Strategies to Reinforce Fundamental Attributes of Learning

Todd Zakrajsek

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Throughout a teaching career, and perhaps even within a given semester, faculty make many decisions about which teaching strategies to use. Choices include very structured approaches, such as team-based learning, service-learning, or problem-based learning. Teaching strategies which require moderate structure include options such as a flipped classroom, jigsaw, or hybrid course design. Examples of more impromptu approaches, with easy implementation for those who teach more on the fly, include the likes of think-pair-share, muddiest point, or buzz groups. Of course, along with any engaged learning strategies, there is always room for a well-designed dynamic lecture (Harrington & Zakrajsek, 2017). It is important to note that a teaching strategy in and of itself is neither effective nor ineffective. Effectiveness is more a function of whether or not the fundamentals necessary for learning are present. A few of the most pervasive components necessary for learning are attention, understanding, value, repetition, and elaboration. Anticipating and promoting these attributes will help create dynamic lesson plans that result in better student learning outcomes across the course.


Are your students paying attention? Think strategically about ways to gain and then maintain attention. Start class with a story, newspaper article, YouTube clip, or research finding that has a direct impact on your community. Once you have their attention, you must work to maintain it.

The issue at hand is not to turn your course into a show or feel like you have to perform, but rather make a concerted effort to create a learning environment where students are interested in that which you are teaching.