The Importance of Training Strategy Adaptation: A Learner-Oriented Approach for Improving Older Adults’ Memory and Transfer

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We investigated the benefits of strategy-adaptation training for promoting transfer effects. This learner-oriented approach—which directly encourages the learner to generalize strategic behavior to new tasks—helps older adults appraise new tasks and adapt trained strategies to them. In Experiment 1, older adults in a strategy-adaptation training group used 2 strategies (imagery and sentence generation) while practicing 2 tasks (list and associative learning); they were then instructed on how to do a simple task analysis to help them adapt the trained strategies for 2 different unpracticed tasks (place learning and text learning) that were discussed during training. Two additional criterion tasks (name-face associative learning and grocery-list learning) were never mentioned during training. Two other groups were included: A strategy training group (who received strategy training and transfer instructions but not strategy-adaptation training) and a waiting-list control group. Both training procedures enhanced older adults’ performance on the trained tasks and those tasks that were discussed during training, but transfer was greatest after strategy-adaptation training. Experiment 2 found that strategy-adaptation training conducted via a manual that older adults used at home also promoted transfer. These findings demonstrate the importance of adopting a learner-oriented approach to promote transfer of strategy training.

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