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Self-regulation and Web-Based Pedagogical Tools.

Abstract

The purpose of this article is to describe how college instructors can use Web-Based Pedagogical Tools (WBPT) to promote students' self-regulation. Given that a plethora of research studies show that high achieving college students engage in self-regulated learning, this present paper provides (a) an overview of key self-regulatory processes; (b) a description of available WBPT embedded in course management systems; and (c) specific recommendations on how instructors can use WBPT to support student self-regulated learning in college classrooms.

Introduction

Recent research studies address the important role that self-regulation plays in academic achievement. Self-regulation refers to self-generated thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are initiated and cyclically adapted to attain specific goals (Zimmerman, 2000). Substantial research evidence also indicates that educators can play an important role in designing learning environments that support the development of self-regulated learners (Schunk & Zimmerman, 1998; Kitsantas, Reiser, & Doster, 2004; Kitsantas, 2002). In fact several self-regulation interventions are available to assist students to become independent learners (see Schunk & Zimmerman; Zimmerman & Kitsantas, 2005).

During the last decade, however, the emergence of Web-based Pedagogical Tools (WBPT) embedded in Course Management Systems (CMS) can enrich these instructional interventions tailored to enhance student self-regulation, particularly in college classrooms where students are expected to function independently. A few research studies report that WBPT can prompt students to set appropriate goals, self-monitor, self-evaluate and ask for help as needed (Dabbagh, & Kitsantas, 2005; Dabbagh, & Bannan-Ritland, 2005; Kitsantas & Dabbagh, 2004). Application of these findings would be very beneficial in large college courses as WBPT may assist teachers in fostering student self-regulation in learning environments where there is limited teacher-student interaction. Therefore, the scope of this article in addition to providing an overview of the key self-regulatory processes and available WBPT is to offer recommendations on how instructors can use WBPT to support use of self-regulatory processes.

From a social cognitive perspective, self-regulatory processes are embedded in the following three cyclical phases: (1) forethought, (2) performance or volitional control, and (3) self-reflection (Zimmerman, 2000). The important role of motivation is also emphasized throughout these phases. Instructors can encourage learners (novices and advanced) to engage in these phases while learning a new skill or developing expertise in a given skill. The forethought phase involves processes that prepare the learner to engage in goal setting (outcomes of learning or performance) and strategic planning (selecting appropriate strategies to accomplish goals and manage time effectively). Research suggests that self-regulated learners set strategic process goals, estimate and begin to recognize patterns on their own use of study time, develop an appreciation for the value of effective time management, and show high skill acquisition (Zimmerman). The performance or volitional control phase involves the enactment of the learning task using task strategies (e.g., note-taking, organizing, elaborating) and self-monitoring. Self-monitoring is defined as one's deliberate attention to an aspect of a behavior that directs the learners' efforts to the learning task. The impact of task strategies and self-monitoring on student achievement has been well researched, showing that it can improve academic performance in a variety of academic subjects (Graham, Harris, & Troia, 1998; Kitsantas & Zimmerman, 1997; 1999). Although, students should have some experience in using strategies to engage in this phase, instructors can guide students to begin using strategies (see Zimmerman).

The third phase, self-reflection, is an assessment of what just occurred (e.g., self-judgments), which allows the learner to make adjustments prior to entering the forethought phase once again. Self-evaluation, which is a primary self-regulatory process in the self-reflection phase, refers to comparing outcomes of performance with a standard or goal (Schunk & Zimmerman, 1998). As learners monitor their progress towards goal attainment they make evaluative judgments (instructors should consult with students when their self-evaluative judgments do not correspond with goals), about their performance and about their self-efficacy for reaching a goal (Schunk & Zimmerman). During this phase the learner may identify and call upon outside resources for assistance with specific learning task(s). Research studies show that students who self-evaluate display higher skill acquisition, and report higher self-efficacy beliefs, intrinsic interest, and self-satisfaction about their performance than students who do not self-evaluate (Zimmerman & Kitsantas, 1997, 1999).

