Weizmann Institute of Science
Contemporary science education (at all levels) does not treat students as passive consumers of knowledges, skills, and other educational “products” anymore. Nowadays, learners must be active and productive participants of the educational process. That is why self-regulated learning (SRL) technologies form a very important key component of the contemporary educational system. Technology-enhanced learning environments (TELEs) are important tools mutually used by educators and learners to organize and develop the educational activity in its advanced form.
In the present paper, investigating students' difficulties within the transition to the new model of education and acquiring of the new culture of learning necessary for the mentioned transition, we concentrate our attention on the concept of self-regulation of learning and develop a technology-enhanced self-regulated learning (Te-SRL) environment intended to facilitate student's task to become active participants of the contemporary education.
In the framework of the said paradigm, we select the following three Te-SRL components:
(1) assessment tasks to estimate the knowledges and skills obtained in the classroom
(2) evaluation forms to estimate the performance on the assessment tasks
(3) the Te-SRL system developed by us to solve complex problems
Correspondingly, the Te-SRL system offers students three different ways to solve complex problems: to self-learn without any external support, to learn with hints, and to learn with hints and guidance. For students, it is possible to select a way for each particular problem. For us (as researchers), it is possible to track and record all students' actions. As a result, we obtain a comprehensive data about students' usage of the Te-SRL system, find reasons of its inefficient usage (by certain groups of students), and determine ways to improve the Te-SRL system accordingly.
In our opinion, the curriculum design of the XXIst century has to respond the main concerns and challenges regarding the integration of skills with contents and the development of self-regulated learners such as integration of skills without harming content conceptual development (the way the student achieve the scientific conceptual knowledge and skills should not be an obstacle for their comprehension of the subject content, but should allow to form generalized skills), student diversity (learning materials should be developed such that the science core topics not to be artificially truncated or restricted), allowance for flexibility (learning materials has to be designed to take into account the spiral nature of learning and encourage inquiry skills for science), and self-regulated learning (learning materials has to be designed to support and develop learners' skills to set and balance their own goals, to initiate and self-direct their own activities, and to work independently, including their self-reflection and self-evaluation).
For the detailed study, we selected a new curriculum for a junior high school (JHS) in Israel, developed by a team of researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science; this curriculum called the Matmon Haddash (MH) focuses on a thorough understanding of basic concepts and emphasizes the development of independent learning skills in the context of subject matter. The development of the specified curriculum took in consideration above-mentioned principles (for instance, technology-enhanced environments can support multilayer learning, embed learning skills instruction without harming the concept development, and allow different learning sequences for different students provided that, e.g., the text-book is left the same), but it turns out that technology-enhanced learning environments (TELEs) pose new challenges themselves. Those challenges and contemporary possibilities to determine and respond them are to be the main concern of the present investigation.
1.2 Research Motivation
The MH curriculum design requires reference to many questions such as:
what lessons learned from the self-regulation literature can address the problems inherent to technology-enhanced learning?
can students' learning with specific technology-enhanced environments promote self-regulated behavior and promote meaningful learning?
how can self-regulated learners decide about what to learn, how to learn it, how much time to spend on it, and how to access other relevant materials?
how can self-regulated learners assess their understanding of the material?
Our study focuses on the above questions. Our aim is to investigate how students regulate their learning with advanced learning technologies.
evaluation forms to track student achievements on the tasks;
a Technology-enhanced Self-Regulated Learning system (Te-SRL system) offering different types of the support of Self-Regulated Learning (SRL) skills among students.
Figure 1: The components of the Technology-enhanced Learning Environment
The purpose of our investigation is to develop a Te-SRL environment adopting SRL concept in science and to investigate the learning actions and considerations of students who apply the Te-SRL system.
2. THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONS AND RESEARCH METHODS
2.1 Instruction Model for Skills in Science
Structured instruction and performance-based assessment are considered to be the principal components for the stated model:
Structured instruction is has to possess the following main properties:
Explicit instruction: the actual instruction of all the components of the skills is annotated and emphasized. Students should be aware of the process of skills acquisition and should reflect on it.
