Eight Strategies to Encourage Generative Learning

Jacqueline Wong

For students to apply what they have learned to novel areas, they need to use generative learning strategies. Generative learning strategies require students to make sense of new information by selecting important information, reorganising and integrating the newly acquired information with what is already known. Fiorella and Mayer (2016) presented eight learning strategies to promote generative learning in their study. The authors suggested that it is more appropriate to regard each of the generative strategies as suitable for certain types of learning and for certain learning contexts than to regard one strategy as the most effective strategy. The eight learning strategies are outlined below:

1) Summarizing Learning using the summarization technique requires students to select the main ideas, organising it into a logical structure, and integrating new information with prior knowledge.                                                                                                                                        Boundary Conditions and Recommendations: The strategy is more effective when the materials to be learned are not complex and highly spatial. Therefore, use summarizing for aspects of the lessons where students are learning relatively simple concepts. In addition, students require training to use the strategy effectively. Before implementing the strategy, teachers can train students by modelling and providing guided practice with feedback.

2) Mapping: This strategy covers a range of techniques, such as concept maps, knowledge maps, and graphic organizers. It is a generative strategy because in the process of converting linear text into spatially arranged text, students have to select important words that represent the main ideas, organize them by creating links between the main ideas, and integrate new information with prior knowledge by determining the overall structure of the map.                                                                                                                                                                    Boundary Conditions and Recommendations: Students may require training and experience in creating useful maps. In addition, the tedious and time-consuming process may take away students’ interest in mapping. The authors suggested that more research is needed to find out how to simplify and support the mapping process.

3) Drawing: Students translate text to a pictorial representation when they use drawing as a learning strategy. It is a generative process because drawing involves selection of relevant ideas from the text, organizing the ideas in pictorial form, and make use of prior knowledge to explain the meaning of the text in the drawing.                                                                                                                                         Boundary Conditions and Recommendations: The efficacy of drawing increases when students have explicit pretaining on drawing, receive specific support on what to include in the drawing, are supported with partially drawn pictures, or when asked to compare self-generated drawing with a model. Therefore, the authors recommended teachers when using drawing as a learning strategy to give very detailed instructions, provide background or parts that can be copied, or provide training and practices to draw effectively.

4) Imagining: Students create mental images of the content to be learned when using imagining as a learning strategy. Similar to drawing, creating mental images is in line with the generative strategy.                                                                                                                                 Boundary Conditions and Recommendations: Students with high prior knowledge benefit more from using imagining as a learning strategy. Therefore, when using imagining as a learning strategy, teachers should first determine students’ level of prior knowledge. It is also important to ensure the material is not too complex and students should be given specific instructions on what to imagine or pretraining and practices to create effective mental images.

5) Self-testing: Self-testing is also known as the retrieval-based learning. During the self-testing process, students select the most relevant information, followed by organizing and integrating information by making connections between old and new information.                            Boundary Conditions and Recommendations: There are mixed results on whether self-testing is effective for learning complex materials. In general, it is a highly flexible strategy that can be used for many domains and grades. It also does not require much training. The authors suggest the use of self-testing after initial exposure to lesson and should be used frequently and repeatedly during learning. For self-testing to be effective, the retrieval activity should be similar to the final test.

6) Self-explaining: The strategy of self-explaining requires students to explain the content of the lesson to themselves. It is a generative strategy because students select the most relevant information, use their own words to explain the information, organize the information by making inferences, and integrating information with prior knowledge during the explanations.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Boundary Conditions and Recommendations: Students may not use the strategy of self-explaining spontaneously. Therefore, they may need reminders and support to use effective self-explanations that have elaborations and inferences when learning.

7) Teaching: The goal of teaching is to help others learn. Although similar to the generative process of self-explaining, teaching sets itself apart with regards to the recipient of the explanations.                                                                                                                                Boundary Conditions and Recommendations: Students may explain without elaborating important information. To produce better quality explanations, teachers can ask students to prepare to teach by practicing explaining to others with the expectations of explaining it to others later and answering questions from others.

8) Enacting: When students enact, they manipulate objects or perform gestures related to the information to be learned. Enacting is a generative learning strategy because students select the actions to make, organize the information using the actions, and integrate new information with prior knowledge during the process.                                                                                                                                             Boundary Conditions and Recommendations: Students may not know the actions to make on their own. Therefore, explicit guidance should be provided to students to show them how to use enacting effectively. Students need to be taught how to use their own body to promote generative processing and learning.

Fiorella, L., & Mayer, R. E. (2016). Eight ways to promote generative learningEducational Psychology Review28(4), 717-741.

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