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The SOAR study system: Theory, research, and implications


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This chapter is divided into three major sections. The first describes how students use ineffective study strategies and explains why those strategies hinder learning. The second introduces a new study method called SOAR and provides theoretical and empirical support for the method. The third section offers SOAR implications for studying and instruction.
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Dharma Jairam,1 Kenneth A. Kiewra2 and Katie Ganson2
1Pennsylvania State University Erie
2University of Nebraska Lincoln
This chapter is divided into three major sections. The first describes how students use
ineffective study strategies and explains why those strategies hinder learning. The second
introduces a new study method called SOAR and provides theoretical and empirical support
for the method. The third section offers SOAR implications for studying and instruction.
Students might be told that studying is important, but they are rarely shown how to do it.
Less than 20% of teachers in elementary, secondary, and higher education report teaching
students about study strategies (James, 2006; Saenz and Barrera, 2007). The result is that
many students have deficiencies in basic learning strategies that hinder achievement.
For instance, 73% percent of college students report an inability to remember information
for a test, and most admit to studying difficulties linked to learning from textbooks, staying
focused while studying, understanding how information is organized, and comparing and
contrasting ideas (Nist and Holschuh, 2000; Rachal, Daigle, and Rachal, 2007).
According to Kiewra (2009), without study strategy instruction, students commonly
employ the following four weak study strategies: a) recording incomplete notes; b) organizing
information in a linear fashion; c) piecemeal learning; and d) failing to regulate learning
(Aharony, 2006; Biggs, 1993; Kiewra, 2002; Gubbels, 1999; Lynch, 2007; Pressley, Yokoi,
Van Meter, Van Etten, and Freebern, 1997). We next examine these four studying problems
in turn.
Dharma Jairam, Kenneth A. Kiewra and Katie Ganson
Incomplete Note Taking
Students are notoriously poor lecture note takers; their notes are often incomplete and
disorganized. On average, students record just 35% of important points in notes (Kiewra,
1985a; 1985b; Titsworth, 2004). Some students also have difficulty differentiating between
important and unimportant information (Anderson and Armbruster, 1982; Nist and Kirby,
1989), whereas other students note the main ideas, but miss the important details (Kiewra, et
al., 1991). Consequently, students are left with incomplete notes to review in preparation for
tests. And, studying incomplete notes is a big problem: the probability of recalling non-noted
information during a test is just 5% (Howe, 1970). Students also exhibit problems when
noting ideas from texts. When recording text notes, students also record just a small
percentage of important ideas (Kiewra et al., 1989). Many students choose to highlight text
ideas instead (Caverly, Orlando, and Mullen, 2000), but problems exist with this strategy too.
Students often go to the other extreme and mindlessly highlight too much information
(Wittrock, 1990). Students falsely assume they are selecting key ideas and actively reading as
they highlight. They falsely equate highlighting with understanding. Highlighting, though, is
associated with poor reading performance, and students who highlight fare no better than
students who just read (Annis and Annis, 1982, Marxen, 1996).
Poor Organization
Sixty-one percent of students report having trouble organizing ideas and having
disorganized notes (Rachal et al., 2007). Most students who do organize information organize
it in lists or outlines (Gubbels, 1999; Robinson and Kiewra, 1995). This linear organization,
however, actually restricts learning, particularly relationship learning (Kiewra, Kauffman,
Robinson, DuBois, and Staley, 1999; Robinson and Kiewra, 1995). For example, refer to
Figure 1. that shows an outline for information on four planets. Outlines are problematic
because they separate related ideas and obscure existing relationships and patterns (Kiewra
and DuBois, Christian, and McShane, 1991). For instance, it is difficult to compare
information about the planets’ diameter because that information appears on four different
lines in the outline. Moreover, to determine if there is a relationship between distance from
the sun and revolution time, the learner must locate and synthesize facts from eight different
places in the outline. Therefore, it is unlikely that students studying this outline will notice
that as distance from the sun increases, revolution time increases.
Piecemeal Learning
Most students ignore potential relationships among presented ideas and instead study
information in a piecemeal fashion, one fact at a time (Gubbels, 1999; Jairam and Kiewra,
2010). Piecemeal learning is akin to trying to figure out the end product of a jigsaw puzzle by
examining each puzzle piece separately. Both puzzle pieces and information require assembly
so that the big picture can emerge. Yet, students learning the planet information in Figure 1.
are likely to study it one piece (or fact) at a time: “Mercury is 36 million miles from the sun.
The SOAR Study System
Venus revolves around the sun in 8 months.” Piecemeal learning is generally associated with
poor performance on tests compared to associative learning (King, 1992).
