Identifying learning objectives and pursuing them proactively,Knowledge of the basic principles of learning processesLearning to learnUnderstands how learning can be organised in an effective and meaningful way

Personal Learning Strategies

Presented is a model by Hattie and Donoghue (2016) which suggests that various learning strategies are powerful at different stages of the learning cycle. In this article you are invited to analyze your own learning strategies and reflect on the improvements.

Why did I choose this tool?

By describing when and how to use relevant learning strategies in the learning process, this tool helps us develop the competence to acknowledge and deal with unexpected learning moments and outcomes.

How does this apply to a trainer?

Knowing how to transfer their own personal learning strategies which proved useful is a priceless skill for a trainer working with any kind of a learner.


In their study, Hattie and Donoghue identified more than 400 learning strategies, i.e. processes which learners use to improve the quality of their own learning. Such strategies help the learner to structure his or her thinking, so as to plan, set goals and monitor progress, make adjustments, and evaluate the process of learning and outcomes.

Learning strategies can most effectively boost performance when they are matched to the requirements of the task in hand. The collected strategies are classified into the following categories: (1) cognitive strategies such as elaboration, i.e. deepening the understanding of the material learned; (2) metacognitive strategies such as planning; and (3) motivational strategies such as self-efficacy and (4) management strategies such as finding, navigating, and evaluating resources.

Another model of learning strategies was presented by Biggs (1993). He relates the motivation of the learner (why am I learning this?) with the choice of the learning strategy. He makes a distinction between three common approaches to learning: deep, surface and achieving. When students are using a deep strategy, they aim to develop understanding, create meaning and make their own ideas. They relate ideas together and make connections with previous experiences, they test their understanding by asking themselves questions about what they are learning, they compare different perspectives etc. When students are taking a surface strategy, they intend to reproduce information and learn facts and ideas with little intention to see the bigger picture or connections between ideas. When students are using an achieving strategy, they use a ‘minimax’ notion—minimum amount of effort for maximum return. This strategy is normally used for passing tests.


1) Go over the following list of strategies and reflect on your understanding.

2) Next, please reflect on one learning process from your life, such as learning to drive a car, to surf, or to learn a new language. Look at the list of learning strategies and try to identify which ones you used in the learning experience you chose.

Learning strategies in particular spheres:

Acquiring surface learning:

Strategy to integrate prior knowledge, Outlining and transforming, Mnemonics, Working memory training, Summarization, Organizing, Record keeping, Underlining and highlighting, Note taking, Imagery

Consolidating surface learning:

Deliberate practice, Effort, Rehearsal and memorization, Giving/receiving feedback, Spaced versus mass practice, Help seeking, Time on task, Reviewing records, Practice testing, Teaching test taking and coaching, Interleaved practice

Acquiring deep learning:

Elaboration and organization, Strategy monitoring, Meta-cognitive strategies, Self-regulation, Elaborative interrogation

Consolidating deep learning:

Seeking help from peers, Classroom discussion, Evaluation and reflection, Self-consequences, Problem-solving teaching, Self-verbalization and self-questioning, Peer tutoring, Self-explanation, Self-monitoring, Self-verbalizing the steps in a problem, Collaborative/cooperative learning, Critical thinking techniques


Similarities and differences, Seeing patterns to new situations


Prior achievement, Good use of working memory


Self-efficiency, Task value, Reducing anxiety, Self-concept, Attitude to content, Mindfulness, Incremental versus entity thinking


Deep motivation, Achieving approach, Deep approach Goals (Mastery, performance, social), Mastery goals (general), Achieving motivation, Surface/performance motivation

Management of the environment:

Environmental structuring, Time management, Social support, Time of day to study, Student control over learning, Background music, Sleep

Strategies related to knowing success:

Planning and prediction, Goal intentions, Concept mapping, Setting standards for self-judgment

Goal difficulty:

Advanced organizers, Goal commitment, Worked examples

(adapted from Hattie and Donoghue, 2016)

Reflection questions:

-Create a list of your own personal learning strategies which you discovered. Describe the demands or the problem of the specific learning situation and the strategy you used to solve it. You may also add the strategy that you would like to develop in the future.

Learning situation Corresponding strategy I use Improved strategy

For example:

Learning situation: I have too many questions and doubts. – Corresponding strategy: Try to reply to your own questions. Improved strategy – structuring the questions and doubts in categories, simplifying them.

Learning situation: getting too bogged down in details. – Corresponding strategy: time to take a step back and go back to the main idea you started with; try to keep it simple. Improved strategylearning with clear, visually represented and always visible vision.

Learning situation: feeling stupid. – Corresponding strategy: this feeling is inevitable when learning something new, just continue learning so you get through it as soon as possible. Improved strategy: to understand the source of this feeling and reformulate it in a new context.

Learning situation: I lack consistency. Corresponding strategy: the 20-day rule – practice every day for 20 days, 45 mins each. Improved strategy advanced organization, using online management tools for structuring learning.

Author of the article: Tatjana Glogovac

Tatjana Glogovac is a strong believer in the power of humanistic education and approaching every person she works with as a special and unique human being. She has a BA and MA in English Language and Literature Teaching and another MA in Humanistic Sciences in Philology (Erasmus Mundus scholarship), where she wrote her thesis about cognitive biases in education. She has international experience as a personal development writer, yoga and meditation teacher, and a youth circus teacher. Tatjana has been active in the fields of digital learning and developing emotional intelligence in youth. The last project she worked on was Erasmus+ strategic partnership project “The Colors of Feelings and Needs”, the aim of which is to support youth in acquiring and developing the ability to identify, express, interpret and reflect upon their own feelings and needs. Tatjana is passionate about bringing mindfulness, embodiment and dance practices into formal and non-formal education.

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Editor: Dagna Gmitrowicz

Dagna Gmitrowicz – a senior trainer in the field of nonformal education, conducting international/national training and facilitating conferences since 2001. Creator of innovative educational tools and curriculum – Academy of Nonformal Education (PAJP), TOSCA training cycle, learning cycle in BECC Bridge to Cultural Centres, Colours and Needs cards, and many more. Member of several international trainers’ pools (It’s up to Me, TOSCA, European Solidarity Corp Polish NA pool and other). The member of the International Society for Self-Directed Learning after giving a lecture during SSDL Symposium 2020 in USA/Florida. Dagna Gmitrowicz is also a professional painter, and performer actively participating in a cultural scene in Germany and Poland, actively supporting cultural events and projects.
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Biggs, John. (1993). What Do Inventories of Students' Learning Processes Really Measure? A Theoretical Review and Clarification. The British journal of educational psychology. 63 ( Pt 1). 3-19. 10.1111/j.2044-8279.1993.tb01038.x. Hattie, J., Donoghue, G. (2016). Learning Strategies: a Synthesis and Conceptual Model. npj Science Learn 1, 16013.

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