Printer Friendly

Effects of strategy training on metamemory among learning disabled students.

Effects of Strategy Training on Metamemory Among Learning Disabled Students

Brown (1975) divided metacognition into two components: knowledge about cognition, and regulation of cognition. Metacognitive processes are thought to be critical determinants of success across a variety of tasks and activities. Thus, as Reeve and Brown (1985) noted, understanding children's development of the ability to self-monitor, to plan, and to self-regulate has become a major research goal. The purpose of the investigation described here was to determine the effects of strategy training and differing strategy-use conditions on the development of a specific metacognitive skill among learning disabled (LD) children.

One of the most basic of metacognitive skills in terms of knowledge about cognition is the ability to know that one has a problem (Slife, Weiss, & Bell 1985). The ability of LD students to recognize whether they have a problem has been assessed by having them predict how well they will do on a particular task. Not suprisingly, LD students appear less capable of predicting their own performance than same-age, normally achieving peers (Loper, 1984; Slife et al., 1985). A related skill, the ability to predict recall readiness and performance, has been established as an important metacognitive or, more specifically, metamemory skill (Flavell & Wellman, 1977). Difficulty in predicting recall readiness can cause problems in regulating study time effectively and can hinder learning efficiency and performance (Brown, Campione, & Murphy, 1977; Loper, 1984). In order for learners to competently predict readiness for and performance on an achievement test, they must comprehend what the test will require, determine their current mastery of the required skills and knowledge, compare their current state with the required state, and evaluate the results of this comparison (Haynes, Kapinus, Malouf, & MacArthur, 1985). Research has indicated that younger, less sophisticated learners and children with learning problems are typically less able to assess or predict their readiness to retrieve and tend to overestimate their memory ability (Brown et al., 1977; Flavell & Wellman, 1977).

Little attention has been directed toward how differing learning experiences may facilitate metamemory. Slife et al. (1985) suggested that cognitive and metacognitive skills might require separate, explicit teaching strategies. However, other researchers have noted that metacognitive skills can be at least partially developed by experience with and usage of cognitive strategies (Brown & Barclay, 1976; Brown et al., 1977; Flavell & Wellman, 1977; Loper, 1984; Pressley & Levin, 1986). Flavell and Wellman (1977) noted that, "a person who intelligently uses a particular memory strategy ought to have some metamemory knowledge of that strategy" (p. 27, italics added). Although a growing body of research indicates that strategy instruction results in improved academic performance by LD students and other inefficient learners, (Hallahan, Lloyd, Kauffman, & Loper, 1983; Harris, 1986a, 1986b; Harris & Graham, 1985; Harris, Wong, & Keogh, 1985; Pressley & Levin, 1986; Wong, 1985), researchers have typically not looked to see if concurrent improvement in metacognition also occurs.

Memory and metamemory skills are critical in spelling, because spelling taks require both immediate recall and retention. Deliberate memorization of a basic spelling vocabulary is integral to most spelling programs (Graham, 1982, 1983). While spelling strategy instruction has received little attention, Graham and Freeman (1985) conducted one study that examined the recall performance of 40 fourth-grade LD students in response to strategy training and variations in study conditions. Following individual training in the use of a five-step study strategy, students studied 15 spelling words for 30 minutes under one of the following three conditions: (a) directed-study, in which the instructor verbally directed the studenths use of the study procedure; (b) teacher-monitored, in which students were instructed to use the study procedure independently but were monitored and received assistance from the instructor as necessary; and (c) student-controlled, in which students were told to use the study procedure to independently direct their behavior. In addition, students assigned to a free study group first played a spelling game with the instructor and then studied words in any manner they chose. Two days later, subjects participated in the same study and test procedures, using a new list of 15 words. Results indicated that while students taught the five-step study strategy recalled the correct spelling of more words than those who devised their own study method, the spelling performance of students who received strategy training was not differentially affected by variations in study conditions and students' spelling performance did not improve from session one to session two.

