When cognitive strategies instruction is unsuccessful, it’s often because teachers use the strategies as “teaching tools” instead of handing them to students as “learning tools,”writes Mark Conley in a recent issue of Harvard Educational Review.
“‘Strategy instruction’ is quickly becoming one of the most common–and perhaps the most commonly misunderstood–components of adolescent literacy research and practice,” writes Mark Conley.
If a teacher uses a graphic organizer with a class for a unit on pollution, for example, and works with students as a group to add words to the organizer that represent different facets of pollution, the teacher hopes that repeating this process over and over again will result in students learning how to organize their own thinking. But that is often not the case, Conley writes.
A more effective way to introduce the graphic organizer to students, Conley says, would be to ask students, after describing the tool, to have a conversation with a partner and then to add thoughts from their conversations to the organizer. In that way, the teacher transfers responsibility for the new strategy to her students, Conley says.
“The field of content-area literacy is still far from delivering on a more complex view of developing deep understandings for content as well as cognitive tools,” the autor says.
Cognitive strategy instruction should not be generic across content areas, but should support educators in selecting those tools that are specific and appropriate for each learning context.
Cognitive Strategy Instruction for Adolescents: What We Know about the Promise, What We Don’t Know about the Potential,” by Mark Conley, Harvard Educational Review Volume 78, Number 1, Spring 2008.