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«Using the Online Course to Promote Self-regulated Learning Strategies in Preservice Teachers Betsy Anderton, Ph.D. University of South Alabama ...»

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Journal of Interactive Online Learning Volume 5, Number 2, Summer 2006

www.ncolr.org/jiol ISSN: 1541-4914

Using the Online Course to Promote Self-regulated Learning Strategies in Preservice Teachers

Betsy Anderton, Ph.D.

University of South Alabama


The purpose of this study was to investigate the significance of using goal planning and

weekly monitoring and evaluation forms within an online class to promote the use of selfregulated learning strategies. The relationship between student academic achievement and the use of materials to promote self-regulated learning was also studied. The subjects were 28 pre-service teachers taking two separate online sections of an education course entitled Educational Assessment and Measurement. Several forms were designed to prompt learners to reflect on their use of specific self-regulatory activities that achieving students are purported to use to learn academic material (Schunk, 1990). It was hypothesized that requiring learners to set and manage goals throughout the length of the online course would promote the use of self-regulated learning strategies. It was also hypothesized that supporting learners in focusing on the behavioral, motivational, and metacognitive aspects of their learning processes in an online class would result in higher achievement at the end of the course. The findings supported the hypothesis that there was a relationship between the use of goal analysis forms and evaluation and management forms to develop self-regulatory skills in pre-service teachers taking an online course. The results of the study did not support the hypothesis that the use of goal analysis forms and evaluation and management forms would result in higher average quiz scores for pre-service teachers taking an online course.

Introduction Many education courses traditionally delivered within the confines of brick and mortar classrooms are now being offered online. If schools of education are to continue to utilize online learning technologies to deliver instruction to pre-service teachers, then perhaps it is prudent to understand more clearly how to optimize the methods used to deliver instruction online. If we are going to teach using online technologies, then we are going to have to learn to adapt our teaching methods to the new opportunities offered by such technologies as opposed to adapting the technologies to the teaching practices used in our traditional environments.

Online technologies could offer us the opportunity to do more than simply teach our content matter, but can also be used as a means to develop students’ thinking practices. In a timewhen student progress and teacher ability are being questioned, it is important that colleges of education look for new ways to improve the performance of teachers in future classrooms. One way that teacher performance can be improved is by teaching future teachers to manage their own learning process through the setting and achievement of personal goals. Zimmerman (1986) defined this process of becoming metacognitively and behaviorally active in one’s own learning as self-regulated learning Journal of Interactive Online Learning Anderton (SRL). Through the use of SRL strategies, people are able to navigate unstable and unfamiliar environments often created by a revolving door of policies, students, and technologies within the school system.

Although theories vary in regard to the processes and strategic actions that create and support self-regulated learning, most characteristics of self-regulated learners are common across the majority of theoretical approaches. Metacognitive strategies used by self-regulated learners include planning, setting goals, monitoring actions, and evaluating progress. Motivational processes include high self-efficacy, self-attributions, and intrinsic interests in the task (Schunk, 1990; Zimmerman, 1989). Behavioral processes include managing the environment in order to optimize learning experiences. Managing the environment includes choosing, adapting, and creating the environment for learning (Zimmerman & Martinez-Pons, 1986). Schunk (1990) lists attending to instruction, processing and integrating knowledge, rehearsing information to be remembered, and developing and maintaining a positive self-efficacy as important goal directed activities that learners use throughout the learning process. Self-regulated learners optimize the motivational, behavioral, and metacognitive processes using a variety of strategies. Selfregulated learning strategies are the actions and processes used to acquire information and skills. These strategies are purposeful and deliberate, and chosen by the learners as an appropriate solution to attaining academic goals (Zimmerman, 1990).

Review of the LiteratureTeaching Self-Regulation

Setting goals and managing the realization of these goals through the purposive use of specific processes, strategies, and responses are the main components of SRL as defined by Zimmerman (2001). Research supports the idea that self-regulation skills can be taught, and once used, will be predictive of academic success (Pintrich & DeGroot, 1990; Zimmerman, 1990). Skills which lead to SRL are not innate personality traits and can therefore be learned through experience and self-reflection. Boekaerts (1997) asserts that although SRL can be complex, it can be taught. Although self-regulation does not occur overnight, there are numerous strategies instructors can use to promote effective self-regulation in learners.

Most theoretical approaches to teaching learners to become self-regulated focus on three primary issues: planning, monitoring, and evaluating the behavioral, metacognitive, and motivation processes relevant to learning. Metacognitive strategies used by selfregulated learners include planning, setting goals, monitoring actions, and evaluating progress. Motivational processes include high self-efficacy, self-attributions, and intrinsic interests in the task (Schunk, 1990; Zimmerman, 1989). Behavioral processes include managing the environment in order to optimize learning experiences. Managing the environment includes choosing, adapting, and creating the environment for learning (Zimmerman & Martinez-Pons, 1986).

Learners must understand how to develop appropriate goals that are neither too simple nor too difficult. If the goals are too simple, learners will not develop a high selfefficacy for the task. If the goals are too difficult, learners will progress too slowly toward the goal. Schunk (2001) states that helping learners mentally explicate learning Journal of Interactive Online Learning Anderton goals can aid in their judgment of progress and self-efficacy toward a learning task. The existence of goals is also shown to motivate and help learners understand their capabilities related to goal completion.