The purpose of the present study was to conduct analyses to examine further the results of the strategy training and differing strategy-use conditions in the Graham and Freeman (1985) study. In addition to the procedures just described, Graham and Freeman asked each subject to predict how many words he or she would recall correctly just before each of the two dictated spelling tests. No direct metamemory training occurred; neither training on prediction strategies nor feedback on prediction accuracy was provided. Thus this data, not previously analyzed, will be used to provide answers to several important questions. First, do students in the strategy training conditions evidence greater metamemory skill than those in the control (free study) condition? Second, given strategy training, does one or more of the study conditions facilitate metamemory to a greater extent thatn the other(s)? Third, does metamemory improve over time and experience with predicting? And, finally, does metamemory account for a significant increment in the explained portion of variability in spelling performance after accounting for that portion of variability due to both general spelling achievement level and study condition?

It was hypothesized that the strategy training conditions would result in greater metamemory skill than would the free study condition and that experience with predicting would result in greater prediction accuracy. Differences might also exist between the strategy training groups due to study conditions. Since students in the directed-study condition did not use the strategy independently, their metamemory performance may be poorer than that of the students in the other two groups (student-controlled and teacher-monitored) where independent strategy use was encouraged. In addition, students in the teacher-monitored condition may exhibit better metamemory performance than students in the other two groups. Researchers have argued that strategy training followed by combined teacher and student control is important in developing cognitive and metacognitive skills (Hallahan et al., 1983; Harris, 1982; Meichenbaum & Asarnow, 1979). Finally, if metamemory adds significantly to the explained variability in spelling performance, this will provide further evidence of the importance of metacognition in academic performance.



The subjects were 40 fourth-grade students enrolled in local school districts in northern and central Indiana. They were selected on the basis of the following criteria: (a) indentification as LD by their local school system, (b) and IQ score between 84 and 116 on either the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test or the Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised, (c) a score of seven or less on a pretest of the 30 words targeted for instruction during the experimental conditions, and (d) confirmation of LD diagnosis using a rating scale (cf. Graham & Freeman, 1985).

Of the 40 subjects, 32 were male and 8 were female. The subjects' mean chronological age was 10-8 while their mean IQ was 97. Their average score on the 30-word pretests was 2.7 and their mean grade equivalent on the Test of Written Spelling (Larsen & Hammill, 1976) was 2.53.


Dictated-Word Test. Two dictated-word tests, A and B, were developed. Each word was selected according to two criteria: The word was meaningful to at least 75% or more of fourth-grade students (Dale & O'Rourke, 1976) and was infrequently encountered in fourth-grade students' reading or writing activities (less than 50 times per million written words, Thorndike & Lorge, 1963). The 30 test items selected according to these criteria were randomly assigned to test A and B and the position of each item on the test was randomized.

Test of Written Spelling (TWS). The TWS is a dictated-word test that measures a pupil's ability to spell phonetic and nonphonetic words (Larsen & Hammill, 1976). The developers of the test have reported reliability coefficients of .80 or greater for grades two through seven and validity coefficients ranging from .63 to .92 between the TWS and four other spelling tests.


The 40 LD students were first administered the TWS and then randomly assigned to one of four study conditions: directed-study, student-controlled, teacher-monitored, and free-study. Subjects were then randomly assigned to an instructor.

Training. Each subject participated in a 20-minute training session. Subjects assigned to the directed-study, student-controlled, or teacher-monitored groups, practiced using a five-step word-study strategy. The word-study strategy, based on recommendations made by Graham (1983), required students to (a) say the word, (b) write and say the word, (c) check the word, (d) trace and say the word, and (e) write the word from memory and check.

Training subjects in the word-study strategy involved modeling, practice and assistance, and demonstration of proficiency. The subject first watched the instructor model the procedure and then practiced using the procedure under the instuctor's direction. Instruction was terminated once the subject was able to successfully apply the word-study strategy without assistance on two consecutive words.

To control for attention effects, subjects in the free-study group received training on the spelling game, Individual Challenge (cf. Graham, Freeman, & Miller, 1981).

Study Sessions. Following the training session, each subject was given a written list of the appropriate 15 words. To control for possible order effects, half of the subjects in each study condition were randomly assigned the items in form A; the other half received the items in form B. The instructor pronounced each of the assigned words and told subjects they had 30 minutes to study for a spelling test. Instructors indicated that they would pronounce, on request, any of the study words. Two days later, each subject participated in a second study session that was identical to the first session except that subjects who studied words from term A in the first session studied items from term B in the second session, and vice versa.

