Wellness Wednesday – Alleviating Stress through Effective Learning Strategies

The Teacher Education Wellness Committee (TEWC), established Fall 2018, seeks to improve wellness for all teacher candidates, faculty and staff.

Come back every Wednesday for more ideas on making wellness central!

Have your say! Submit your ideas online here.

This week’s Expert Contributor:

Dr. Deanna Friesen, Applied Psychology

The Importance of Effective Learning Strategies to Alleviate Stress

Have you ever studied for a test and not achieved the results you would like? Do you see this phenomenon in your students? It can be very discouraging and stressful to devote the time to learning but not experience success. Consider what you can do as both a learner and a teacher to utilize time more effectively and help your students do the same.

From my perspective, there is nothing more important for learning than metacognition. Specifically, you are aware of what you understand and what you still need to learn. Strategies such as cramming and re-reading notes or textbooks are often considered ineffective because content is always available in front of you, and it is not clear what you have actually retained. Such approaches can result in wasted time. Yet, engaging in effective strategies has the potential to improve both academic performance and time management as well as alleviate stress.

Here are a few tips for “Knowing what you Know” and Effective Learning :

  • Self-Generation. It is fine to read over notes or flashcards. However, once you have done so, put them away and try to recreate them on a blank page. Create a mind map that connects concepts and talk through those ideas. Explain the concepts to your colleagues, to your friends and family or even to an empty room. Teaching others is an excellent way to consolidate information, to learn what you have retained and to determine what content needs more time.


  • Spacing & Interleaving. It is certainly important to understand what you know in a single session. However, how do you know you will retain this information over time and have it available later? One effective approach is to use multiple exposures to the same content spaced across time. This enables you to initially review what you remember and reinforce concepts that require greater consolidation using the self-generation technique. Likewise, rather than learning or studying a unit and not revisiting it (Topic A, Topic B, Topic C), interleaving topics (e.g., ABCABC) allows for greater retention by enabling content to be reinforced.


  • Transfer Appropriate Processing. Learners tend to have difficulty taking information they have encoded one way and retrieving it for a different purpose. Consequently, a student may have encoded the information, but not have sufficient understanding of its relevance in a new context. Providing students with alignment between learning and assessment increases their success. However, if the goal is to have students use the skills or knowledge in multiple contexts then students need multiple exemplars in different scenarios as well as explicit opportunities to generalize.

Take a moment to consider both whether your own learning skills could be more effective and what you can do to support the development of your students’ learning skills.

For additional information and support, visit uwo.ca/sdc/learning

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