The Learning Scientists Blog (2023)

By Megan Sumeracki

If you read our blog often, you are familiar with the six strategies for effective learning. We have a number of resources already, but this guide provides a brief explanation of each strategy and compiles a set of links on the website all in one place. So, if you’re wanting a single reference or to share one starter blog with a colleague, we hope this will work for you!


Cognitive psychologists have identified six key strategies that promote learning in many situations, and this research can be implemented to promote long-term durable learning. These six strategies have been heavily investigated for decades, and there is a lot of evidence to suggest their effectiveness in a variety of situations.

Before digging into the specifics of each strategy, it is important to note that they are very flexible. This is a good thing, in that it means they can be used in a lot of different situations. However, this also means that there really isn’t a specific prescription we can provide that will “always work.” Instead, understanding the strategies and how they work can help instructors and students. Instructors can implement them in their classrooms in ways that will foster student learning that works best for their classroom, and students can infuse their study sessions with these strategies in a way that will promote long-term learning. There are also countless ways that the strategies can be combined to be used together. For example, teaching one another often uses all 6!

The strategies

Spacing or spreading out learning opportunities over time improves learning. For example, students will learn and retain more if they study 30 minutes M-F, rather than for 2.5 hours all on one day. Students should create a schedule with brief study sessions each day and stick to it. Blocking off time works best because it is easy to procrastinate when an exam is not upcoming. It is also beneficial to spread out the topics being studied so that there is a space between the repetition of the same ideas. In class, instructors can repeat the most important concepts in multiple classes; the spaced repetition really helps!

Interleaving basically means jumbling up ideas. Students learn more when they can switch between different topics. Doing this helps students learn the similarities and differences between different ideas. In math, for example, students learn more when they solve many different types of problems during practice rather than solving the same type over and over. This typically leads to more mistakes during practice, but in the long-run, the students retain their knowledge much longer.

Retrieval practice involves bringing information to mind from memory. This happens when students take practice tests or quizzes, but it can be done in other ways too. For example, students can just write out what they can remember on a blank sheet of paper, or even draw ideas. The key is that they should bring the information to mind from memory. So, copying one’s notes would not be very helpful, but trying to summarize their notes from their memory would be very beneficial. The students do not need to remember everything and can check their notes or course materials after retrieval to fill in gaps. In the classroom, instructors can utilize frequent low-stakes or no-stakes quizzes, and ask students to jot down what they can remember about topics in the classroom (not necessarily to be collected).

Concrete examples are often used by instructors. Concrete information is easier to remember than abstract information, and so concrete examples foster learning. Importantly, research shows that multiple examples of the same idea, especially with different surface details, helps students understand the true idea the example is intending to illustrate. This is because novices tend to remember surface details. Imagine teaching about scarcity and using airline tickets as an example. Students later may remember scarcity was about flying, but not the rest. Using other examples that have nothing to do with tickets (e.g., water during a drought) and making the link between the examples explicit for the students helps them understand the underlying abstract idea.

Elaboration involves asking “how” and “why” questions about a specific topic, and then trying to find the answers to those questions. The act of trying to describe and explain how and why things work helps students understand and learn. Students can also explain how the topics relate to their own lives, or take two topics and explain how they are similar and how they are different. This strategy can be assigned alone or for pairs of students.

Dual coding is all about combining verbal representations of information (words) with visual representations of information (pictures/diagrams). When we combine these, it is easier for us to understand the information being presented. Importantly, this is not the same thing as learning styles. While students do have preferences, matching these preferences does not help them learn. Instead, we all learn best when we have multiple representations of the same idea. Importantly, make sure the students have enough time to digest both representations. When students are studying, they should use multiple representations and try to explain to themselves how the different representations show the same idea.

A note about difficulty

Importantly, all of these strategies have a couple of very important things in common:

  • They are all difficult. The research consistently shows that this difficulty is a good thing; the strategies that feel easy are the ones that do not promote learning in the long-run.

