Effective Strategies

This page contains Effective Strategies for the UA Learning Initiative and Student Advocates for Improved Learning (SAIL) Program.

The science of learning tells us that the following study strategies for STUDENTS are most effective: 

  • Self-Test - "Make up practice tests and take them repeatedly as you study. This step permits you to practice retrieving information from memory, making the pathways to the learning stronger so you can recall it easily later when you need it – and it also permits you to assess what you know and what you do not know." (1)
  • Connect Concepts - “Elaboration is the process of giving new material meaning by expressing it in your own words and connecting it with what you already know. The more you can explain about the way your new learning relates to your prior knowledge, the stronger your grasp of the new learning will be, and the more connections you create that will help you remember it later.” (2)
  • Engage During Class - "Engagement is directly linked to success in the classroom, and when you are engaged in the classroom, you become a full participant in what you’re learning." (3)
  • Collaborate with Peers and Explain Understanding to Others - "Students learn a great deal by explaining their ideas to others and by participating in activities in which they can learn from their peers. They develop skills in organizing and planning learning activities, working collaboratively with others, giving and receiving feedback and evaluating their own learning." (4)
  • Space Out Study Sessions and Don't Cram - "Space out your practice sessions, letting time elapse between them. Massed practice (like cramming) leads to fast learning but also to rapid forgetting compared to spaced practice. Spacing helps embed learning in long-term memory."(1)

The science of learning tells us that the following teaching strategies for FACULTY improve student learning:

  • Active Learning and Small Group Work - "Many instructors from disciplines across the university use group work to enhance their students’ learning. Whether the goal is to increase student understanding of content, to build particular transferable skills, or some combination of the two, instructors often turn to small group work to capitalize on the benefits of peer-to-peer instruction."(5)
  • Spaced Retrieval Practice - "Hundreds of studies in cognitive and educational psychology have demonstrated that spacing out repeated encounters with the material over time produces superior long-term learning, compared with repetitions that are massed together. Also, incorporating tests into spaced practice amplifies the benefits. Spaced review or practice enhances diverse forms of learning, including memory, problem solving, and generalization to new situations." (6)
  • Low-Stakes Quizzes - "Use quizzing to promote learning.
    • Prepare pre-questions, and require students to answer the questions, before introducing a new topic.
    • Use quizzes for retrieval practice and spaced exposure, thereby reducing forgetting.
    • Use game-like quizzes as a fun way to provide additional exposure to material." (7)
  • Connections Between Concepts - "If we want students to develop expertise in our fields, then, we have to help them thicken up the connections — from the first week of the semester to the fifth, from the last course they took in our discipline to this one, from the course material to their lives outside of class. The more connections they can create, the more they can begin to formulate their own ideas and gain a wider view of our fields." (8)
  • Formative Assessment and Immediate Student Feedback - "As opposed to inserting a few well-crafted formative assessments into the curriculum, instructors should understand that the adoption of formative assessment is the implementation of a course-long instructional approach.  Specifically, instructors can use formative feedback in every class through effective questioning strategies that elicit information about student understanding and help students monitor and adjust their learning." (9)

The Learning to Learning Series provides more information about six important strategies that the science of learning tells us work best.