Redundant Strategies
Most students fail to regulate their learning (Nist and Holschuh, 2000)—to check their
understanding and make sure they know what they are supposed to know. Instead, students
employ an arsenal of redundant strategies (Gubbels, 1999; Jairam and Kiewra, 2010) like
rereading, recopying, and rehearsal to promote learning. In one study where college students
were observed studying, most passively recited noted ideas word for word (Gubbles, 1999).
In another study, nearly 70% of students studied for tests by simply rereading their notes, and
more than half of them did so only minutes before a test (Bausch and Becker, 2001). For
example, students studying the planet information in Figure 1 are likely to rehearse isolated
pieces of information again and again: “Mercury is 36 million miles from the sun. Mercury is
36 million miles from the sun . . .”.Research confirms, however, that redundant study
strategies result in poor test performance (Anderson, 1995; Craik and Watkins, 1973).
Figure 1.Outline for Information on Inner Planets.
Dharma Jairam, Kenneth A. Kiewra and Katie Ganson
Why Students’ Preferred Study Strategies Do Not Work
Students’ weak study strategies are ineffective for two reasons: a) they are surface level
strategies rather than deep processing strategies, and b) they impose extraneous cognitive
load. Surface level strategies, like the name implies, just scratch the surface of meaningful
learning. They involve exposure to material but not the meaningful activities associated with
deeper processing.
For instance, rote rehearsal is a surface strategy aimed at memorizing single facts,
whereas summarization is a deep strategy aimed at meaningfully selecting, organizing, and
associating important facts. Students’ ineffective study strategies are passive and prompt
surface learning.
Both incomplete lecture note taking and excessive text highlighting fail to meaningfully
select important information for further processing. Linear organization, piecemeal learning,
and redundant activities are all associated with rote memorization of isolated facts rather than
meaningfully connecting information.
Research consistently shows better academic performance associated with deep
processing rather than surface processing (Ahorny, 2006; Biggs, 1993; Craik and Lockhart,
1972; Gordon and Debus, 2002; Thomas and Gadbois, 2007).
Cognitive load theory pertains to how efficiently students use their cognitive resources
during instructional tasks (Sweller, 1988; Sweller and Chandler, 1991). Efficiency is
important because working memory, where new information is stored and processed before
being transferred to long-term memory, is limited both in terms of duration and capacity.
Learning is impaired when students employ resource-draining surface strategies that
really do not work anyway (Crooks, White, and Barnard, 2007). Students’ weak surface
strategies (i.e., incomplete notes, constructing lists/outlines, piecemeal learning, and
redundant activities like rote rehearsal) all impose extraneous cognitive load and waste
precious processing space better used for more meaningful activities.
For example, constructing an outline requires a great deal of cognitive processing. But,
the payoff is minimal because the outline fails to help learners draw meaningful associations
among noted ideas (Kiewra, Kuaffman, Robinson, and Staley, 1999; Kiewra et al., 1997;
Robinson and Kiewra, 1995). In summary, students tend to use ineffective study strategies.
Students need a study method that helps them process information meaningfully and
According to Kiewra (2005, 2009), effective learning involves four key processes:
selection, organization, association, and regulation. The first letters of these four terms spell
SOAR, which is an acronym for a modern study strategy method (Kiewra, 2005).
When students effectively select, organize, associate, and regulate, they overcome the
aforementioned learning problems, engage in deep and efficient processing, and SOAR to
success (Jairam and Kiewra, 2009; 2010). The theoretical background of SOAR begins with
the information-processing model of learning shown in Figure 2.
The SOAR Study System
Figure 2. The SOAR System, Memory Components, and Cognitive Processes of Effective Learning.
Table 1. SOAR Components and Cognitive Learning Processes
What Students
do Wrong
Fail to record
complete notes
Rely on lists
and outlines
Rely on
Fail to monitor
their learning
can Help
Select and note all
important ideas
Organize ideas
using graphic
Associate new
ideas with each
other and with
things already
Regulate and
monitor learning
by generating
practice test
According to this view, the memory system is comprised of three distinct compartments
including sensory, working, and long-term memory (Atkinson and Shiffrin, 1968). Stimuli
from the environment are first received by the senses and initially processed in sensory
memory, where they are held for a few seconds.
Through the process of attention, stimuli deemed important are selected and sent to
working memory for further processing. Working memory is the workhorse.
It is responsible for holding information and preparing it for transfer to long-term
memory through the process of encoding. As mentioned previously, however, working
memory is saddled with duration and capacity limitations. These limitations create a
bottleneck that prevents the vast majority of information encountered and even attended to
from ever reaching long-term memory.
Information sent to long-term memory might potentially be stored there for a lifetime.
Still, it must be sent back to working memory through a process called retrieval.
It is from working memory that responses are made. SOAR is closely aligned with the
information-processing model. As seen in Figure 2, the SOAR components link to how
information is ideally processed and moved through the three memory structures.