  • They all promote long-term learning. This is important to remember. Often when using the strategies, it feels to students (and instructors) as though they are not promoting learning. This is probably due to the difficulty. However, the research shows us that, in the long-term (even 1-2 days later), these strategies work very well. Conversely, the strategies that feel easy and feel as though we “really know it” promote “learning” that is almost immediately forgotten (even by the next day).

Keep this in mind when implementing the strategies, and highlight these points for the students. While we make judgments about what we think we are learning in the moment, what we really care about is what we can remember and apply in the future. The strategies should feel difficult, but not so difficult that the students cannot actually do them. This is where flexibility comes in, and adjustments can be made so that the students are challenged and not getting everything perfectly right, but are still somewhat successful.

Additional resources from the website

You can use in your teaching, or give them to students.

  • Posters describing each strategy with illustrations for students

    • English:

    • Other languages:

  • You can find blogs explaining how students can use each strategy. These are written for students

    • Spacing:

    • Interleaving:

    • Retrieval practice:

    • Concrete examples:

    • Elaboration:

    • Dual coding:

    • How to use (for students)

    • Since learning styles is so popular (unfortunately without evidence), here is a blog describing the differences between learning styles and dual coding, and explaining the problems associated with learning styles:

  • Podcast episodes explaining how students can use the strategies (2 parts)



  • Book, Understanding How We Learn: A Visual Guide. This book contains information about each of the strategies in more depth (including how to use them flexibly), and chapters with practical tips for teachers and for students. You can see chapter previews here:

  • You can peruse for more resources. Our blog is also searchable (see

General References:

Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving Students’ Learning with Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions from Cognitive and Educational Psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14, 4–58.

Pashler, H., Bain, P. M., Bottge, B. A., Graesser, A. C., Koedinger, K. R., McDaniel, M. A., & Metcalfe, J. (2007). Organizing Instruction and Study to Improve Student Learning. IES Practice Guide. NCER 2007-2004. National Center for Education Research.

Pomerance, L., Greenberg, J., & Walsh, K. (2016, January). Learning about learning: What every teacher needs to know. Retrieved from

Weinstein, Y., & Sumeracki, M. A. (2019). Understanding how we learn: A visual guide. London, UK: David Fulton, Routledge.


What are the 6 strategies for effective learning the learning scientists you learned? ›

This tip sheet was developed based on the research and writing of the Learning Scientists. These six strategies for effective learning are based on evidence-based research and the science of learning. We will explore: spaced practice, retrieval practice, elaboration, concrete examples, dual coding and interleaving.

What are the 6 cognitive strategies? ›

After decades of research, cognitive psychologists have identified six strategies with considerable experimental evidence to support their use [9]. These six strategies include spaced practice, interleaving, elaboration, concrete examples, dual coding, and retrieval practice.

What is the solution to too much teaching not enough learning? ›

Specifically, teachers should reduce the total amount of factual information students are expected to memorize, reduce our use of the passive lecture format, and devote much more effort to helping students become active, independent learners and problem solvers.

How could we improve the learning experience answer? ›

Ask students to share information about each other's backgrounds and academic interests. Encourage students to prepare together for classes or exams. Create study groups within your course. Ask students to give constructive feedback on each other's work and to explain difficult ideas to each other.

What are the 4 techniques of learning? ›

The four core learning styles in the VARK model include visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic.

What is the 5 step learning strategy? ›

The 5-SA is a learning strategy previously shown to enhance the learning of self-paced motor tasks and consists of five substrategies: (1) readying, (2) imaging, (3) focusing, (4) executing, and (5) evaluating.