Spiral instruction: the students practice generic skills such as gathering and analyzing information, representing information, and presenting knowledge during all their education period. Each year students are introduced to different skills and sub-skills in depth and continue to practice them several times in the course of their science studies.
Integration and practice: educators adopt the instruction and practice of skills into specific content areas. The integration is attained within the of general activity framework to be used in conjunction with specific contents.
Flexibility & modularity: the model is flexible and modular in a way that enables instructors to choose specific skills and activities to be implemented every year, as well as the content in which it has to be studied and practiced.
Performance-based assessment means that the assessment of students’ capabilities and skills is carried out through performance tasks that serve as a formative assessment. Each performance task is especially designed to form and practice certain skills and is consistently and reasonably integrated into the actual science instruction.
The instruction program is mostly concentrated on the following skills: to search and find information, to read as a scientist, to write as a scientist, to listen and observe, to represent information, and to present knowledge. We define the listed skills as scientific communication skills.
2.2 Metacognitive Strategies and Self-Regulation
It is assumed that metacognition (Bartels & Magun-Jackson, 2009) enables students to coordinate their usage of the current knowledge and a repertoire of reflective strategies to accomplish a single goal. Thus, metacognitive awareness serves as a regulatory function and is essential for an efficient learning because it allows students to regulate numerous cognitive skills. Treating the above from the self-regulatory viewpoint, we define a TELE as an environment based on technology requiring students to learn and solve problems without a constant aid of an instructor.
According to cognitive theories, self-regulated students are not passive acceptors of the information/knowledge; instead, they proactively develop their skills and learning strategies (see, e.g., Jenkins et al., 2006). Also, cognitive theories assume that self-regulated education is a cyclical process consisting of the following stages: to set goals, to implement strategies, to monitor the learning progress, and to modify the implemented strategies if it is clear that they are not sufficiently efficient. Further, we have to particularly emphasize the motivation of learners. Self-regulated learning does not occur automatically. Instead, it is a target and a process at the same time. The level of the achieved self-regularity depends on various motivational factors; the main ones are the commitment to the goals, the expectations regarding outcomes of the learning actions, and the students’ estimates of their capabilities to act as it is planned. The latter requires investigators to observe various assessment possibilities in more detail.
2.3 Self-Regulation Assessment
Recent developments demonstrate a stable tendency to study SRL as a dynamic process within classrooms and other contexts, where learning takes place. Following this tendency, we mainly focus on the new assessment instruments such as self-report questionnaires, observations of overt behavior, interview evidence, think aloud protocols, traces of mental events and processes, and diaries.
In our research, student skills were assessed according to the following scales:
the motivation scale estimates students' diligence, self-discipline, and exert of efforts necessary to successfully complete academic requirements;
the time-management scale estimates students' application of time-management principles to academic situations;
the anxiety scale estimates the degree to which students worry about school and their academic performance (high anxiety levels can help to direct attention away from completing academic tasks);
the concentration scale estimates students' ability to direct and maintain attention on academic tasks;
the information processing scale estimates students' skill to use imagery, verbal elaboration, organization strategies, and reasoning skills as learning strategies to help build bridges between what they already know and what they are trying to learn and remember, i.e., knowledge acquisition, retention, and future application;
the selecting main ideas scale estimates students' skill at identifying important information for further study from among less important information and supporting details;
the study aids scale estimates students' usage of supports or resources to help them to learn or retain information;
the self-testing scale estimates students' usage of reviewing and comprehension monitoring techniques to determine their level of understanding of the information to be learned;
the test strategies scale estimates students' use of test preparation and test-taking strategies;
the attitude scale estimates students' attitudes and interest in college and academic success, i.e., it examines how facilitative or debilitative their approach to college and academics is for helping them get their work done and succeeding in college.
2.4 Te-SRL Environment: Description
The Te-SRL environment developed for the present research consists of the following three components (listed in the order of their usage within the research):
a Technology-enhanced Self-Regulated Learning (Te-SRL) system
The first component is used to evaluate students' achievements regarding the content and skills taught. A typical assessment task includes questions regarding the content only, questions regarding the learning skills (free of scientific content), and questions regarding the content and learning skills in an integrated manner.