Selection occurs when attention is focused on just a few of the many stimuli that the
senses encounter. Selected information moves to working memory where information is
organized and associated and encoded into long-term memory.
Dharma Jairam, Kenneth A. Kiewra and Katie Ganson
Later, information is retrieved from long-term memory through regulation. SOAR
strategies aid information processing. Table 1. shows the common study problems students
exhibit and the corresponding SOAR processes that can repair those problems. The following
sub-sections expand upon the Table 1. information and provide both the theoretical rationale
and the empirical support for each SOAR component.
Learning begins with the cognitive process of attention—consciously focusing on
particular stimuli while disregarding the rest (Eggen and Kauchak, 2007; Mayer, 1984;
Sternberg, 1985). Attention serves as a metaphoric gatekeeper as learners select which
information is sent forward for further processing (Santrock, 2007).
In a classroom, teachers help students select important information in various ways such
as when they provide objectives (Anderson and Krathwohl, 2001), advance organizers
(DiCecco and Gleason, 2002; Stull and Mayer, 2007), questions (Erdogan and Campbell,
2008), and cues (Titsworth and Kiewra, 2004).
Students can also aid the selection process by recording notes. Students who record notes
during a lecture are more attentive and achieve nearly twice as much as students who simply
listen and record no notes (Hartley, 1983; Kiewra, 1985).
But, jotting just a few notes is not sufficient. Note taking is positively correlated with
achievement: The more notes students record, the higher is their achievement (Baker and
Lombardi, 1985; Kiewraand Benton, 1988).Unfortunately, students are notoriously
incomplete note-takers that often record just one-third of critical lecture points (Kiewra,
1985a; 1985b; Titsworth, 2004). Thus, the SOAR selection strategy centers on helping
students record complete notes.
To illustrate the difference between incomplete and complete notes, examine Figure 3.
that shows incomplete notes versus complete notes recorded from a lecture about the inner
four planets. As shown in Figure 3, the complete notes include all 32 points, but the
incomplete notes include just 11 facts and are missing about 70% of the important material.
Figure 3. Types of Graphic Organizers.
The SOAR Study System
After information is selected, it needs to be stored in memory. Memory storage is
optimized when information is organized economically and graphically so that associations
among ideas are readily apparent. Learning theorists have posited that information, ideally, is
stored graphically in memory as hierarchical networks, sequential scripts, and cross-
classification (comparative) schemas (Jonassen, Beisner, andYacci, 1993). Research confirms
that learners have better recall for information that is organized in these ways versus
paragraphs or lists (Eggen andKauchak, 2007; Mayer, 1997; Nuthall, 1999). Additional
support for the usefulness of organization comes from studies of expertise. Experts not only
have more knowledge than novices but also have better organized knowledge (Bransford,
Brown, and Cocking, 2000; Simon, 2001). Effective organization helps experts better retain
and quickly retrieve domain knowledge better than novices. The SOAR method aids
organization by using graphic organizers to represent information. Three types of graphic
organizers are advocated: hierarchies, sequences, and matrices (Kiewra, 2005). Figure 3.
displays how these representational methods organize information and reveal relationships.
Hierarchies organize information in a top to bottom manner and reveal hierarchical
relationships. For example, the classification of insect is superordinate to that of moth or
butterfly. Sequences organize information from left to right and reveal order relationships.
For example, the metamorphosis of butterflies, moves sequentially from egg to caterpillar
to pupa to adult. Matrices organize information in columns and rows and reveal comparative
relationships. A matrix, for example, can display the wings and color information for moths
and butterflies. Returning to the planet information, a matrix (Figure 4) displaying the inner
four planets can display the 8 facts about distance from the sun and revolution time in two
adjacent rows making it easy to spot their relationship: As planets move farther from the sun,
their revolution time increases. The matrix, in particular, is well supported and produces
higher achievement than studying the same information presented in linear form (Kiewra et
al., 1991; Kiewra, Dubois, Christian, and McShane, 1991; Robinson and Kiewra, 1995;
Robinson and Schraw, 1994).
Figure 4. Matrix Displaying Four Planets.
Dharma Jairam, Kenneth A. Kiewra and Katie Ganson
SOAR’s association component relates to encoding, the linking of information in long-
term memory. When information is better linked in memory, it is more meaningful
(Sternberg, 1985) and easier to retrieve (Mayer, 1996). Two types of associations aid
encoding: internal and external (Mayer, 1984). Internal associations refer to relationships
among presented ideas. For example, the planet matrix in Figure 4 reveals the following
internal associations: (a) planets closer to the sun have quicker orbit speeds, (b) planets
farther from the sun have a longer revolution time, (c) all inner planets have rocky surfaces.
