The Paired Associates Strategy

"Paired Associates Strategy cover photo"


The Paired Associates Strategy helps students independently and in an organized way approach large bodies of information they need to master. Using the strategy, students identify pairs or groups of items that are important to learn, such as names and events, places and events, or names and accomplishments. They create study cards, create a mnemonic device for each card, and use the study cards to learn the information.

Instruction in this strategy produces relatively quick and significant performance gains for most students. Because of this, it builds low-achieving students' confidence in their test-taking abilities and enables them to improve their grades in required courses.

In studies, before students learned the Paired Associates Strategy, they correctly answered an average of 18 percent of test questions related to paired information when that information was identified for them. After they mastered the strategy, they correctly answered an average of 85 percent of similar questions. When students were given reading passages to study on their own--and had to identify paired information independently as well as learn the information--they answered an average of 22 percent of test questions correctly before instruction in the strategy compared to 76 percent after mastering the strategy.

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Author(s): Janis A. Bulgren, Jean B. Schumaker

Publication Info: University of Kansas, 1996



  • Bulgren, J.A., Hock, M.F., Schumaker, J.B., & Deshler, D.D. (1995). The effects of instruction in a paired associates strategy on the information mastery performance of students with learning disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 10(1), 22-37. High school students in this multiple baseline across student design study were taught the Paired Associates Strategy for 20-30 minutes per day for six months.

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