Learning Strategies: Finding Your Keys to Success

Welcome to the Tri-Campus Learning Strategy Toolkit designed for students with disabilities. 

This comprehensive toolkit encompasses:

  • Diverse tips and strategies tailored to enhance skills in your identified areas of focus, particularly in managing the impacts of your disability during classes, studying, tests & exams, and placements.
  • Downloadable worksheets and resources to facilitate effective skill development practice.
  • Reflection questions aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of each employed strategy.

Contained on this page: 

What Learning Strategies Are & How to Use Them

Learning Strategies are approaches to learning that benefit all students, but they are crucial for students with disabilities. For example, learning strategies may help compensate for executive dysfunction (i.e., planning, and organising) and working memory deficits (i.e., storing and manipulating information in memory).

Often students with disabilities require different methods or approaches to learning, so it is important to hone your skills in identifying how you learn best and what strategies utilize your strengths as a student.

Suggested Ways to Get Started

  1. Identify your learning strengths and needs (see questions below).
  2. Determine what the task is (e.g., listening to a lecture).
  3. Read the “Where should I start?” section below and look at the table to find strategies relevant to a particular skill area you want to improve.
  4. Try only 1-2 strategies at a time. More than this at one time may be too much to consistently apply.
  5. Commit to applying the learning strategy for at least 2-3 weeks. This will give you time to see how the strategy works for you.
  6. Find blank worksheets or templates in the Resources section.
  7. Reflect on strategies used.

Feel free to navigate through the toolkit to discover the strategies on each page, providing you with an understanding of the available resources before you require them. This proactive approach may serve as motivation for you to revisit the material as necessary. 


Identify Your Learning Strengths and Needs

Learning strategies concentrate on how a task is completed rather than targeting specific content (e.g., math). While this toolkit provides strategies tailored to various skill areas (e.g., reading or writing), the majority are not limited to a specific skill. When experimenting with different strategies, assess whether the chosen approach aligns with the requirements of a particular course and addresses your disability-related needs. This assessment can also enable you to leverage your strengths to counterbalance any challenges you may encounter.

To assist you in recognizing your strengths and evaluating effective strategies, kindly refer to the questions below as a reference. Employing techniques that align with your learning strengths, while minimizing obstacles related to the impacts of your disability, will enhance your learning efficiency and boost your confidence.

Understanding your learning strengths and needs is crucial for choosing strategies that align with your abilities. It's important to avoid selecting a strategy that requires a skill you lack confidence in, as this could result in frustration and discouragement. The purpose of learning strategies is to harness your strengths, making the learning process more accessible. The provided questions can assist you in reflecting on this aspect. 

  • What do I do well? What strengths can I leverage to manage my disability-related impacts (i.e. I am a strong auditory learner)

  • What do I find challenging? What are my disability-related impacts? (i.e. academic skills, daily activities, physically writing notes, listening and writing notes at the same time, focus and concentration, etc.)

  • How can I use what I am good at to help with something challenging?

  • How can I enhance my skills? I recognize the importance of repetition in my learning process and understand that exposure to a subject repeatedly is crucial. What other effective strategies can I incorporate to further develop and reinforce my abilities?

Your campus Accessibility Services might connect you with a learning strategist to facilitate your exploration and consideration of the above questions.

Where Should I Start?

Navigational Tip: Accessing the site menu allows you to explore all available skill areas and learning strategies. Locate the site menu, typically positioned in the upper left corner of a computer screen or at the top of a mobile device screen. It will be labelled as "Site Menu" or represented by the hamburger button/the triple bar ≡ horizontal lines. 

Below are a few examples illustrating common disability-related impacts and the corresponding recommended strategies and related skill areas.

This list is provided to get you started thinking about the skill areas you wish to focus on and the specific strategies that may be suitable.

Learn more about recommended strategies for some common disability-related impacts (see skill areas for additional strategies)

What strategies might help?

Related Skill Areas 

What strategies might help?

Related Skill Areas 

What strategies might help?

Below you will find options for:

Related Skill Areas 

What strategies might help?

Related Skill Areas 

Integrating Technology with Learning Strategies

Several resources are highlighted, including technology, which is often crucial for implementing specific learning strategies and capitalizing on your strengths. For instance, a commonly used learning strategy involves noting down due dates, but this may become challenging if you tend to forget, get distracted, or face difficulties with organization. Utilizing tools such as a calendar/agenda, a reminder app on your phone, or setting alarms becomes essential to facilitate task tracking and enhance overall efficiency.

Throughout this toolkit, we've highlighted specific technology tools that eligible University of Toronto students can access for free, including:

  • Assistive Technology tools for students with approved accommodation, such as Kurzweil 3000 (a reading and study tool), Glean (notetaking), and MindView (mind mapping).
  • The University of Toronto primarily employs Microsoft 365 ProPlus featuring Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access, etc. accessible through your UTMail+ account. Students are encouraged to leverage these resources within the platform to enhance their learning experience; for instance, OneNote proves beneficial for organizing notes, particularly for students with disabilities.

Additionally, some software may already be integrated into the technology you currently use. For example, Apple products come equipped with a text-to-speech feature and word prediction, while Microsoft 365  has predictive text features.

For technology recommendations, explore the section titled "There’s an App for That!” or "Do you use assistive technologies...?". We typically avoid mentioning specific app names, as these may change. However, we offer general guidance on utilizing features within apps to help you achieve your goals.

If you've been approved to use assistive technology as an accommodation, we strongly recommend reaching out to the Assistive Technologist for assistance, if required. Whether you need guidance on how to use the tool or you've encountered challenges leading you to discontinue its use, the Assistive Technologist is here to support you. 


Reflect on Which Strategies Were Effective

The effectiveness of a particular learning strategy can vary among students due to the diverse impacts of disabilities.

Students who excel in utilizing learning strategies are those who engage in thoughtful reflection regarding the strategies' effectiveness for them. This reflection is most valuable when done both during and after the application of the strategy. To accurately gauge the effectiveness of a strategy, it's crucial to implement it several times before forming a conclusive opinion.

While applying various strategies from this toolkit, it is essential to consider the following questions:

  • What worked for me and why?

  • How do I know the strategy is effective for me? 

  • What do I want to happen after using the strategy? For example, did my comprehension of the course content improve? Did my stress about the course reduce? Did the impacts of my disability reduce?

  • What didn’t work for me and why?

  • What problems did I encounter? Was there an aspect of the strategy that did work?

  • Can I adapt the strategy to work for me?

Repeated practice is essential for the effectiveness of learning strategies. Engaging in reflection allows you to identify the most successful strategies for you, enabling the creation of an inventory of strategies that can be applied across various courses.


If you have questions about a strategy, or need help getting started, contact your Accessibility Services office to explore working with a learning strategist.