practice (e.g., daily testing, repeated practice)
• Segmentation (e.g., breaking down skills into parts and then synthesizing the parts into a whole)
• Directed questioning and responses (e.g., teacher asks process or content questions of students)
• Control of task difficulty
• Use of technology (e.g., computers, presentation media)
• Teacher-modeled problem solving
• Small-group instruction
• Strategy cues (e.g., reminders to use strategies, think-aloud models)

The study found that of all these instructional strategies, the most effective were:

• Control of task difficulty (e.g., teacher provides steps to competing work)
• Small-group instruction of five or fewer students
• Use of structured questioning and direct responses

When teachers combined direct instruction with strategy instruction for their learning disabled students, they are able to not only transfer content knowledge but they can equip the students with the necessary skills to be successful in all academic settings. The ability to be metacognitive about one’s learning has profound effects on a student’s academic performance.

1 & 2. National Dissemination Center for Students with Disabilities. “Learning Strategies for Students with Learning Disabilities.”

3& 4. Swanson, H. Lee. “Intervention Research for Students with Learning Disabilities: A Meta-Analysis of Treatment Outcomes.” University of California, Riverside.

by Najla Husseini