Overall, there is research evidence indicating that the self-regulatory processes discussed above are effective (see Schunk & Zimmerman edited book, Zimmerman & Kitsantas, Zimmerman). However, in large classes these self-regulatory processes cannot be supported directly due to limited student-instructor interaction. Effective use of WBPT may support self-regulatory processes in college teaching and assist learners to become responsible for their own learning.

A Description of Web-Based Pedagogical Tools

Among the leading Web-based technologies used to facilitate the delivery of college courses are Course Management Systems (CMS) (e.g., Blackboard and WebCT). The goal of CMS is to provide a central location for delivery of course content, related information or links, models and rubrics for assignments, communication between instructors and students, presentation areas for student work, and group processes for the development of shared projects in the form of web-based products (Dabbagh & Bannan-Ritland, 2005). These instructional and learning activities are supported through the use of WBPT embedded in CMS. Empowering instructors with the knowledge and skills to use WBPT effectively in college teaching may enhance both the quality of instruction and students' ability to self-regulate their academic functioning.

According to Dabbagh and Kitsantas (2004), WBPT can be classified into four broad categories: (1) content creation and delivery tools, (2) collaborative and communication tools, (3) administrative tools, and (4) hypermedia tools. Content creation and delivery tools include tools for instructors that enable them to deliver course content and resources, and tools for learners that allow them to submit assignments, contribute resources, and interact with course content. Collaborative and communication tools include asynchronous and synchronous communication tools such as email, discussion forums, bulletin boards, white boards, and virtual chat, enabling one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many learning interactions. Administrative tools allow instructors to manage student information and organize the course appearance and structure. Examples include importing the class roster from the institution's registration system, generating a course calendar, presentation areas both for individual and group work, communication areas, and class email lists, and issuing grades.

Lastly, Hypermedia tools include the use of browsers, web-authoring tools, search engines, and information navigation and evaluation to facilitate the use of a variety of task strategies that engage students in meaningful interaction with content (Kitsantas & Dabbagh, 2004). Given these categories of embedded CMS tools, how can college instructors use WBPT to help students engage in self-regulated learning?

Using WBPT to Promote Self-Regulated Learning

The first category of WBPT that a college instructor could use to set up his or her learning environment and to prompt students to self-regulate is content creation and delivery tools. For example, WebCT has an Assignment feature that allows instructors to post an assignment or class activity and related resources and examples, assign points to the activity, and list a start and end date, enabling students to engage in goal setting, a self regulation process of the forethought phase. In terms of supporting task strategies, a self regulation process of the performance phase, instructors can require students to prepare and submit a PowerPoint presentation using Blackboard's DropBox feature to assist them in rehearsing and elaborating the basic concepts and principles discussed in a book chapter. Instructors can also use the Course Documents tool in Blackboard to post a rubric with specific criteria showing what students need to do to complete an assignment. For example, in a research methods course the instructor can create a rubric to guide students in designing and executing a research proposal allowing students to keep records and self-evaluate their progress. Self-evaluation is a self-regulatory process of the self reflection phase.

The second category of WBPT a college instructor can utilize to prompt students to self regulate is collaborative and communication tools. This WBPT supports goal setting and task strategies. For instance, one topic often taught in a research methods course is correlation and regression. An instructor can use the bulletin board or class email list to post objectives and outline theoretical concepts for the topic followed by examples illustrating these concepts. Outlining specific learning activities such as drawing a scatter plot; computing the correlation coefficient; testing the hypothesis about the population correlation coefficient; computing the equation of the regression line, allows just-in-time support for students to set specific goals and select appropriate task strategies to accomplish these goals. It also gives the instructor the opportunity to model effective and strategic application of the principles of correlation and regression or any other topic.