What are the six 6 levels of cognitive behavior? ›

  • I. Knowledge. Remembering information.
  • II. Comprehension. Explaining the meaning of information.
  • III. Application. Using abstractions in concrete situations.
  • IV. Analysis. Breaking down a whole into component parts.
  • V. Synthesis. Putting parts together to form a new and integrated whole.
  • VI. Evaluation.
Feb 2, 2017

What are the 6 mental activities involved in cognition? ›

The DSM-5 defines six key domains of cognitive function: complex attention, executive function, learning and memory, language, perceptual-motor control, and social cognition.

What are the 7 cognitive reading strategies? ›

To improve students' reading comprehension, teachers should introduce the seven cognitive strategies of effective readers: activating, inferring, monitoring-clarifying, questioning, searching-selecting, summarizing, and visualizing-organizing.

Why should teachers never stop learning? ›

It is rightly said never stop learning because life is the teacher which gives us the opportunity to learn new things each and every day. It motivates us to learn and defeat the challenges which we come across. The greatest teacher we could ever have is our life.

How do you teach students who don't want to learn? ›

What to Do When a Student Won't Learn
  1. Believe in them. It's just natural to walk into class thinking Ugh, I'm going to have to fight with Randy today to get him to work. ...
  2. Get the parents involved. ...
  3. Expect them to participate. ...
  4. Encourage them. ...
  5. Require them to complete their work. ...
  6. Be patient and consistent.

What makes learning successful? ›

Three key principles for effective learning

understand the learner's context (past, present and future); establish and respond to the learner's existing level of knowledge; and. provide adequate and appropriate practice over time.

What are the most effective ways to improve learning? ›

Top 10 best study tips
  • Be consistent. If you try to cram, you'll set yourself up for failure. ...
  • Sleep properly. ...
  • Try the Pomodoro method. ...
  • Create the right environment. ...
  • Create flashcards. ...
  • Break everything down. ...
  • Teach other people. ...
  • Get some exercise.
Apr 7, 2022

What are the 7 ways to facilitate learning? ›

The seven ways of learning are: Behavioral Learning; Cognitive Learning; Learning through Inquiry; Learning with Mental Models; Learning through Groups and Teams; Learning through Virtual Realities; and Experiential Learning.

What is the best learning style? ›

The visual learners process the information best if they can see it. The auditory learners like to hear information. The read-write learners prefer to see the written words. The kinaesthetic learners like to acquire information through experience and practice.

What is the most common learning style? ›

What is the most common of four learning styles? Of the four learning styles, that is, Visual, Aural, Read/Write and Kinesthetic, visual learners are the most common type of learner, making up for 65% of the children. Such children relate best to written information, notes, diagrams and pictures.

What are the three main methods of learning? ›

There are three primary types of learning styles, as defined by teacher Neil Fleming: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Most people learn best through one or two of these methods, but there are ways to use all three learning styles to your advantage.

What is the 5 E's learning plan? ›

These phases include Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate.

What are the 4 C's strategy education? ›

The 21st century learning skills are often called the 4 C's: critical thinking, creative thinking, communicating, and collaborating. These skills help students learn, and so they are vital to success in school and beyond.

What are the 6 domains of learning? ›

The cognitive process includes the six levels of thinking skills as remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate and create.

What are the 7 areas of cognitive development? ›

  • We have 7 areas of cognitive. “brain skills” that help us learn. ...
  • ▪ What you know. ...
  • ▪ Your skills for solving problems. ...
  • ▪ How quickly you perform mental tasks. ...
  • ▪ How you use your eyes for learning. ...
  • ▪ How you use your ears for learning. ...
  • ▪ How you hold information in your. ...
  • ▪ How you store and later remember.

What is Bloom's theory? ›

Familiarly known as Bloom's Taxonomy, this framework has been applied by generations of K-12 teachers and college instructors in their teaching. The framework elaborated by Bloom and his collaborators consisted of six major categories: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation.

How can I mentally stimulate my brain? ›

Mental stimulation
  1. enjoy a daily puzzle or the crossword.
  2. opt for mental arithmetic rather than use the calculator.
  3. read more – perhaps by joining or starting a book club.
  4. play mind-stretching games, like bingo, bridge, chess or computer games.
  5. stay socially active – join a local choir or gardening club.