The appropriate dictated-word test was administered at the end of each study session. The instructor prounounced each item, used it in a sentence, and pronounced it again. Prior to administration of the dictated-word test, each subject predicted the number of words that he or she would spell correctly. Feedback was not given on the accuracy of subjects' predictions.

Study Conditions. The instructor verbally guided the study behavior of subjects in the directed-study condition. For each word, the instructor verbalized each step of the study strategy. If a step was performed correctly, the instructor proceeded to the next step. If a step was performed incorrectly, the instructor demonstrated the correct response and the subject repeated the step. If the 15 words were completed before the study period expired, words selected by the subject were restudied.

Subjects assigned to the teacher-monitored group were asked to independently use the word-study strategy and told that assistance would be provided when necessary. The instructor monitored the student's performance and provided assistance when appropriate, including (a) prompting the subject to use the study strategy or a particular step, (b) providing corrective feedback if a step was performed incorrectly, (c) answering questions about the spelling task, and (d) prompting the student to stay on-task. If the 15 words were completed before the study period elapsed, self-selected words were restudied.

Subjects in the student-controlled group were instructed to use the word-study strategy independently; subjects in the free-study group were simply told to study the list of words. The only assistance provided to subjects in these groups was to pronounce, upon request, any of the study words.


For each study session, a score was calculated indicating accuracy of the subject's prediction of how many words would be spelled correctly on the dictated-word test. The prediction accuracy score was derived by subtracting the number of words spelled correctly from the number of words the subject predicted would be spelled correctly. To avoid any negative scores, the resulting product was added to 15 (i.e., the number of words on the dictated word test). Thus, a prediction accuracy score of 15 represented perfect accuracy; a score less than 15 an underestimate; and a score greater than 15 an overestimate. The majority of the LD students, irrespective of the assigned study condition, overestimated their performance on the dictated word tests (see Table 1).

To determine if there were any significant differences among the four study groups on subject-selection variables, separate univariate analyses of variance were performed. No significant differences between the groups were found on chronological age, IQ, pretest, or TWS scores. Only TWS scores were significantly correlated to prediction accuracy scores, r = -.36, p [is less than] .05.

Analysis of Covariance

A 4 (study conditions) X 2 (sessions) analysis of covariance with repeated measures was used to examine the effects of strategy training and study conditions on metamemory (prediction accuracy) and to determine if subjects' prediction accuracy improved over time. TWS scores were used as a covariate since TWS and prediction accuracy scores were significantly correlated.

Analysis of covariance necessitates homogeneity of slopes across the experimental groups. Tests of slope differences for the prediction accuracy scores for both study sessions were nonsignificant, satisfying the requirement of homogeneous slopes.

A summary of the analysis of covariance with repeated measures is presented in Table 2; obtained and adjusted means are listed in Table 3. The F ratio for the covariate (TWS scores), study sessions, and study conditions were significant. The interaction was not statistically significant. Thus, prediction accuracy improved across all subjects from session one to session two, and the type of study condition to which LD subjects were assigned differentially affected their prediction accuracy. Multiple comparisons were made among the adjusted means for the study condition groups using the Newman-Keuls Test. Main effect adjusted means for the four study condition groups were: teacher-monitored, 15.86; student-controlled, 17.31; directed study, 18.77; and free study, 20.26. At the .05 level, predictions accuracy of the teacher-monitored group was significantly better than the prediction accuracy of the free study group. No other significant differences were noted.

Regression Analysis

A regression analysis was conducted to determine the portion of variation in performance on the dictated-word test that was accounted for by spelling achievement, study group assignment, and metamemory skill (prediction accuracy). Of particular interest was whether the inclusion of prediction accuracy would lead to a significant increase in the coefficient of multiple correlation once the variability due to spelling achievement and study condition was accounted for. The criterion variable was dictated-word test scores for the second study session. Predictor variables were entered in the following order: TWS scores, study group assignment, and prediction accuracy scores for the second study session. As shown in Table 4, the three predictor variables accounted for 73% of the variation in performance on the dictated-word test. Following the inclusion of spelling achievement and study group assignment in the regression formula, the addition of prediction accuracy resulted in a statistically significant increase in the multiple correlation coefficient.