The second component is used for self-reflection and objective reflection of the student's achievements on the tasks. Following each assessment, students receive a self-evaluation form to fill out while reviewing their marked assessment. Then they receive an objective evaluation form (its structure is similar to the one of the self-evaluation form). The form reflects the evaluation of the student's state in each component of the assessment. The comparison of the two forms enables students to learn about their self-assessment and reflective-evaluation skills.
The third component provided scaffolding for different learners and traces data needed for the present investigation. It is designed and developed to organize the self-regulated learning according to the following four phases: planning, self-monitoring, control, and evaluation. During the planning phase, learners assess their academic situation, choose strategies accordingly, and set achievable short-term and long-term goals. Then they self-monitor their progress. During the control phase, they implement the selected strategies and make ongoing adjustments to their plans according to the results of the self-monitoring. Last, during the evaluation phase, learners evaluate the efficiency of each strategy in helping them to achieve their goals. Feedback from the evaluation phase is then applied.
2.5 Te-SRL Environment: Technology Aspects
(1) Unit 1 relates to macroscopic properties of matter + table skills;
(2) Unit 2 relates to microscopic properties of matter + graph skills;
(3) Unit 3 relates to characteristics of life + charts and illustration skills.
Units of the Te-SRL system can be designed (by the instructors) according to the specific content and skills they aim to teach/assess, but the general process is unified: each unit starts from an introduction including the requisite learning skills and content that are necessary for the units and the description of alternative scaffolds available to learners, then the student gets several problems and three options (navigation strategies) to select to solve them: 'No Scaffolding' (neither hints nor guidance is used), 'Hints' (hints are used, but the guidance is not), and 'Hints & Guidance' (both hints and guidance are used); the choice can be changed before each new problem. Gaming approach to education (see, e. g., McClarty et al., 2012) is used to design this stage of the process for students' usage.
Then the Te-SRL system assesses the learner's actions. Various assessing templates are available: questions with immediate feedback, open format questions, and closed questions templates of different types. The learner's actions traced by the system are provided to the instructor/assessor to estimate students' responses, the duration of each action, strategies choices, and much more.
2.6 Te-SRL Environment: SRL Aspects
The Te-SRL system is designed according to Pintrich’s model for self-regulated learning (Pintrich, 2000; Pintrich & Zusho, 2002), splitting the regulation processes into the following four phases:
During the planning phase, students estimate their academic situation, select their navigation strategies, and set achievable short-term and long-term goals. During the next two phases, they implement the selected strategies and adjust their plans according to the self-monitoring results of their progress. Finally, during the evaluation phase, they estimate the efficiency of the selected strategy.
The Te-SRL system supports and reflects the listed phases:
Self- regulating phases supported through the Te-SRL system
3. RESEARCH RESULTS AND ANALYSIS
3.1 Research Goals and Questions
(1) What self-regulating actions and considerations do students apply, using the Te-SRL system?
(2) Do the specified actions and considerations change over time and how?
(3) What is the relationship between students' achievements in the Te-SRL system units and their performance on assessment tasks?
(4) What is the relationship between students' achievements and actions in the Te-SRL system units and their self-reported self-regulation?
3.2 Basic Data
For the research, we have selected 365 students from 4 State schools and 13 classes (see Table 2).
All the given classes met the research criteria including the availability of computers and use of the MH curriculum. Among the 13 classes, 4 ones were accelerated classes for talented students, 2 ones were classes of a religious all-girls school, and the rest ones were from secular schools.
3.3 The Grouping of Students for Analysis
Another partition of the investigated set of 314 students is obtained if we divide them into three groups according to their choice of a navigation strategy.
