Learning Strategies Promoted by Academic Support Centers

Learning Strategies Promoted by Academic Support Centers

By Yana Weinstein

Did you know we had a Learning Scientists Q&A group on Facebook? Members of this group are teachers, parents, students, and others interested in education from all over the world. The members post questions and suggestions related to effective teaching and learning strategies. Anyone is welcome to join!

The other day, a member of this group posted a link to this open access article (1), which investigated the extent to which academic support centers promote effective learning strategies - and to what extent they get it right. The research was conducted by Dr. Jennifer McCabe, who has previously contributed to this blog.

Academic support centers exist in a lot of universities in the US, though they go by different names and clever acronyms. For example, UMass Lowell has one called The Center for Learning and Academic Support Services (CLASS), and Rhode Island College has one called the Office of Academic Support and Information Services (OASIS). These centers provide services like proofreading, tutoring, and support for exam prep. As such, we would hope that they provide accurate information about effective learning strategies.

 Academic Support Centers at UMass Lowell and Rhode Island College

Academic Support Centers at UMass Lowell and Rhode Island College

Jennifer contacted 400 Heads of centers like this around the US, and 77 of them answered enough questions to warrant inclusion in the analyses (this is a 19% response rate, and that's fairly typical for a survey that includes entry into a gift card prize drawing as the compensation). The survey started with an open-ended section where respondents were asked to list the top 3 learning strategies the center encouraged students to use. The open-ended responses were then coded to count the number of times each strategy - broadly defined - was mentioned.

 Figure based on data reported in McCabe (2018)

Figure based on data reported in McCabe (2018)

In the next part of her survey, Jennifer listed 36 different strategies and asked the Heads of the academic support centers to rate how effective they thought they were, and how often each strategy was recommended to students. Happily, Jennifer has the following three pieces of god news to report:

  1. self-testing was rated as more effective and recommended more often than re-reading
  2. spacing out study sessions was rated as more effective and recommended more often than studying a topic for a long time in one study session
  3. using multiple modalities was rated as more effective and recommended more often than studying in a modality consistent with one's learning style.

In the remaining part of the survey, Jennifer asked the Heads of the academic support centers to evaluate the effectiveness of different learning strategies in various specific learning scenarios. The article is open-access, and you can read it in full here to learn what she found!

References:

McCabe, J. A. (2018). What Learning Strategies Do Academic Support Centers Recommend to Undergraduates?. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition7, 143-153.

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