It was hypothesized that the three strategy-training conditions would result in greater prediction accuracy than would the free-study condition and that among the strategy-training conditions, prediction accuracy would be best in the teacher-monitored condition and poorest in the directed-study condition. There was, however, only one significant difference among the four conditions. Subjects in the teacher-monitored group were more accurate in their predictions than were subjects in the free study group. The adjusted mean scores of the four groups fell in the hypothesized direction: The teacher-monitored group exhibited the greatest prediction accuracy, followed by the student-controlled group, then the directed study condition, and finally the free study group. No other significant differences were found.

Graham and Freeman (1985) reported that the three strategy-training groups obtained significantly higher spelling scores than did the free-study group, but that the spelling performance of the three strategy-training groups did not differ significantly. They concluded that once strategy training has been provided, student-controlled usage of the strategy can be as effective as teacher-monitored or teacher-controlled strategy usage in terms of recall performance. However, results of the present analyses revealed that only subjects in the teacher-monitored condition exhibited significantly greater metamemory skill than those in the free study condition. The teacher-monitored condition involved a combination of teacher and student control of initial strategy usage after training. Several researchers have argued that teacher-directed strategy training should be followed by interactive, combined strategy control and fading of teacher direction (Hallahan et al., 1983; Harris, 1982; Meichenbaum & Asarnow, 1979). The present study provides partial support for this argument and the effects of such procedures on the development of metacognitive skills warrant further investigation.

The next question addressed was whether metamemory would improve over time and experience with predicting; results supported the hypothesis that prediction accuracy would improve across the two sessions. It is important to note that students did not receive either explicit metamemory training or feedback concerning their prediction accuracy. Similar metamemory results following strategy training on laboratory memory tasks among older educable mentally retarded children have been reported by Brown and her colleagues (Brown & Barclay, 1976; Brown et al., 1977). As Brown et al. (1977) noted, strategy training combined with the opportunity to predict performance provides indirect metamemory training and, although explicit feedback is not provided, implicit feedback exists to the extent that students can estimate how well they performed. Nonetheless, even at session two the majority of students in this study continued, generally, to overestimate performance, except students in the teacher-monitored condition. Further research is needed to compare the combined and separate effects of strategy and explicit metacognitive training on both performance and metacognition across different academic tasks and differing age groups.

The final research question addressed whether metamemory accounted for a significant increment in the explained portion of variability in spelling performance after that portion of variability due to general spelling achievement level and study condition was accounted for. Results of the regression analysis indicated that prediction accuracy contributed significantly to the explained variability in spelling performance. This result provides further support for the contention that metacognitive skills are important determinants of performance.

The results of the present investigation are important for several reasons. The majority of memory and metamemory research studies with LD students have focused on laboratory tasks (Pressley & Levin, 1986). The present investigation used a more educationally meaningful and ecologically valid task--spelling recall performance. Further, researchers who have conducted strategy training interventions with academic tasks typically have failed to investigate metacognitive outcome variables. Results of the study presented in this article suggest that strategy training without explicit metacognitive skill training can produce important metacognitive improvement and that metacognitive skills are an important component of performance.


Brown, A. L. (1975). The development of memory: Knowing, knowing about knowing, and knowing how to know. In H. W. Reese (Ed.), Advances in child development and behavior (Vol. 10, pp. 103-152). New York: Academic Press.

Brown, A. L., & Barclay, C. R. (1976). The effects of training specific mnemonics on the metamnemonic efficiency of retarded children. Child Development, 47, 71-80.

Brown, A. L., Campione, J. C., & Murphy, M. D. (1977). Maintenance and generalization of trained metamnemonic awareness by educable retarded children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 24, 191-211.

Dale, E., & O'Rourke, J. (1976). The living word vocabulary. Elgin, IL: Field Enterprise Educ Corp.

Flavell, J. H. & Wellman, H. M. (1977). Metamemory. In R. V. Kail & J. W. Hagin (Eds.), Perspectives on the development of memory and cognition (pp. 3-33). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Graham, S. (1982). Composition research and practice: A unified approach. Focus on Exceptional Children, 14, 1-16.

Graham, S. (1983). Effective spelling instruction. Elementary School Journal, 83, 560-568.

Graham, S., & Freeman, S. (1985). Strategy training and teacher vs. student-controlled study conditions: Effects on LD students' spelling performance. Learning Disability Quarterly, 8, 267-274.

Graham, S., Freeman, S., & Miller, L. (1981). Spelling games and activities. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 208 425).

