It is important to note that the purpose of the research is to analyze the practical translation of effective learning strategies identified by cognitive psychological findings in a form intervention program. The latter was applied to stimulate the practice of effective learning strategies, foster reflection, and create better awareness. The nature of the study is exploratory since it formulates novel challenges or problems to further enhance the existing body of knowledge on the applicability of learning strategies. The underlying theoretical framework was based on the strongest learning strategies supported by empirical research, which are retrieval practice and distributed practice. The intervention program called ‘Study Smart’ resulted in students becoming more aware of the importance of using effective learning strategies, and they showed intention to alter their current learning approaches. In addition, students reported that they used practice testing abundantly during self-study sessions. The qualitative aspect of the research in an interview format revealed three major barriers as availability of practice questions, the uncertainty of time, and uncertainty of effort.
Methods & Empirics
The research method was centered around a mixed-methods study, where the researchers analyzed the effect of using the intervention program. The program was comprised of three distinct sessions such as practice, reflection, and awareness. The sessions were two-hour-long conducted each week for a total of six weeks. Each session had between four and 12 students in a single group. The first and last weeks were used for pretest and posttest. During the awareness session, which was the first session of the second week, students’ beliefs in the effectiveness of their existing learning strategies were questioned with empirical evidence, and new approaches were presented. The reflection session was conducted on the fourth week in order to allow the students to reflect on their learning strategies used in the previous week. In addition, they were asked to identify new learning objectives or goals for the coming weeks. In the case of the third session on practice, the students were divided into two groups, where one group used a regular learning strategy and the other used practice testing. They were asked to study an academic article, after which their knowledge was tested.
The prime modes of data collection included pretest, posttest, weekly learning strategy surveys, and focus group discussions for the qualitative part. The process began with the pretest on week one and the posttest on week six, while, in between, weekly learning strategy surveys were collected. The focus group discussion took place between weeks nine and twelve. The measuring instrument was a 6-point Likert scale applied to the Study of Learning Questionnaire, which consists of 34 items, where one indicates ‘strongly disagree’ and six is ‘strongly agree.’ For the qualitative part on barriers and facilitators, two open-ended questions were asked on influencing factors and their preferred changes to their studying method.
The target population was higher education students in their first and second years of study. The sample consisted of 47 students from the problem-based learning university in the Netherlands, who studied Health Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, and Medicine. The sampling technique was convenience sampling since students needed to volunteer to participate. The sample moderately represents the population since they represent first- and second-year undergraduate students. In the case of reliability, several groups were used each week to ensure consistency. For the validity, the structure of the study and methods were directly aimed at answering the key questions because the real-world conditions were used to implement and observe the program. The tool used for data analysis was two-tailed t-tests, where the distribution for the critical area is two-sided, representing two extreme value ranges for the sample.
The article is informative and addresses valid points, but it lacks a precise focus on one specific learning strategy or concept compared to other articles in the higher education area. It combines two effective learning strategies into one program and conducts the program for three different purposes such as reflection, awareness, and practice. In other words, a better approach would accentuate the research’s attention on one strategy and one dimension of the learning experience. Although it might seem to be resource and time-intensive, such a setup significantly reduces the impact of confounding variables.
When it comes to the quality of the article, it adheres to the highest academic standards of source citation, organization, presentation, and writing. All important elements of the study are presented and explained in detail. The article itself is well-structured, where images, as well as tables, are positioned conveniently without disturbing the reading flow. Thus, the paper is comprehensive and substantive, making the evaluation of high quality.
Biwer, F., Egbrink, M. G. A. oude, Aalten, P., & de Bruin, A. B. H. (2020). Fostering effective learning strategies in higher education – A mixed-methods study. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 9(2), 186–203. Web.