How Wide is Your Repertoire of Strategies?



Learn and deliberately use at least one or two new strategies per week to widen your repertoire of strategies.

The visual resource in this newsletter comes from my ‘7 Metacognitive Steps to Be More’ Online Course.  The third metacognitive step (described in this course) is to get knowledge of strategies and to use strategies to help you with challenging cognitive tasks (or other tasks) or the understanding of challenging concepts.  The visual shows examples of strategies that can be used to be More Organized, that is a key executive function skill.

In this course I really tried to simplify and visually integrate two very complex theoretical concepts that have formed part of my daily work over a period of more than two decades: Metacognition and Executive Functions. 

One of my course students asked my opinion about a book that she became aware of whilst doing my course and I decided immediately to order the book, titled:  The Multicontext Approach to Cognitive Rehabilitation – A Metacognitive Strategy Intervention to Optimize Functional Cognition (written by two internationally recognized occupational therapists that are leaders in various fields but also in the field of cognitive rehabilitation research).  

I could not believe my eyes! I tried to simplify and integrate two complex theoretical concepts in a nutshell (e.g. on one pagers) and they wrote a manual of nearly 400 pages with a direct connection to metacognition and executive functions as addressed in my ‘simple’ course. Their work really made me excited and inspired me for various personal and professional reasons.




I was inspired by the work of Toglia and Foster because they are occupational therapists (first of all), as well as esteemed scientists and clinicians. What excited me the most however is that their Multicontext (MC) approach represents a metacognitive strategy-based intervention approach to cognitive rehabilitation that promotes the application of cognitive strategies in all activities of daily living.  The MC approach incorporates mediated learning techniques and a metacognitive framework to promote self-awareness, strategy use, and self-monitoring skills during activity performance. Everything directly linked to what I have been doing over decades in ‘my way’ with ‘my clients’ based on my extensive training and experience in cognitive education! (and also what I have done in training of other professionals). The book not only inspired me but confirmed my thinking and my metacognitive therapeutic intervention process with the school and adults learners I see in my practice.

Although the MC approach was initially developed for individuals with cognitive impairments resulting from acquired brain injury, the intervention principles and techniques are broad and have been used with other populations with cognitive or learning difficulties or mental health conditions. The book is definitely more relevant for professionals working in these fields but I would like to share a few valuable nuggets from this book about cognitive strategies that all of us can benefit from:


  • Cognitive strategies can be described as mental routines, mind tools, or mind habits that can be used before, during, or immediately after a task to enhance learning or performance.
  • Healthy people have a wide repertoire of strategies and cognitive strategies can therefore be seen as an integral part of healthy functioning and performance.
  • Lower or inefficient strategy use has been linked to poorer performance across different ages and populations, including children with learning difficulties.
  • For strategy interventions the following questions could be used:
  1. What exactly is the performance problem? (e.g. not organized and loses things)
  2. What exactly is the desired outcome? (e.g. to find things easily)
  3. What strategy could be used? (e.g. the 4 C’s as shown on visual)
  4. What is the purpose of the strategy? (to have a specific place for everything so it is easy to find things and to be organized)
  5. When will the strategy be used, how often and for how long? (all the time, every day and for as long as it takes to make the 4 C’s a daily habit!)
  • It is important to note that strategies are not really needed when tasks are easy and are often ineffective if the task is too difficult.  Effective strategy use therefore requires an optimal level of challenge.
  • There are many obstacles to strategy use, e.g. poor recall for strategies, no initiation of strategies without external prompts, inability to carry out strategies efficiently or skillfully, a lack of strategy transfer to other situations or challenging tasks, etc.
  • That is why a metacognitive strategy-based approach is the best as it is focused on helping a person think about their own thinking and guided or mediated learning is the recommended way to do strategy instruction.

Occupational therapists can play a key role to analyze and promote functional cognition – that incorporates executive function skills, metacognition and other cognitive skills that are required for simple and complex activities of daily living. But, you can be your own OT by understanding and reflecting a bit more about the value of strategies.

Don’t wait until you experience cognitive decline, or need cognitive rehabilitation, or face chronic diseases that affect you cognitive health. Widen your repertoire of strategies and especially your cognitive strategies and help your children, your family, the learners in your class or your clients to learn more about strategies.


REAL Thinking & Learning about ‘Strategies’ will help you to Be More Equipped & Confident to cope with mentally challenging tasks, life challenges or just simply your daily activities. 

Estelle Brettenny