External associations are those drawn between the new material to be learned and a learner’s
prior knowledge (Mayer, 2008). For example, a student studying the planet material in Figure
4 could relate the new idea that Mercury and Venus are the closest planets to the sun and do
not have any moons with prior knowledge that moons typically appear at night and because
these two planets are so close to the sun, moons are probably not necessary to light up the sky
. The SOAR method aids encoding by helping students build associations. Building
associations begins by first organizing information with graphic organizers such as
hierarchies and matrices that help reveal internal associations. After that, students are
encouraged to study organizers vertically to uncover associations within a column (e.g.,
Mercury is the first planet from the sun and has a quick orbit speed), horizontally to uncover
associations within a row (e.g. all four inner planets have a rocky surface), and globally to
uncover associations across multiple columns and rows (e.g., as distance from the sun
increases, revolution time increases). These associations can be expressed verbally but also
accented pictorially using signals such as bold dividing lines and color shading to highlight
associations found in graphic organizers. For example, Figure 4. contains cells shaded in grey
to accent the relationship between distance from the sun and revolution time. External
associations can be made by relating the new information to prior knowledge (e.g., “I would
have four birthdays each earth year on Mercury”), and using mnemonics (memory tricks)
such as remembering the order of planets by using the first letter of each planet to construct
this memorable sentence: My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos. Research
confirms that students learn more from association strategies than from piecemeal strategies
(King, 1992).
SOAR’s regulation component is based on metacognition awareness, understanding,
and control of one’s cognitive functions (Eggen and Kauchak, 2007). Metacognition is the
higher-order cognitive process that drives the other cognitive processes (Zimmerman, Bonner,
and Kovach, 1996). Effective learners are self-regulatory as they monitor attention,
organization, encoding, and most of all retrieval to gage overall comprehension and ensure
that learning is on track and successful (Bruning, Schraw, Norby, and Ronning, 2004). As per
the SOAR system, students should regulate learning using summarization and question
generation. For example, a student studying the matrix about planets in Figure 4. might
summarize the material this way: a) there are four inner planets and they all have a rocky
surface; b) the farther from the sun they are the slower their orbit speed; ; and, c) distance
The SOAR Study System
from the sun is positively related to revolution time. ,. The student could also create the
following practice test questions:
What is the diameter of Venus?
How many moons does Mars have?
What is the relationship between distance from the sun and revolution time?
The SOAR method also helps students distinguish and generate fact, concept, and skill-
based questions where appropriate. Fact questions test what students know; skill questions
test what students can show; and concept questions test students’ ability to recognize new
examples. To illustrate the differences, consider a student studying information about SOAR.
A fact question might be: “What are the three types of graphic organizers?” A concept
question might be: “A student reading about special needs comments that ‘if 10% of the
population have special needs, then it is likely that two of my classmates have special needs.’
Is this an example of an internal or external association?” And, a skill question might be:
“Here is a passage about spiders and insects, create a matrix, four associations, and four
practice test items.” A recent study (Karpicke and Blunt, 2011) confirmed the benefits of self-
testing. Students learned 50% more text ideas if they studied by answering practice questions
than if they rehearsed text information or generated concept maps (a type of graphic note
taking not advocated by Kiewra(in press)).
Research has confirmed that SOAR study methods are superior to students’ own study
methods for both text (Jairam and Kiewra, 2009)and computer-based learning (Jairam and
Kiewra, 2010). Moreover, SOAR methods are superior to the long-standing SQ3R study
system (Jairam, Kiewra, Rogers, Patterson-Hazley, and Marxhausen, 2012). A review of that
research follows.
SOAR is Superior to Students’ Methods for Text Learning
In the initial investigation of SOAR, Jairam and Kiewra (2009) compared the
performance of students who studied using all SOAR components to those who studied
unaided without SOAR and to those who studied using portions of SOAR. Sixty college
students were assigned randomly to the control group, or to one of four experimental groups
that used one or more of the SOAR components. All groups read a text about wildcats that
contained 78 distinct facts and asked to study in their group-specific ways. The control group
studied the text in their preferred manner. The S group’s materials aided selection, and they
studied a complete set of notes that contained all 78 facts laid out in a linear format. The SO
group’s materials aided selection and organization, and they studied a two-dimensional matrix
that contained all 78 facts. The SOA group’s materials aided selection, organization, and
association, and they studied the matrix and a list of 27 wildcat associations such as,
“Wildcats that live in the jungle are solitary.” The SOAR group’s materials aided selection,
Dharma Jairam, Kenneth A. Kiewra and Katie Ganson
organization, association, and regulation, and they studied the matrix and associations, plus
practice questions with answers.