Instructors can use the synchronous white board tool or the asynchronous discussion forum tool to model or explain a procedure or concept assisting students in strategic planning. For example, to assist students in understanding the application of correlation, the following questions can be posted to a discussion forum: (1) how can one use correlation analysis, and (2) can someone make inferences about cause and effect based on correlation analysis? Engaging students in such a discussion will motivate them to think about the application of correlation analysis in real world contexts. In addition, archived discussion forums can assist students in self-monitoring their progress during the performance phase (Wilson & Cole, 1996). Students can access archived discussion topics at any time to monitor their understanding of the topic. Lastly, using group tools such as virtual breakout sessions, file exchange systems, group posting areas, and group discussion areas, can help learners create their own learning communities with peers or others outside the course to support help seeking and guided feedback.

The third category of WBPT an instructor can use to prompt students to self regulate is Administrative tools. Administrative tools allow instructors to assist students in monitoring their learning (a key process of the performance phase) and in assessing their progress towards a goal by engaging in self evaluation (a key process of the self reflection phase). In addition, administrative tools promote effective strategic planning and management. For example, the instructor can set up an electronic calendar that identifies assignment due dates, course events, and a topic timeline, so that each time a student logs on to the course website, a reminder to check the calendar is posted prompting the student to plan and manage his/her time in order to effectively complete course activities. In terms of self monitoring and self evaluation, instructors can use the "post a grade" tool to post interim grades on draft assignments and/or set up a grading rubric using this tool to prompting students to self- evaluate their progress based on the specific rubric criteria.

The instructor can also observe a student's progress using administrative tools. For example the "check progress" tool in WebCT provides instructors with dynamic statistical data on each student such as the number of times a student has accessed the course, the number of links a student visited, the number of messages posted, and the length of time a student has spent interacting with the course content. This is a very important feature of WBPT because it enables instructors to assist students in self-monitoring and self-evaluating their progress in learning environments where there is minimal face-to-face interaction and/or in large classes that prevent instructors from monitoring and guiding students individually. For example, if an instructor notices that a student has been inactive (e.g., has not visited the course website or posted assignments), the instructor should prompt the student via email to use the available online resources and tools to achieve a particular goal. Overall, the instructor can utilize content creation and delivery tools, collaborative and communication tools, and administrative tools to promote student self-regulation during the forethought, performance, and self reflection phases by specifying learning goals and objectives, providing strategic assistance to students with the content material, clarifying questions related to course topics and assignments, and promoting self-monitoring and self-evaluation.

Instructors can also use hypermedia tools, the fourth category of WBPT, to support the use of task strategies and help seeking (key processes of the performance and self-reflection phases). As mentioned earlier, hypermedia tools allow instructors to structure course materials in different formats providing students with the capability of browsing the course content in a linear or nonlinear and multidimensional structure promoting learner control (Dabbagh, 2002). In addition, hypermedia tools can support multiple learning styles such as visual, verbal, and auditory among others (Oliver & Herrington, 1995). For example the Content Module in WebCT allows instructors to structure the content in a sequential format for students that prefer step-by-step instruction (e.g., field dependent learners). Alternatively, instructors can provide links to topic outlines and summaries for students who prefer a broad snapshot of the content before going into more detail (field independent learners).

Research has shown that hypermedia linking structures interact with learner characteristics (e.g., prior knowledge and learning styles) and with the goal of the learning task (e.g., studying for an exam versus exploring or searching for specific information) (Azevedo & Cromley, 2003), and that the design of web-based hypermedia materials can enhance or limit user performance and impact the quality of independent learning (Last, O'Donnell, & Kelly, 2001). These research findings have important implications for self regulated learning. For example, instructors can use hypermedia tools to provide links to websites related to the appropriate statistical concepts necessary to perform tasks such as the ones outlined in the regression and correlation example above in order to strategically support students with low prior knowledge or visual versus verbal learners. Links to graphical representation of statistical content or to simulations that allow learners to dynamically change variables in a regression graph and immediately witness the results can greatly aid visual learners' comprehension through rehearsal strategies. Instructors can also embed topic centered search engines within the course website to promote help seeking for students who need additional examples for elaboration. Overall, the use of Web-based hypermedia tools may help learners engage in self-regulated learning, particularly in the performance phase, by assisting them in obtaining relevant and tailored information to complete an assignment, applying appropriate and selective task strategies that support their learning style, and seeking help when they encounter task difficulties (Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2005).

