Learning strategies can be described as behaviours and thoughts a learner engages in during learning that are aimed at gaining knowledge. Learners are, to use Mayer’s (1996) constructivist definition, ‘sense makers’. We can therefore position this to mean that, if learners are sense makers, then learning strategies are essentially cognitive processes used when learners are striving to make sense out of newly presented material. This paper intends to demonstrate that such thoughts and behaviours can be made explicit and that students can co-ordinate the basic cognitive processes of selecting, organising and integrating. I will discuss two learning strategies which were developed during three cycles of an action research enquiry with a group of illustration students. While each cycle had its own particular structure and aims, the main task, that of illustrating a passage of expository text into an illustration was a constant factor. The first learning strategy involved assisting students develop ‘macropropositions’—personal understandings of the gist or essence of a text (Louwerse and Graesser, 2006; Armbruster, Anderson and Ostertag, 1987; Van Dijk & Kintsch, 1983). The second learning strategy used a form of induction categorised as analogical reasoning (Holyoak, 2005; Sloman and Lagnado, 2005). Both strategies were combined to illustrate the expository text extract. The data suggests that design students benefit from a structured approach to learning, where thinking processes and approaches can be identified and accessible for other learning situations. The research methodology is based on semi-structured interviews, questionnaires, developmental design (including student notes) and final design output. All student names used are pseudonyms. The text extract from ‘Through the Magic Door’ an essay Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, (1907) has been included as it provides context to analysis outcomes, student comments and design outputs.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/mike_mcauley/4/