The Center For Advancement of Learning philosophy is based on research showing that strategic learning can be beneficial to post-secondary students who are either learning disabled or academically at risk of failure. Harris and Pressley (1991) emphasize the objective of strategy instruction directed towards developing students' ability to become self-regulated learners. Educators who have already demonstrated their proficiency in a linguistically-biased system often assume learners have strategies available to oversee the learning processes of self-monitoring, rehearsing, encoding, and retrieving. University students are presumed to be proficient learners who instinctively know how and when to use efficient strategies (Naour and Torello, 1991). Unfortunately, these assumptions aren't always valid and each learner is different as is each learning situation.
Strategy instruction offered by professional learning consultants can impact the full range of student learning, and strategy implementation is appropriate across the continuum of learners, from those already experiencing success to the less successful student. Every student will benefit from developing an awareness for and a sense of control over their own learning. Professional learners automatically and unconsciously use a wide variety of beneficial strategies in an effective manner (Naour and Torello, 1991).
Strategies provide a carefully sequenced plan of student behaviors designed to result in successful task completion and learning (Naour and Torello, 1991). Instruction in learning strategies empowers the learner to become efficient and effective. Effective strategy use involves not only knowledge about the particular strategy, but also when to use the strategy, how to monitor its use, and how to mediate the complex interaction among the three (Pressley and Levin, 1987). When shown how to learn, students quickly accept responsibility and attribute success or failure to choices they make regarding their learning behaviors, not only their self-perception of competence. The learner should be able to internalize strategic mechanisms for coping with the learning environment and when faced with new information or different performance expectations be able to modify and generalize these strategies (Naour and Torello, 1991).
The primary goal of post-secondary service providers is to foster success through increased self-reliance during and beyond the University years. Evidence indicates a strong relationship between student autonomy and continued success in areas of employment (Shaw, et al., 1991). Strategy instruction in a small University environment where students, faculty, and staff work together can aid discovery of individual learning strengths and weaknesses. As confidence within academic areas grows, and students develop the ability to create and apply a variety of strategies to differing situations, autonomy is increased. Students will move out of the structured support environment towards self-direction and greater acceptance of responsibility for managing lifetime learning.
The purpose of the Muskingum University Center for Advancement of Learning is to aid students in making a successful transition to the post-secondary environment. The small University atmosphere is an ideal setting in which a team of professionals can assist students obtain and perfect strategies necessary for successful lifetime learning. Developing metacognitive skills, facilitating external and internal connections, and increasing autonomy and self-determination are valuable components of success in University and can be generalized to life after the University.
Many learning disabled students have experienced prior academic and social failures but have the potential to pursue and successfully complete University-level work. Student success is of primary importance in an academic support program. The necessary ingredients to achieve this success involve a comfortable atmosphere, supportive peer groups, and a support staff who will model, encourage, and direct the student towards increased self-awareness, autonomy, and confidence. A concern of learning-disabled students and parents is the potential for success upon entering the employment world where support may not be readily available. To address this transitional need, PLUS students participating in Maintenance-level services are encouraged to continue to perfect self-direction and self-monitoring strategies during weekly sessions with Program staff. The data collected thus far on Muskingum PLUS students indicate that learning disabled students can and do continue their success after graduation.
Harris, K. & Pressley, M. (1991). The nature of cognitive strategy instruction: Interactive strategy construction. Exceptional Children, 57 , 392-404.
Naour, P. J. and Torello, M. W. (1991). Neuroscience tools for educators. In M. L. Languis, D. J. Martin, P. J. Naour, & J. J. Buffer (Eds.), Cognitive science: Contributions to educational practice , 15-21. Philadelphia: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers.
Pressley, M. & Levin, J. (1987). Elaborative learning strategies for the inefficient learner. In S. J. Ceci (Ed.), Handbook of cognitive, social, and neurophysical aspects of learning disabilities, Volume 2, 175-212. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Shaw, S. F., Brinckerhoff, L. C., Kistler, J. K., and McGuire, J. M. (1991). Preparing students with learning disabilities for post-secondary education: Issues and future needs. Learning Disabilities , 2, 21-26.