The primary research questions were(1) Is SOAR more effective than what students
commonly do while studying, and (2) Is using the full SOAR method better than using some
of its parts? Results favored SOAR study methods over preferred study methods and favored
using the full SOAR method over using just parts of SOAR. With regard to SOAR vs.
students’ preferred methods, SOAR studiers outperformed students who used their preferred
methods on both the fact and relationship tests. SOAR studiers recalled 10% more facts and
41% more relationships than students who used their preferred methods. With regard to using
the full SOAR method versus using parts of SOAR, there was a positive relationship between
the number of SOAR components used and achievement, particularly for the relationship test.
SOAR Is Superior to Students’ Own Methods
for Computer-Based Learning
A follow-up study tested SOAR in the context of computer-based learning (Jairam and
Kiewra, 2010). The design was similar to that of the previous study (Jairam and Kiewra,
2009) and explored the same two research questions:(1) Is SOAR more effective than what
students commonly do while studying, and (2) Is using the full SOAR method better than
using some of its parts?
One-hundred and eight college students were assigned randomly to either the control
group or one of four experimental groups (S, SO, SOA, or SOAR). All groups were presented
with a split-screen format with the wildcat text on the left side of the screen and their group-
specific study materials on the right side of the screen.
All groups were informed that they would study the text in preparation for fact and
relationship tests. The control group was presented with a blank text box that they could use
to create study notes (via typing or copy-and-paste) or other study aides of their choosing.
The S group was presented with the text and a blank text box. The S group created their
selected study notes by clicking on facts in the text. When each fact was clicked, the
corresponding fact appeared in the text box on the right side of the screen. The SO group was
presented with the text and a black matrix. When the SO group clicked on each text fact, the
fact was placed in the appropriate matrix cell. The SOA group completed the same matrix as
the SO group, plus they completed an additional section that contained 14 associations. The
SOAR group completed the matrix, the associations, and an interactive regulation section that
contained 30 practice fact questions and 14 practice relationship questions.
Results again favored SOAR study methods over preferred study methods and favored
using the full SOAR method over using just parts of SOAR. First, with respect to SOAR
versus preferred methods, SOAR studiers outperformed preferred method studiers on both the
fact and relationship tests. SOAR studiers recalled 30 % more facts and 63% more
relationships than preferred method studiers. With respect to using the full SOAR method
versus some of its parts, results from both the fact and relationship tests showed a positive
relationship between achievement and number of SOAR parts used. On the relationship test in
particular, SOAR studiers significantly outperformed all other SOAR-parts groups.
The SOAR Study System
SOAR is More Effective than SQ3R
This experiment(Jairam, Kiewra, Rogers, Patterson-Hazley, andMarxhausen, 2012)
compared SOAR and a long-standing study system called SQ3R to determine if one is more
effective than the other .Although both systems had been compared to students’ preferred
methods, how they compared against other study systems was unknown. For seventy years
now, educators have advocated that students use the ever-popular SQ3R study system
(Robinson, 1941). SQ3R is an acronym for the system’s five steps: Survey, Question, Read,
Recite, and Review. Students first survey a text to identify the subject headings. Next, they
create questions based on those headings. Then, students read the text to answer the questions
they created.
Last, students recite and then review their questions and answers (Huber, 2004).
Although SQ3R has endured, its empirical track record is suspect. First, students who use
SQ3R often achieve no higher than students who use their preferred methods (Butler, 1983;
Flippo and Caverly, 2000; Manzo and Manzo, 1995; McCormick and Cooper, 1991;
Scappaticci, 1977). Second, the SQ3R system is difficult for students to learn and apply
(Caverly and Orlando, 1985; Flippo and Caverly, 2000; Spor and Schneider, 1999). In the
experiment (Jairam et al., 2012) college students were trained in the SQ3R or SOAR system
and then asked to study a long text passage. While studying the text, students also studied
expertly designed SQ3R or SOAR materials, respectively.
Following the study period, students were tested in terms of fact, relationship, and
concept knowledge to determine if either method particularly aides one or more of those
learning outcomes. Results confirmed that SOAR is superior to SQ3R. Students in the SOAR
group recognized 14% more facts, 20% more relationships, and 13% more concepts than the
SQ3R group. SOAR’s theoretical advantage over SQ3R is that each SOAR component
engages a cognitive process critical for effective learning. In this study, attention was engaged
by giving SOAR participants notes containing selected ideas.
Focusing on selected information guided attention. Information storage was aided for
SOAR participants who studied information displayed in a matrix organizer. Matrices
organize information in an economical manner (thereby reducing cognitive load) and
highlight relationships (Kauffman and Kiewra, 2010) (thereby prompting deep processing).
Providing SOAR studiers with associations facilitated encoding.
Associative learning makes information more meaningful and retrievable (Mayer, 2008).