The distribution of students between the groups described above is displayed by the following table:
Division into groups according to navigation strategy
3.4 A Priori Assumptions
for all the three navigation strategies, students' Te-SRL achievements are affected more by their ability than by their navigation strategy or self-regulation processes;
'No Scaffolding' navigation strategy is more likely to be used by males who performed better on the assessment task, exert efforts, facing a problem, and have higher self-evaluation regarding their ability;
'Used Hints & Guidance' navigation strategy is more likely to be used by students who give up, facing difficulties, and did not perform their first assessment task well;
'Used Hints' navigation strategy is more likely to be used by students who exert efforts, facing a problem, and perform their first assessment task well, but have good self-evaluation ability;
only the performance on Te-SRL unit 1 results is affected by students' navigation strategy and this effect is significant and positive among students applying 'No Scaffolding' navigation strategy, but it significant and negative among students applying 'Hints & Guidance' navigation strategy;
the performance on Te-SRL unit 1 is mainly affected by students' initial assessment mark and test strategy, but is merely mildly affected by their navigation strategy;
the navigation strategy is affected by students' initial assessment achievement, 'No Scaffolding' navigation strategy is also affected by low anxiety and gender, and 'Used Hints & Guidance' navigation strategy is also adversely affected by self-reported test strategies.
3.5 Research Results
'No Scaffolding' navigation strategy has a significant positive effect on performance on Te-SRL unit 1. 'Used Hints' navigation strategy has no significant effect on performance on Te-SRL unit 1. 'Used Hints & Guidance' navigation strategy has a significantly negative effect on performance on Te-SRL unit 1.
For 'No Scaffolding' group and 'Used Hints' group, the ability has a significant positive effect on the navigation strategy. For 'Hints & Guidance' group, this effect is significantly negative. This leads to the following tendency: high achievers are more inclined to use 'No Scaffolding' or 'Used Hints' navigation strategy and are less inclined to use 'Hints & Guidance' navigation strategy.
'No Scaffolding' navigation strategy is not affected by gender or by motivational processes. Instead, it is significantly and negatively affected by the self-monitoring feature of metacognitive processes. The said strategy is significantly and negatively affected by needing-help and experience features of the behavioral process and is positively affected by the avoiding assistance. This leads to the following tendency: students selecting 'No Scaffolding' strategy are less likely to seek help and even avoid assistance. Also, those students are less self-monitoring during learning.
'Used Hints' navigation strategy is not affected by gender or by motivational processes either. However, it is positively affected by the metacognitive feature of the self-monitoring and by the awareness of cognition. Also, the said navigation strategy is significantly and positively affected by the seeking-help feature of behavioral self-regulated processes. This leads to the following tendency: students selecting 'Used Hints' navigation strategy are more likely to consider metacognitive processes, seeking for assistance during their learning. However, this navigation strategy has not affected their achievements on the Te-SRL.
Only the self-efficiency motivational feature significantly negatively affects 'Hints & Guidance' navigation strategy. Only the self-monitoring metacognitive feature significantly positively affects the said navigation strategy.
Neither 'No Scaffolding' nor 'Hints & Guidance' navigation strategy has a significant effect on performance on TE-SRL units (this refers both to unit 1 and unit 2). Unit 1 scores were directly and positively affected by the students' assessment achievements. Unit 2 scores were directly and positively affected by the students' self-evaluation regarding their ability and their usage of the web to solve problems (this refers to both strategies).
The performance on unit 2 is significantly and positively affected by the students' achievement on the assessment task. The performance on unit 1 is positively affected by the students ability, their effort when facing problems, and their usage of the web to solve problems.
Both 'No Scaffolding' and 'Hints & Guidance' navigation strategy have a significant effect on the performance on unit 1. For the former, the said effect is positive; for the latter, it is negative. Also, the performance on unit 1 is directly and positively affected by the students' initial assessment achievements and by their self-reported test strategies.
The performance on unit 2 is significantly and positively affected by the students' achievement on the assessment task. The performance on unit 1 is significantly and positively affected by 'No Scaffolding' navigation strategy.
Te-SRL fosters the development of SRL skills and the possibility to select different types of scaffolding might help students in procedural, cognitive, and metacognitive aspects of their education. Training and practice in Te-SRL improvement SRL features such as knowledge of cognition, self-efficiency, strategic planning and use of learning strategies, learning from experience and utilizing scaffolding, etc.
TELEs such as the Te-SRL designed for the present research can be used as a diagnostic tool. Students SRL skills (or lack of them) can be diagnosed as they work in the system. There is a need to develop a feedback system in the Te-SRL to offer individual student-focused scaffolding. Research into different types of TELEs that offer different types of scaffolding and feedback systems may help with the development of a Te-SRL system that will cater to different students of the different profiles found in this research.
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