Monitoring progress towards goals is another important metacognitive strategy and is often done through selective attention, rehearsal, elaboration, and structuring. Learners must desire to attain the long-term goal and must be prepared to overcome temptations along the way. Self-regulation requires that learners forego short-term gratification in an effort to achieve long-term goals. This task requires both the delay of gratification and self-confidence (Mischel & Mischel, 1983). If self-confidence and the ability to delay gratification are lacking in an individual, it is likely that any attempts to self-regulate will fail.

Teaching self-regulation should also include ways to monitor strategy use (Harris,

1990) Monitoring strategy use often involves metacognitive regulation. Metacognitive regulation refers to a learner’s awareness of what is known and how to regulate that knowledge. The concept of knowing what one knows is commonly referred to as knowledge of cognition. Knowledge of cognition can include declarative, procedural, and conditional knowledge. The regulation of knowledge can include planning, prediction, monitoring, testing, revising, checking, and evaluating activities (Hacker, n.d.). Selfregulated learners are aware of the reality of their knowledge, of what they do and do not know. They are aware of what knowledge they need to gain in an effort to reach their learning goals. The learners act in a deliberate and planful way to obtain, store, and retrieve the knowledge they need. When self-regulated learners need information, they actively engage in behaviors allowing them to gain knowledge and use it for appropriate learning goals. Using metacognitive activities, self-regulated learners are purposeful, strategic, and persistent in pursuing their goals (Purdie, Hattie, & Douglas, 1996). Using metacognitive processes, self-regulated learners adjust the difficulty of the task to create an intrinsically motivating endeavor. Wolters, Yu, and Pintrich (1996) found negative patterns of motivation, cognition, and performance contributed to a lack of self-regulation and task value. They view the acquisition of knowledge as a controllable system of processes (Zimmerman, 1990; Zimmerman & Martinez-Pons, 1986).

A learner who has learned to regulate learning approaches tasks in a cyclical process of monitoring their learning methods and strategies. Through evaluation, they make appropriate changes to their behaviors and self-perceptions (Zimmerman, 1989).

Through the use of a self-oriented feedback loop, Zimmerman describes how learners monitor the effectiveness of their strategy selection and use as they attempt to achieve academic success. The operant theorists attribute the use of the feedback loop to selfreinforcement, while other theorists, such as the social phenomenologists, attribute the feedback loop to an individual’s perception of self. Regardless of the theoretical basis for the use of the feedback loop, most definitions of self-regulated learning include this metacognitive activity (Zimmerman, 1990).

Boekaerts (1997) believes that effort plays a large role in learners’ initiatives to selfregulate. Effort is involved in both cognitive and motivational efforts to self-regulate.

Effort can be both quantitative and qualitative in nature. Quantitative effort refers to the time allocated to a strategy use while qualitative effort refers to the amount of energy expended to process the material (deep level processing). The value learners attach to a Journal of Interactive Online Learning Anderton task and their self-efficacy affect the effort learners exert towards a task. Self-regulated learners make the effort to set goals and reach them, and they are motivated to do so (Pintrich & DeGroot, 1990).

Wlodkowski (1999) defines motivation as the processes that arouse and instigate behavior, give direction and purpose to behavior, continue to allow behavior to persist, and lead to choosing or preferring a particular behavior. Self-regulated learners have the desire to designate, manage and complete a learning task. Most theories surrounding selfregulated learning attempt to explain how and why learners choose to use various strategies. The operant theorists attribute motivation to external reward factors such as approval (Mace et al., 2001), while the phenomenologists attribute motivation to issues related to self, such as self-actualization (McCombs, 2001). Regardless of the reasons that learners choose to motivate, most researchers agree that a strong link exists between self-regulated learning and motivation.

The process of SRL also involves self-reflection. Learners use self-reflection as a way to evaluate the instructional learning experience. Reflection involves reviewing things that happened during the learning experience. Chi (1996) and Chi, deLeeuw, Chui, and La Vancher (1994) investigated the area of self-reflection as a means to promote learning. Their research in the area of self-reflection and explanation found that these processes facilitate the integration of new knowledge into existing schemas. They developed a series of steps that have been successfully utilized by tutors to promote reflection. These steps are: (a) asking initial questions, (b) eliciting preliminary answers from learners, (c) providing feedback from tutor, (d) scaffolding between tutor and learner, and (e) assessment by tutor of reflection process. Van den Boom (2000) adopts and modifies this tutoring process using online technologies such as email, chats, and netmeeting Social elements are also important to the use of self-regulative learning strategies.

Collaboration with other learners is seen as a valuable resource. Self-regulated learners seek help and clarification when necessary. The perceptions and views of others are viewed as important components to the learning process. These views are used to construct meaning through creation, debate, sharing, and revising (Rochester Institute of Technology, 2000). They understand how to use and allocate available environmental resources both human and otherwise. They feel control over the learning environment.

Self-regulated learners can overcome mental, social, and environmental obstacles to learning (Zimmerman, 2001). The self-regulated learner is not detoured by poor teaching or unclear text; they find alternative ways to gain the necessary knowledge and skills.

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