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Learning to Learn

Applying techniques used by successful learners,

previously unsuccessful high school and college
students are staying in school and
earning higher grades.

When I ims in high school I hated school uring the 1960s, a group of nent pans of complex principles/ideas
I nei'er read nothing, never did no school
U'ork I dropped out of school as soon as
they let me
I couldn 't get no job, so I decided to see
D researcher-clinicians at the
University of Michigan took a
nontraditional approach to improving
and breaking down major tasks into
smaller units
2. Ask questions about new materi
if college was better I went for my GED, students' learning strategies. Rather als, engaging in a coven dialogue with
and came to Koxbury Community College than using a diagnosis-and-remedia- author or lecturer, forming hypothe
I didn 't do good my first semester here—I tion model, which at best results in ses, and reading or listening for confir
failed two courses Then I took looming to
Learn, and things really changed I had to only a year's gain in a year's time, the mation.
think about my schoolwork Reading was Michigan group sought to discover 3 Devise informal feedback mecha
like playing some game—looking for the skills that are critical to successful nisms to assess their own progress
answers to my questions I'm a business learning. If skills of successful learners 4. Focus on instructional objectives,
major, and now I can do ei<en hard could be identified and translated for identifying and directing their study
subjects like economics and accounting
It's like I think better Math was a jumble use with less successful students, the behaviors to meet course objectives
for me Now I see how to do the parts and group felt that learning gains might be
how they fit together more rapid.
Used to he I couldn't see no future for Over a period of several years, these The Michigan group translated
me Now I can see my urn to a four year
college education I just wis/x>d I took researchers observed the learning be these skills into a series of exercises
Learning to Learn in high sclx>ol, so I haviors of successful students as they that students could apply directly to
didn't need to u'aste no time like tlxit verbalized their thinking while solving their academic work 1 joined the
—student at Roxbury Community College a variety of complex academic tasks. group in 196T Since then, as director
They found that good learners: of a number of college learning cen
1. "Program" their learning for con ters, I have sought ways to apply the
tent courses identifying the compo four general skills to a wide range of
1, Omvfew of ttanrfng to Urn

Rearflng to ton* problems in

"Three semesters
from books, lectures,
notes, and handouts
chemistry after treatment was
wjoing tor examples Reading diagrams hi biology
completed, 70
Reading graphs, tables,
percent of the LTL
and diagrams students were still in
Developing editing
checklist* for math and
college or had
grammatical composi-
graduated, as
CoiBuuciing infonna- Constructing an information map
compared with 40
tion maps and flow
comparing the cultures of two coun
tries, using student-generated ques
percent of the non-
tions derived from dass discussion LTL students."
Using a tasks/skills Constructing flowcharts to improve
checklist the structure of written assignments