How can I sharpen my cognitive skills? ›

6 simple steps to keep your mind sharp at any age
  1. staying physically active.
  2. getting enough sleep.
  3. not smoking.
  4. having good social connections.
  5. limiting alcohol to no more than one drink a day.
  6. eating a Mediterranean style diet.

What mentally stimulates you? ›

Mental stimulation can be described as activities that help enrich your mind and improve brainpower. It could be anything — reading a book, learning a language or a musical instrument, playing brain games, or even socializing with people.

What causes a child to be slow learner? ›

There are different types of causes of slow learning. Among these, low intellectual abilities such as sub-normal IQs, some personal factors, psychological factors, environmental factors etc are very common causes of slow learning.

What is the #1 reason teachers quit? ›

Beyond compensation, these educators also feel overworked and undervalued. Nearly 75 percent of respondents who cite expectations as a top reason they plan to leave say they have too much work to do each day and that there aren't enough teachers to carry the workload.

What makes a not good teacher? ›

Having great communication skills and professionalism is essential to being a good teacher. A lack of skills and experience in this area can lead to poor teacher performance and less student engagement. Teachers who don't challenge their students do a massive disservice to their pupils.

What is the motto of never stop learning? ›

never stop learning.” “There are five important things for living a successful and fulfilling life: never stop dreaming, never stop believing, never give up, never stop trying, and never stop learning.” “Never stop dreaming, never stop believing, never give up, never stop trying, and never stop learning.”

How do you get students to listen without yelling? ›

10 Ways to Get Your Students' Attention Without Yelling
  1. Set and Maintain High Expectations. ...
  2. Establish Regular Routines. ...
  3. Get Quieter, Not Louder. ...
  4. Reset Technique. ...
  5. Install a Wireless Doorbell. ...
  6. Use Call and Response or Clap Back Technique. ...
  7. Use Classroom Lights. ...
  8. Stand in the Middle of the Room.

How do you motivate a student who doesn't care? ›

  1. Triggering curiosity and interest can motivate even the most unmotivated students. Blend real-world events that students are experiencing or are aware of with academic curricula. ...
  2. Connect video games and song lyrics to lessons whenever possible. ...
  3. Throughout lessons, use language to arouse student interest.

How do you teach an unwilling child? ›

20 Strategies for Motivating Reluctant Learners
  1. Don't Be Boring. “In our engaging classrooms, we have to have a set of procedures and routines,” Perez said. ...
  2. Vote. ...
  3. Set Goals. ...
  4. Form Groups. ...
  5. Quick Writes. ...
  6. Focus on the ABCs: Acceptance, Belonging and Community. ...
  7. Continually change the “state” of the classroom. ...
  8. Empathize.
Mar 3, 2016

What are the 10 qualities of bad learners? ›

These bad qualities make you fail in your studies
  • Reckless. Skip a lecture, start learning too late or postpone the exam registration: Many students do not take their duties seriously and see their studies as a kind of leisure activity. ...
  • Non-reflected. ...
  • Arrogant. ...
  • Lazy. ...
  • Perfectionist. ...
  • Impatient. ...
  • Late. ...
  • Disoriented.

What does a good learner look like? ›

Good learners pursue understanding diligently.

Most importantly they talk with others, read more, study more, and carry around what they don't understand; thinking about it before they go to sleep, at the gym, on the way to work, and sometimes when they should be listening to others. Good learners are persistent.

What does excellent learning look like? ›

Active, responsible and collaborative learners

Research shows that students learn actively by talking and listening, writing, reading and reflecting. When students are encouraged to take an active interest in learning, they are more likely to retain the knowledge and skills that they've accumulated.

