Article Index

Learning strategies

At the intersection of psychology and pedagogy

By Dominique Eberlin (Coaching d'Etude)

dom photo prov 1

The study of learning strategies involves numerous areas of research and approaches, all of which are interested in improving formal learning from kindergarten to university.

On the one hand, this involves learning techniques that are common to all: conscious acts of memorization, which are of pedagogical concern. On the other, this involves cognitive processes which are individual to each person: spontaneous and unconscious acts with which information is treated and which are more properly psychological.

References: Mental management and neuro-linguistic programming

This kind of approach involves modeling based on successes. Starting with the question “What do you do to succeed?” which can be asked of students who succeed at their exams as well as of therapists who lead their patients towards healing, research has allowed us to come up with some models. These are both “structures” which clarify how the successes came about and “examples” which allow us to copy them.

fleur strategies

In pedagogy, the work of Antoine de la Garanderie led to the idea of mental management, which is constructed around the following themes:

-learning profiles: a typology of cognitive processes based on the various components of perception (global, linear, aural, visual) or on preferences of evocation (reproduce, represent, conceptualize, interpret)
-mental management: attention, understanding, imagination, memorization and reflexion
-a pedagogical dialogue: a quiz which helps students to become aware of their learning styles
- the management of learning: activities consciously chosen to help in acquiring knowledge and developing skills
-the learning project: personal motivation which influences memorization.

In cognitive psychology, research coming from the Palo Alto school, based on the work of Gregory Bateson, has concerned itself with communication theory, methods of innovation and practices of remediation. Furthering this work, Richard Bandler and John Grinder developed their ideas of neuro-linguistic programming. This approach, functioning both as theory and practice, depends on the observation of the parameters of communication to show certain reproducible models of communication. Below are several of its postulates and tools:

-It is impossible not to communicate: all of our actions, including our silence, carries information.

-Everyone does their best depending on their knowledge, their skills and their beliefs, every one of us chooses what is for them the most efficient action.

-There are no failures, only feedback: communication is a retroactive circle. If answers don't correspond to the what is expected, the person who is communicating the message changes it.

-The objective: Every one of us has the choice to lead her/his life in a way that suits them.

-Reorienting: Each one of us can look at situations from different viewpoints.

-Map of the world: Our view of the world is influenced by our personal filters (visual, auditory or kin-esthetic preferences, beliefs, linguistic distortions).


All learning is the result of an interaction between two people, either through time via a written communication, or through space via an oral communication. Language allows us to organize our thoughts and to share our ideas.
Applied linguistics proposes models which allow us to understand and master our communication skills. This encourages teachers to create relationships which respect differences with others and for students to increase self-knowledge.

Transmitter, message, recipient, context, code, coding, decoding, feedback, noise, world view, beliefs, reference, signifier and signified, transformational grammar, surface structure and deep structure, intent, verbal and non-verbal, Jacobson's diagram, the Pygmalion effect, cybernetic


The stages of learning

Current usage combines, under the generic term of “learning”, several stages in a complex undertaking. It is useful here to distinguish several of these stages, to define what is specific to each in order to distinguish in retrospect what comes from work techniques and what from cognitive processes.

 illustration strategies dapprentisssage

To learn.... to reproduce

1. TO TEACH: to bring information
ingredients: subject matter skills, lesson planning, academic programs, pedagogical relationships and distances (oral or written)

2. TO LEARN: to take in information
ingredients: individual curiosities, perceptual enlargements and preferences (visual, auditive and kin-esthetic), concentration and attention, motivation, learning project

3. TO KNOW: to call up information, make sense
ingredients: preferences for calling up information (visual, auditive or kin-esthetic), understanding, imagination, memorization and reflexion, building a mental image)

4. TO REPRODUCE: to apply knowledge
ingredients: creativity, conformity, adaptation and calibration to the differing contexts being reproduced.

The typology of learning styles

combinatoire des profils 1Based on empirical evidence of individual preferences in learning style, this typology sets out in tree structure the parameters of each of the stages. The combinations of these different parameters define the different mental models for learning.

Brought out through observation of how academic subject matter is acquired, these models are, in reality, being worked on constantly in our everyday lives. The brain considers every moment, every happening as something new and approaches everything from the same angle. No matter what environment a person is in, no matter their age or their competence, their profile is the same.

Perceptual preferences:

global: to know how it will end before starting a task
linear: to start a task without knowing how it will end
visual: to use visual aides to understand (photos, graphs, sketches, outlines)
auditive: to get oral explanations of what is being presented (course, dialogue)
kin-esthetic: to feel comfortable with and interested in what is being presented

(tranquility, amiability, inherent interest)

The Parameters of Evocation:

1. Reproduction: the brain faithfully takes in reality, it refers it to concrete objects, to known experiences, it looks for the usefulness of the information received. The person wants to know “what use is this”?
2. Representation: the brain notes every detail, refers to working procedures, looks for the rightness and the justice in the information to be processed. The person wants to know “how to act.”
3. conceptualization: The brain extracts the general idea, creates connections, looks for meaning and logic. The person wants to “understand why it should act.”
4. interpretation: The brain interprets reality, transforms it and registers a DIFFERENCE: The person wants to “do it differently.”

Mental models:

visual: the brain creates a memory to look at. It keeps the colors and the shapes, the outlines. The person “sees what it is about.”
auditive: the brain creates a memory to listen to. It keeps the sounds, the intonations of voices, the words and the messages received. The person knows the subject when it “speaks to him.”
kin-esthetic: the brain creates a felt memory. It keeps impressions, feelings. The person “feels that it is about this certain thing.”

Preferences for restitution: 

visual: the person wants to show things. He/she is more at ease with written exams, with giving back information from a distance.
auditive: the person want to be listened to. He/she is more at ease in oral exams, in reporting back with dialogue.
kin-esthetic: the person wants de demonstrate. He/she is more at ease with a personal execution (dance, song, handicraft, an individual expression)

Pedagogical interest

Everyone can learn easily when he/she is motivated by the task at hand, when they have a personal project and when the information is brought to them in their preferred way. Basing teaching on giving priority to meeting individual needs and using a rich choice of learning strategies brings a triple benefit.

Students and teachers who know their learning styles, have accepted them and know how to use them will have the best results in school and the greatest satisfaction with their studies.

The teachers and professors who understand the particularities of the different learning styles can vary their practices, propose working strategies that are personalized and help their students to succeed.

A school which recognizes the diversity of learning styles and is organized to exploit this knowledge can propose a framework for preparing well-integrated citizens.

To explore, watch or listen

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