Last, regulation via practice testing engaged the metacognition and retrieval process
(Karpicke, Butler, and Roediger, 2009).
In contrast, SQ3R is comprised of strategies like review and recite that do not effectively
engage cognitive processes. Some argue the opposite—that SQ3R engages shallow and
redundant learning processes associated with rote memorizing (Cook and Mayer, 1983).
Others have argued that SQ3R rests on faulty assumptions, namely that: 1) text headings
capture important information; 2) created questions test information captured by text
headings; and 3) created questions test main ideas (Anderson andArmbruster, 1982).
Dharma Jairam, Kenneth A. Kiewra and Katie Ganson
SOAR has gone through a series of investigations that have tested its effectiveness in
multiple contexts. Results have established that SOAR is a) superior to students’ preferred
study methods, b) best used fully rather than partially,c) applicable to text-basedand
computer-based learning, and d) superior to the SQ3R study system. The work on SOAR is
not yet complete. Some unanswered questions remain that might guide future research. First,
can students learn to develop their own SOAR materials? Jairam and Kiewra (2009) provided
SOAR materials or helped students create them (JairamandKiewra, 2010). Future research
should focus on whether SOAR training can help students create effective SOAR study
materials. Second, SOAR has bested the SQ3R system. Future research should test SOAR
against other study methods. Last, previous SOAR experiments assessed learning
immediately following the study period. Future research should assess learning after a delay
to assess SOAR’s long-term benefits.
In the next two subsections, we show how students studying for a test might use the
SOAR method, and then describe how teachers might design SOAR-compatible instruction
and teach students how to SOAR.
Implications for Studying
This section demonstrates how students faced with a learning task might use SOAR
strategies to study that material. The task involves learning a series of scientific terms and
definitions pertaining to symbiosis. That material appears below.
SymbiosisA situation in which two living organisms live together in a close
nutritional relationship.
Commensalism A type of symbiosis where one organism benefits and the other is
unaffected. For example, barnacles hitch a ride on whales and their travels find them
food. They neither harm nor benefit the whale.
Mutualism A type of symbiosis where both organisms benefit. For example, a
plover sits in a crocodile’s mouth and picks bugs and debris from its teeth. The
plover gets food and the crocodile gets clean teeth.
Parasitism A type of symbiosis where one organism benefits and the other is
harmed. For example, a tick sucks blood from a dog. The tick gets nourishment and
the dog contracts a disease.
The SOAR Study System
The student would select all the important information in as brief a fashion as possible as
shown below.
Symbiosis - Two organisms in nutritional relationship
Commensalism - Benefitd and unaffected
Mutualism - Both benefit
Parasitism - Benefited and harmed
The student next organizes that information graphically if possible. Here, a matrix works
best as shown in Figure 5.
The student next creates internal associations that link the presented information and
external associations that link the new information to prior knowledge as shown below.
Internal Associations
Three types of symbiosis
Two organisms in nutritional relationship
Organism 1 always benefits
Organism 2 is unaffected, benefited, or harmed
In commensalism, a barnacle benefits, a whale is unharmed
In mutualism, both a plover and crocodile benefit
In parasitism, a tick benefits and a dog is harmed
External Associations
A man sitting on a park bench is like commensalism. The man benefits and the bench
is unharmed.
A marriage is like mutualism if both partners benefit.
Everyone benefits in mutualism because everyone is investing in a good mutual fund.
Criminals are like parasites. They try to benefit at the expense of their victims.
Dharma Jairam, Kenneth A. Kiewra and Katie Ganson
Figure 5. Symbiosis Matrix.
Finally, the student generates and answers practice test questions. For this material, fact
and concept questions like those shown below can be constructed.
In what type(s) is an organism harmed?
In what type(s) is an organism benefited?
In what type(s) is an organism unaffected?
A tapeworm eats from the host and the host becomes ill. What type is this?
Implications for Instruction
This article has described and demonstrated how students can use SOAR methods to
study instructional material. This subsection describes and demonstrates how instructors can
present their lessons in SOAR-compatible ways and, ultimately, teach students how to SOAR
to success on their own.
There are several proven methods for helping students compile a complete set to begin
the study process. First, instructors can simply provide students with a complete set of notes
(Kiewra, 2009). Research shows that students who study instructor-provided notes
outperform students who study their own sketchy notes (Collingwood and Hughes, 1978;
Kiewra, 1985a, 1985b; Morgan, Lilley, and Boreham, 1988). A second method is providing
students with skeletal notes, or note-taking frameworks that provide students with major
topics and categories that prompt students to take detailed notes in the provided spaces.
The SOAR Study System
Figure 6. Cloud Matrix.
Such frameworks boost note taking and achievement especially when they are in matrix
instead of linear form (Jairam and Kiewra, 2010; Kiewra, Benton, Kim, Risch, and
Christensen, 1995; Kiewra et al., 1991; Kobayashi, 2006; Lazarus, 1991).
A third method is to provide organization cues in texts and lectures. Cues that clearly
designate where information fits into a larger structure increase note taking and achievement.
In one study (Titsworth and Kiewra, 2004), students heard the same lecture with or without
organizational cues. The cues explicitly signaled students to the topic and category about to
be discussed.
For instance, if the lecture topic was wildcats, an organizational cue might be, “Next,
we’ll discuss the hunting method of the cheetah.” Given these simple cues throughout the
lecture, the number of details (e.g., cheetahs hunt by running down their prey) recorded in
notes rose astonishingly from 35% to 80% and achievement rose 16% on a test of details and
45% on a test of idea organization. A fourth method is to teach students the three graphic
organizer patterns introduced earlier (hierarchy, sequence, and matrix) and corresponding
alert words (see Kiewra, 2009). Alert words signal how information should be organized. For
example, the alert word types signals a hierarchical organization whereas the alert word steps
signals a sequential organization. When students begin to think in these patterns, they select
information accordingly. For example, when they read, “the mouth is where digestion
begins,” they recognize from the alert word “begins” that a process is described, and they
seek and select the subsequent locations in the digestive process as well. And, when the
mouth’s structure and function in digestion are described, trained students know to seek and
select comparative structure and function information for the other digestive parts as well.
The four implications above for aiding selection are also useful for aiding organization
because all of them can prompt better information selection and organization. In addition,
Dharma Jairam, Kenneth A. Kiewra and Katie Ganson
instructors can bolster achievement by simply providing students with completed organizers
(Kiewra et al., 1988; Robinson and Kiewra, 1995).
When aiding organization, it is often advantageous to supply a series of organizers to
cover a topic adequately. In one study (Katayama, Robinson, Kiewra, DuBois and Jonassen,
2001), several unique organizers were created to cover text material about abnormal behavior.
The initial organizer overviewed the hierarchical relationships among 21 abnormal behavior
Another matrix organizer compared neuroses, psychoses, and personality disorders in
terms of criteria, causes, and symptoms. There were also matrices (each with varying
categories) comparing a) four types of neuroses, b) organic and functional psychoses, c) four
personality disorders, d) four functional psychoses, and e) four types of schizophrenia.
The real benefit of having an organizer comes in recognizing its inherent relationships.
An effective organizer reveals the intended message (the inherent relationships) with only a
Instructors who provide students with an organizer can aid association by simply
providing students with a list of its inherent relationships, working with students to uncover
relationships, or prompting students to discover them on their own.
For example, the following associations might be gleaned from the cloud matrix in Figure
6: All cirrus clouds are high; stratus clouds cover the sky and are associated with continuous
precipitation; and cumulous clouds can appear at varying elevations. In addition, instructors
can add color and dividing lines to organizers to signal relationships as was done by Jairam
and Kiewra (2010).
They enhanced the matrix shown in Figure 7. by using bold dividing lines and an array of
text colors and cell shadings that helped readers easily discern wildcat relationships like the
following: the louder the call, the bigger the cat and the longer the lifespan. And, jungle cats
are solitary, have small ranges, and hunt at night, whereas plains cats live in groups, have
large ranges, and hunt during the day.
Instructors can use organizers as a means for generating potential test questions that are
useful for regulating learning (Jairam and Kiewra, 2009; 2010). It is easy, for example, to
generate fact and relationship questions from the matrix organizer in Figure 7.
Fact questions pertain to the intersection of topics and categories. For instance: What is
the tiger’s range? Or, when does the leopard hunt? Relationship questions pertain to the
association between or among multiple facts. For instance: Which cats live in groups? Or,
what is the relationship between weight and lifespan?
The SOAR Study System
Figure 7. Wildcat Matrix.
Teaching Students How to SOAR to Success
It is one thing, and indeed a good thing, to present lessons in ways that prompt SOAR
processing as described above. The problem is that effective instruction does not ensure that
students will employ effective learning methods on their own, another time, when instruction
is not SOAR driven. When instructors teach in SOAR-compatible ways, they are like the
person in the old adage who gives a man a fish so he can eat for today. In that same adage, we
learn, however, that it is better to teach a man how to fish so that he can eat for a lifetime. The
same is true here. Ideally, teachers should do more than teach in SOAR-compatible ways
(give a fish), they should also teach students how to SOAR on their own (teach how to fish).
The key to teaching SOAR strategies is embedding such strategy instruction within
content instruction rather than teaching strategies apart from the curriculum. This means that
as music teachers teach music and as history teachers teach history, they also have the
opportunity, if not the obligation, to teach learning strategies related to selection,
organization, and the rest. For example, when the music teacher covers musical periods, she
can teach students how to organize this information into a matrix. When the history teacher
covers the Korean conflict, he can teach students how to associate this information to more
recent wars and conflicts. Below is an example, of how an English teacher might teach a
regulation strategy. Notice that strategy instruction includes five components related to
introducing, selling, modeling, practicing, and generalizing the strategy.
“Class, next week you take your test covering figures of speech. Many of you are going
to walk into that test and let me be the first one to test you. That’s not smart. Never let the
Dharma Jairam, Kenneth A. Kiewra and Katie Ganson
teacher be the first to test you. Test yourself so thoroughly in advance of the test that there is
nothing the teacher can ask you that you haven’t already asked yourself. The strategy you
should use is called self-testing (introduce strategy). Self-testing works. Students who self-
test outperform students who just read material over and over (sell strategy). Let me get you
started. The test is going to ask you to recognize new examples of the figures of speech. Here
are some practice questions I developed. Recognize the following examples as alliteration,
hyperbole, or oxymoron: (1) jumbo-shrimp, (2) Alan Alda ate ants, and (3) He was as big as a
bus (modeling strategy). Hopefully, you correctly recognized Number 1 as oxymoron,
Number 2 as alliteration, and Number 3 as hyperbole. Please practice writing possible test
questions with a partner now for the terms onomatopoeia, metaphor, and simile (practice
strategy). Of course, the practice test strategy works anywhere. You can use it as you prepare
for tests in history, math, and other subjects. Athletic competitors use it too. If they know that
an opponent plays a box-in-one defense, the team can practice against this very defense and
learn to exploit it (generalize strategy).”
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Full-text available
Many students with learning disabilities (LD) experience difficulties with extracting relationships from expository text, especially if they are implicit. Results from studies with K-12 participants have been inconclusive regarding the potency of the graphic organizer (GO) as a comprehension tool. This study attempted to address some of the concerns with GO research by examining the effects of using GOs with middle school students with LD to convey and cue relational knowledge, using a longer intervention and using written essays to assess the students' attainment of relational knowledge. The results lend support for using GOs with students with LD to gain relational knowledge from expository textbooks. When factual knowledge was assessed via multiple choice tests and quizzes, no differences were found between treatment and control conditions. As in other GO studies, both groups demonstrated attainment of facts and concepts. But when relational knowledge was assessed, the two groups responded differentially. On essays that required application, the GO group provided significantly more relational knowledge statements than students in the No GO group did.
Full-text available
Three experiments compared the learning potential of text versus outline and matrix displays. In Experiments 1 and 2, college students read or heard a passage about fish and then studied the text, an outline, or a matrix. In Experiment 3, students heard a passage about wildcats, and then studied text, outline, or matrix displays. In all experiments, the text, outline, and matrix formats were informationally equivalent. However, the two-dimensional matrix appeared more computationally efficient than the linear organized text or outline because it (a) positioned related information about fish or wildcats in closer proximity so that local relations within a single category (such as ``size'') were learned, and (b) organized information spatially so that global relations across categories (such as size and diet) were learned. The learning potential of text, outline, and matrix displays was also examined in combination with variations in thematic organization, amount of study time, and time of testing. The most important and consistent findings were that (a) outline and matrix displays produced greater relational learning than the text, and (b) matrix displays produced greater relational learning than outlines.
In meaningful learning tasks the acquisition process is influenced by the way in which the individual learner interprets and encodes the material. Early attempts to recall written materials largely determine subsequent retention, even when the learner's errors are corrected. To provide an indication of how information was interpreted and encoded by learners, adult students were asked to write notes on a meaningful prose extract they heard, and they were later asked to attempt recall. Whereas the meaningful items recorded in a subject's notes had a .34 probability of recall one week later, items not recorded in notes were recalled on only .047 of occasions, suggesting that the notes learners make provide a useful indication of the products of individual encoding processes In meaningful verbal learning and memory.
Part 1: Framework Chapter 1: History Chapter 2: Academic Literacy Chapter 3: Policy Issues Chapter 4: Student Diversity Part 2: Reading Strategies Chapter 5: Vocabulary Development Chapter 6: Comprehension Development Chapter 7: Reading / Writing Connection Part 3: Study Strategies Chapter 8: Strategic Study-Reading Chapter 9: Motivation and Study Strategies Chapter 10: Notetaking from Lectures Chapter 11: Test Taking Part 4: Program Delivery Chapter 12: Addressing Diversity Chapter 13: Technology Integration Chapter 14: Program Management Chapter 15: Program Evaluation Chapter 16: Reading Tests Appendix: Reading Tests Reviewed