Learning Skills for Students: A Learning Strategist Pilot

What is a learning strategist?

Taking notes, planning your assignment and studying for an exam – these skills are probably second nature to you.  For some students, though, these learning skills pose a particular challenge.  A learning strategist, also known as a learning specialist, is a professional who can help students develop these academic and other related executive functioning skills including prioritizing and staying on task.

How do students access a learning strategist?

Learning strategist programs are available in many Canadian colleges and universities with a range of models. Typically, they offer one-on-one consultations between students and the learning strategist to work on set goals and skills.   However, learning strategists may also work with students in group settings and/or with faculty in curriculum design.  Priority is often given to students who are academically at-risk and/or registered with accessibility services.

What’s happening at Langara

With one time funding from the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, the Learning Strategist Pilot Working Group launched a pilot at Langara between Oct 2018 and May 2019.  The goal was to assess the need for a learning strategist program at Langara with a focus on building longer term capacity beyond the pilot.

Over the course of the pilot, the Working Group contracted a consultant team with a learning strategist to conduct an environmental scan and limited one-on-one learning strategist sessions. Conscious efforts was made to recruit students with disabilities and/or from academic at-risk groups.

The top areas needing support as identified by the participants were:

Time management Study and exam taking skills
Procrastination Self care

The most frequently identified goals as set by the participants also reflect these areas of needs. In practice, the learning strategist always focused on individual self-identified goals when working with participants.

Pre-post responses suggest that the students’ confidence, self-efficacy and academic success improved as a direct result of participation.   Here are some sample feedback from participants:

“My grades have gone up since the semester started, and I was able to eliminate the major stressors in my school life”

“Greater ability to judge time needed for assignments. Greater ability to schedule smaller chunks of study time.”

“[The learning strategist] really did help me take a stressful semester and turn it around completely…..I am finishing on a very positive note, with grades I am proud of and feeling reading and prepared going into finals.”

With another one time grant from the Ministry, the Learning Strategist pilot has been renewed from June 2019 to April 2020. In addition to the continuation of one-on-one sessions, this pilot hopes to assess best practices in referrals from the classroom and other support areas.  A recent addition to the pilot is a study to evaluate the role of a learning strategist in the Return to Learning Course to support students on suspension.

For more information, contact Daryl Smith (dsmith@langara.ca) or Joyce Wong (joycewong@langara.ca) Co-chairs of the Learning Strategist Pilot Working Group.

Other members of the Learning Strategist Pilot Working Group include: Teresa Brooks (International Education), Kaveh Farrokh (Counselling), Suzanne Munson (Accessibility Services), Reba Noel (Student Engagement), and Rick Ouellet (Indigenous Services and Education).

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