What are 5 ways to make learning easier? ›

As you approach a new subject, incorporate some of the following tactics:
  • Find ways to boost your memory.
  • Always keep learning new things.
  • Use a variety of learning techniques.
  • Try teaching it to someone else.
  • Connect new information to things you already know.
  • Look for opportunities to have hands-on experiences.
Mar 10, 2023

What skills do students need to be successful? ›

Take a look at this list of skills your student should start developing in preparation for college.
  • Assertiveness. ...
  • Responsibility. ...
  • Self management skills. ...
  • Communication skills. ...
  • Collaboration skills. ...
  • Independent work skills. ...
  • Critical-thinking skills. ...
  • Study skills.

What is the most effective way for students to learn? ›

The most effective practice is to work a short time on each class every day. The total amount of time spent studying will be the same (or less) than one or two marathon library sessions, but you will learn the information more deeply and retain much more for the long term—which will help get you an A on the final.

What are the factors that hinder learning? ›

To figure out the reason why you struggle in school, below is a list of the most common factors that prevent you from studying better.
  • Giving In To Procrastination. ...
  • Studying In A Noisy Environment. ...
  • Keeping Up With Discomfort. ...
  • Poor Lighting. ...
  • Poor Sleeping Habits. ...
  • Bad Social Circles. ...
  • Poor Room Layout. ...
  • Conclusion.
Nov 11, 2016

What are the four steps of active learning? ›

  • Step 1: Analyzing needs for implementing an active learning strategy. ...
  • Step 2: Identify topic and questions. ...
  • Step 3: Identify learning objectives & outcomes. ...
  • Step 4: Plan and design the activity. ...
  • Step 5: Identify sequence of learning events. ...
  • Step 6: Evaluate and assess.

What are the 6 different ways of learning? ›

These include visual, auditory, kinesthetic, social, solitary, and verbal.

What are the 7 study strategies? ›

Active listening, reading comprehension, note taking, stress management, time management, testing taking, and memorization are only a few of the topics addressed in our study skills guides for students.

What are the effective science teaching strategies? ›

Methods for teaching science
  • Lecture (teacher-centred) ...
  • Hands-on activities (student-centred) ...
  • Project Based learning (student-centred) ...
  • Peer-led team learning (student-centred) ...
  • Flipped learning (student-centred) ...
  • Differentiation (student-centred) ...
  • It's up to you! ...
  • Further enrichment ideas.

What is strategies for effective learning? ›

The most effective strategy according to Dunlosky's research is practice testing. It consists of studying and reviewing by answering questions and actively bringing information back to mind. When this is done, information is reconsolidated, new connections are created, and memory and understanding are strengthened.

What is the rarest type of learner? ›

Kinesthetic learners make up just 5 percent of the population and are a bit more complex than other types of learners and communicators. Kinesthetic learners need to actively participate — often physically — in problem-solving or new tasks and often have trouble sitting still for long stretches of time.

What are the 5 main types of learning? ›

What are the different types of learners?
  • Visual learners.
  • Auditory (or aural) learners.
  • Kinesthetic (or hands-on) learners.
  • Reading and writing learners.
May 6, 2019

What are the 3 types of study skills? ›

Understanding refers to contextual clarity of the topic, decoding refers to finding out the main objective of the course and memorizing memorizing refers to retaining what you have learnt. These three skills will help you in better learning.

What are the three most effective study strategies? ›

Studying a single subject for a long period of time and repeating phrases over and over to memorize them (known as massed practice) Reviewing one topic repeatedly before moving onto another topic (blocked practice) Reading and rereading a text. Highlighting or underlining important concepts in a text and then reviewing.

What is the science facts triangle strategy? ›

Science Facts Triangle (Thier & Daviss, 2002) This strategy divides information on a topic into three parts. By relating each section to the one above it, students can expand their knowledge from a central idea. This information can be used as an advanced organizer in addition to a study tool.

What are the 3 characteristics of effective learning? ›

The characteristics of effective learning focus on three key elements; engagement, motivation and thinking.


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