Writing to Using a student-constructed infor

questions mation map to study for an objective
exam in geography

Systematic problem Using a five-step approach to solv

soMng ing word problems in geometry

Constructing mode

Writing keyword tion's Joint Dissemination Review

diagrams Board approved Learning to Learn for
national dissemination. Data from con
trolled studies show that the program
academic areas and to adapt the tech of two central learning tools: generat has significant, long-term effects on
niques to students of varying entry ing questions and breaking down students' grade point averages, the
skill levels. In 1979,1 was joined in this complex ideas and tasks into simpler, number of academic credits they com
work by Joshua Slomianko, who has more comprehensible parts. plete per semester, and their retention
helped put the skills into the frame As a result of work done with educa in school. For example, a study con
work of a cohesive system and found tionally disadvantaged college stu ducted with students reading at the 6th
applications to new contexts. The re dents reading as low as the 5th grade grade level at Roxbury Community
sulting combination of skills and in level, the U.S. Department of Educa- College showed that LTL students
structional materials constitute Learn
ing to Learn (LTL).
Learning to Learn has three stages:
input (gathering information), organi
zation ( arranging information for fur
ther analysis), and output ( student
demonstration of mastery of the mate
rial). Students learn to build general
learning skills and subject-specific
skills into their daily school work (see
Figure 1). After a few months of adapt
ing these skills to their coursework,
most students report that they become
involved with school work and that
they begin using the skills automatical
ly. For example, one student said, "I
used to fall asleep in class and over my
books. Now I want to know what's
going on. I ask myself. 'What's the
teacher after now? Is he answering my
questions, or is this something new?' "
As students begin to "play" with the
material in their courses and discover
their own variations of the skills, they
increasingly view the skills as aspects Students Students
earned a 2.9 grade point average; com in Long Island; and Taft High School in high. By looking for answers to their
parable students who received tradi Cincinnati. own questions and breaking down
tional remediation (for example, con Learning to Learn is most effectively complex ideas into manageable units,
tent-course tutoring or basic skills built into students' academic work in students gain a sense of mastery over
support) earned a 2.2 grade point rwo ways: their academic work. Their informa
average (Heiman, 1983) LTL students 1. In the content classroom. In both tion search becomes personal, as they
also completed significantly more aca junior and senior high schools, teach are working to achieve goals they have
demic credits per semester Three se ers incorporate LTL skills directly into set for themselves
mesters after treatment was complet their classroom teaching. The follow 2. As a credit course I n the senior
ed, 70 percent of the LTL students ing vignettes illustrate this process: high school. Learning to Learn is also
were still in college or had graduated, Robert Stone's 10th grade chemis offered as a year-long credit course.
as compared with 40 percent of non- try class has been assigned Chapter 7, Students are required to adapt the
LTL students which discusses the relationship appropriate LTL skills to content-area
among temperature, pressure, and courses taken concurrently with LTL
Learning to Learn in volume of gasses. Students work in Students learn how the skills relate to
Secondary Schools pairs, generating questions from the each other by learning principles on
Learning to Learn has now been pilot text and using an active method of which they are based and how to vary-
ed by teachers in several Boston-area reading to solve problems. In this the skills for a wide range of academic
high schools In 198S-86. the program regard, their chemistry texts become tasks The course is designed to make
is being fully implemented in a num "dictionaries" that help them solve the students independent learners in any-
ber of schools, including Winchester sample problems presented in the academic course, whatever its struc
High School, West Roxbury High text ture.
School, and the Massachusetts Pre-En- Amy Anderson's 6th graders will Learning to Learn is available to
gineering Program at Boston Latin be studying a unit on Africa. Working schools through a combination of
High School in Massachusetts; Kings in small groups, they have identified training workshops and instructional
Park Junior and Senior High Schools questions to which they would like to materials Content-area teachers re
find answers Their questions will be ceive field-relevant instructor man
the basis of small-group "research" uals, which review those skills most
projects, in which they will find an suited to a particular discipline, sug
swers to their questions in an encyclo gest ways of using the skills as class
pedia. Each group has at least two room activities or homework assign
"resource" persons who read at the ments, and provide sample lesson
4th grade level or higher plans. Manuals are available for teach
Albert Hart has just given a brief ers of social studies, English, mathe
lecture on Greek city-states to his 9th matics, physical science, and biology/
grade social studies class Students earth science In addition, student
took notes on his lecture. Later, work workbooks are available in these areas
ing in pairs, students will help each (such as Learning to Learn Social
other fill in missing notes and gener Studies).
ate questions from those notes. They A detailed manual provides teachers
will then use their questions to read- of the LTL credit course with step-by-
to-find-answers in the textbook chap step instruction in the content and
ter on Greek city-states. structure of the course In addition, a
As these illustrations suggest, Learn student workbook gives students prac
ing to Learn has a wide range of tice in using LTL skills and suggests
applications for content classrooms. ways to adapt them for use with con
Classroom management problems are tent classwork. (Figure 2 shows a sam
minimal because student motivation is ple page from the student workbook.)
Figure 1
trie Page from
Student Workbook
Positive Outcomes
Learning to Learn has positive out
comes for students, teachers, and
school administrators. Students be
come more actively engaged in their
work and can improve their basic
skills (primarily in reading, writing,
and listening), content-course grades,
and reasoning skills Improved stu
dent motivation and a higher level of
student classroom participation, in
turn, have a positive effect on teacher
morale Schools that fully use the sys
tem can expect to realize some of the
following results: improved student
scores on competency exams, im
proved student retention through
graduation, and more students going
on to post-secondary schools
One reason for the system's effec
tiveness is that it provides students
with an environment conducive to ac
tive learning. Students are not simply
advised to improve their organization,
motivation, and interest in school.
Rather, as the student quoted in the
beginning of this article suggested,
For Educators and Parents students develop tools for turning aca
demic work into a kind of "game" in
An Exciting National Conference which they predict questions and an
Hyatt Regency Hotel - Indianapolis, Indiana swers. The dichotomy between "real
world learning" and "book learning"
NOVEMBER 17,18 A 19,1985 begins to diminish for many students
'************************** as they see the relationships between
the kinds of learning they do in daily
Conference Highlights wffl include: life and in academic settings
Concurrent Workshops On Such Subjects Ac: The useful effects of Learning to
Parent/Teacher Conferences Learn appear to be a product of its
Telephone Assistance Hotlines
Parent Education basic approach to higher-level learn
Teacher Training ing: the skills that are central to the
- Parent/Community Partnerships system (generating questions, identify
Parent Involvement Needs Assessment ing essential parts of complex situa
Establishing School Foundations tions, looking for feedback on pro
A 'Mow-To" Resource Manual For AH Registrants gress, directing behavior toward clear
Mini Sessions/Panel Discussions goals) are part of all learning. Learn
Nationally Prominent Guest Speakers ing to Learn works because we are
teaching children to bring their own
****** highly developed intellectual strate
REGISTRATION FEE FOR THE CONFERENCE: $65.00 gies into a setting formal educa
Hyatt Regency Room Rates for this Convention only: tion that has often seemed alien
Single (1 person) $59.00 ground.n
Twin (2 people) $69.00 Reference
for ngMnUon hrtornwtton, caff or writ*: Heiman, M Learning to Learn," Joint
Project MAPP, Indianapolis Public Schools Dissemination Review Panel Submission
901 N. Carrottton, Room #206 Washington, DC: National Diffusion Net
IndtafMooN*, Indiana 46202 work, 1983
Sponiorttt by. Marcla Heiman directs the Learning t<
Indianapolis Public Schools Learn Program at Boston College, Chestnui
_____Through t Grant from the U.S. Department of Education
Hill, Massachusetts 0216^
Copyright © 1985 by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development. All rights reserved.