Conclusion

In closing with the use of WBPT, instructors can prompt students to engage in self-regulated learning including set goals, self-monitor these goals, and self-evaluate during the learning process. Encouraging students to engage in self-regulatory learning leads them to successful completion of assignments and consequently high academic achievement. Future empirical research studies should examine how WBPT can be used effectively with students who lack both the skills and the will. To our knowledge no research has been conducted to determine how naive versus skilled self-regulated learners would benefit from exposure to WBPT.

References

Azevedo, R., & Cromley, J.G. (April, 2003). The role of self-regulated learning in fostering students understanding of complex systems with hypermedia. Paper presented at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.

Dabbagh, N. (2002). Assessing complex problem-solving skills and knowledge assembly using web-based hypermedia design. Journal of Educational Multimedia and

Hypermedia, 11(4), 291-322.

Dabbagh, N., & Kitsantas, A. (2004). Supporting self-regulation in student-centered web-based learning environments. International Journal on E-Learning, 3(1), 40-47.

Dabbagh, N., & Bannan-Ritland, B. (2005). Online learning: Concepts, strategies, and application. Upper Saddle River, N J: Prentice Hall, Pearson Education.

Dabbagh, N., & Kitsantas, A. (2005). Using web-based pedagogical tools as scaffolds for mself-regulated learning. Instructional Science, 33, 513-540.

Graham, S., Harris, K.R., & Troia, G.A. (1998). Writing and self-regulation: Cases from the self-regulated strategy development model. In D. H. Schunk, & B. J. Zimmerman (Eds.), Self-regulated learning: From teaching to self-reflective practice, (pp. 20- 44), New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Kitsantas, A. (2002). Test preparation and test performance: A self-regulatory analysis. Journal of Experimental Education, 70, 101-113.

Kitsantas, A., & Dabbagh, N. (2004). Promoting self-regulation in distributed learning environments with web-based pedagogical tools: An exploratory study. Journal of Excellence in College Teaching, 15, 119-142.

Last, D.A., O'Donnell, A.M., & Kelly, A.E. (2001). The effects of prior knowledge and goals strength on the use of hypetext. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 10(1), 3-25.

Oliver, R., & Herrington, J. (1995). Developing effective hypermedia instructional materials. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 11, 8-22.

Schunk, D.H, & Zimmerman B.J. (Ed.) (1998), Self-regulated learning: From teaching to self-reflective practice. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Wilson, B.G., & Cole, P. (1996). Cognitive teaching models. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology (pp. 601-621), New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Macmillan.

Zimmerman, B.J. (2000). Attaining self-regulation: A social-cognitive perspective. In M. Boekaerts, P. Pintrich, & M. Seidner (Eds.), Self-regulation: Theory, Research, and Applications (pp. 13-39), Orlando, FL: Academic Press.

Zimmerman, B.J., & Kitsantas, A. (1997). Developmental phases in self-regulation: Shifting from process goals to outcome goals. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, 29-36. Zimmerman, B.J., & Kitsantas, A. (1999). Acquiring writing revision skill: Shifting from process to outcome self-regulatory goals. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 1-10.

Zimmerman, B.J., & Kitsantas, A. (2005). The Hidden dimension of personal competence: Self-Regulated Learning and Practice. In A. J. Elliot and C. S. Dweck (Eds.), Handbook of Competence and Motivation (pp. 204-222). New York: Guilford Press.

Anastasia Kitsantas, George Mason University, VA

Panagiota Kitsantas, George Mason University, VA

Thomas Kitsantas, Technological Institute Epirou, Greece

Nada Dabbagh, George Mason University, VA

Anastasia is Associate Professor of Educational Psychology, College of Education and Human Development. Panagiota is Assistant Professor of Biostatistics/Epidemiology, College of Health and Human Services. Thomas is lecturer of Computer Science. Nada is Associate Professor of Instructional Design and Technology, College of Education and Human Development.
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Author:Dabbagh, Nada
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Date:Dec 22, 2006
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