Hallahan, D. P., Lloyd, J. W., Kauffman, J. M., & Loper, A. B. (1983). Academic problems. In R. J. Morris & T. R. Kratochwill (Eds.), Practice of child therapy: A textbook of methods (pp. 113-141). New York: Pergamon Press.

Harris, K. R. (1982). Cognitive-behavior modification: Application with exceptional students. Focus on Exceptional Children, 15, 1-16.

Harris, K. R. (1985). Conceptual, methodological, and clinical issues in cognitive-behavioral assessment. Jrnl of Abnormal Child Psych, 13, 373-390.

Harris, K. R. (1986a). The effects of cognitive-behavior modification on private speech and task performance during problem solving among learning disabled and normally achieving children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 19, 63-67.

Harris, K. R. (1986b). Self-monitoring of attentional behavior versus self-monitoring of productivity: Effects on on-task behavior and academic response rate among learning disabled children. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 19, 417-423.

Harris, K. R., & Graham, S. (1985). Improving learning disabled students' composition skills: Self-control strategy training. LD Quarterly, 8, 27-36.

Harris, K. R, Wong, B. Y. L., & Keogh, B. K. (Eds.), (1985). Cognitive-behavior modification with children: A critical review of the state-of-the-art (special issue). Jrnl of Abnormal Child Psych, 13, (3).

Haynes, J. A., Kapinus, B. A., Malouf, D., & MacArthur, C. A. (1985). Effects of computer-assisted instruction of disabled readers' metacognition and learning of new words. In J. Niles (Ed.), Issues in literacy: A research perspective (pp. 205-212). Rochester, NY: The National Reading Conference, 34th Yearbook.

Larsen, S., & Hammill, D. (1976). Test of Written Spelling. San Rafael, CA: Academic Therapy Pub.

Loper, A. B. (1984). Accuracy of learning disabled students' self-predictions of decoding. Learning Disability Quarterly, 7, 172-178.

Meichenbaum, D., & Asarnow, G. (1979). Cognitive-behavioral modification and metacognitive development: Implications for the classroom. In P. C. Kendall & S. D. Hollon (Eds.), Cognitive behavioral interventions: Theory, research, and procedures (pp. 11-35). New York: Academic Press.

Pressley, M., & Levin, J. R. (1986). Elaborative learning strategies for the inefficient learner. In S. J. Ceci (Ed.), Handbook of cognitive, social and neuropsychological aspects of learning disabilities. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Reeve, R. A., & Brown, A. L. (1985). Metacognition reconsidered: Implications for intervention research. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 13, 343-356.

Slife, B. D., Weiss, J., & Bell, T. (1985). Separability of metacognition and cognition: Problem solving in learning disabled and regular students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 77, 437-445.

Thorndike, E., & Lorge, I. (1963). The teacher's word book of 30,000 words. New York: Bureau of Publications.

Wong, B. Y. L. (1985). Issues in cognitive-behavioral interventions in academic skill areas. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 13, 425-442.

KAREN R. HARRIS is Assistant Professor, and STEVE GRAHAM is Associate Professor, Department of Special Education, University of Maryland, College Park. SALLY FREEMAN is Assistant Professor, Department of Special Education, University of Montana, Missoula.
COPYRIGHT 1988 Council for Exceptional Children
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:recognition, recall skills
Author:Harris, Karen; Graham, STeve; Freeman, Sally
Publication:Exceptional Children
Date:Jan 1, 1988
Previous Article:Putting the individual into aptitude-treatment interaction.
Next Article:Integrated classroom versus resource model: academic viability and effectiveness.

Related Articles
Memory boost from spaced-out learning.
Instructional recommendations for teaching writing to exceptional children.
Constructing well-formed prose: process, structure, and metacognitive knowledge.
Classroom applications of mnemonic instruction: acquisition, maintenance, and generalization.
Reading comprehension instruction: summarization and self-monitoring training for students with learning disabilities.
The effects of summarization instructions on text comprehension of students with learning disabilities.
Intervention Research for Students with Learning Disabilities.
The impact of metamemory on reading performance. (Language Teaching & Learning).
Perceived versus Actual Delayed Judgments of Learning for Fan Concepts: A Test of Metamemory Models. (Psychology).
Effective instructional strategies.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters