Improving Learning Skills for High School Students

Tips for improving learning skills in high school students

This section provides suggestions for improving learning skills and learning strategies which may be used to retain knowledge and information. These techniques can be used by students when studying individually, in a group or within a classroom setting.

Learning skills and learning techniques

In general, the strategies and learning techniques used for improving learning skills outlined below are techniques which have remained unchanged over time despite advancements in technology. This is because, as humans, the way we acquire and retain information and knowledge have not changed.

While technology has enabled current students to type notes, highlight text and keep paperless summaries using computers, the process of revising, practicing, doing past papers, note-taking, using flash cards, highlighting text, outlining, mind-mapping and so on are still the same.

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Examples of learning techniques

In general, revision and practice are key strategies for learning and retaining information. A study conducted in 2012 by a group of university research departments found the following learning techniques to be most effective (1):

  • Distributed practice – practicing tasks relevant across a number of topics (integrated learning)
  • Retrieval practice – revising or testing topics studied as a way to recall information
  • Interleaved practice – studying or revising alternative or intermittent topics (i.e. studying more than one topic at a time)
  • Elaborative interrogation – self analysis of information supplied in a textbook, classroom or any other reference materials

The techniques should be combined with techniques for identifying and understanding key points of a topic or subject matter:

  • Summarization
  • Highlighting or underlining
  • Keyword mnemonic
  • Big picture or imagery
  • Rereading

Implementing learning techniques

There are a number of various ways which students can implement the learning techniques described above.

(a) Scaffolding structured learning

This method of acquiring and retaining information requires the most time and effort, but is arguably one of the best ways to learn. The scaffolding structure method uses intense reading, highlighting and note-taking of the textbook and other reference materials at first instance, then summarizing and re-summarizing the highlighted items and notes until brief summaries are created for each subject.

The sets of notes, from most detailed to briefest, are used as revision notes for exams, with the brief summaries intended to be reviewed just prior to the exam as quick reference guides.

(b) Collaborative learning

A study group is formed by students (at their own initiative or at the initiative of their teacher or school) for learning where active and direct participation is promoted to acquire knowledge. Such study groups are best limited to around 4-5 students per group.

Apart from learning skills, collaborative groups or teams allow students to develop other life skills such as interpersonal and communication skills.

(c) Peer to peer teaching

One of the most effective ways of acquiring knowledge (and understanding) of a subject is through teaching others. Students can share information and take turns teaching or explaining classroom teachings to friends and classmates using the following implementation strategy:

  • describe the learning technique
  • explain purpose of the technique
  • model the technique
  • practice the strategy
  • provide peer feedback
  • promote generalization – find ways to use this learning technique to gain or develop learning skills


⇒ Next: Teen Study Skills Handbook Section 9: Teen Study Skills Checklist

⇐ Back: Teen Study Skills Handbook Section 7: Skills for acquiring knowledge for studies and exams

Go to beginning:

Teen Study Skills Handbook – A Guide for Teenagers, Parents and Educators


  1. Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K., Marsh, E.J., Nathan, M.J. and Willingham, D.T. (2012), Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions from Cognitive and Educational Psychology, Psychological Science in the Public Interest.



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