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Self-regulation of field-based writing.


This paper describes a field-based project focused on sell-regulation of the writing process. Undergraduate teacher education students engaged in the self-regulated learning process through planning, composing, and reviewing of written text. Through teacher modeling and independent practice, teacher education students learned to compose a project report that they then revised and rewrote based on self-evaluation and instructor-evaluation information. Course evaluation indicated that several teacher education students designated the field-based project as an effective teacher preparation assignment, despite extensive demand for time and effort investment.


Even though most academic writing activities are assigned rather than self-initiated, academic writing like professional writing require self-regulation, a process whereby individuals set goals that they attempt to achieve by monitoring, regulating, and controlling their thoughts, feelings, and actions (Zimmerman, 2000). Students who activate self-regulatory mechanisms like planning, evaluating and revising stand a better chance at accomplishing their writing goals (Graham & Harris, 2000). Effective writing therefore requires integration of self-regulatory strategies for enhancing writers' composing skills.

This paper describes a field-based writing project that was implemented in a teacher education course in spring 2006 to assess 24 undergraduate students' ability to analyze teaching practices in secondary grade classes. A field-based project was implemented because Paris and Paris (2001) contend that project-based learning promotes self-regulated learning by expecting students to find information, coordinate actions, reach goals, and monitor understanding. The field-based project incorporated several features that Marx, Blumenfeld, Karjcik, and Soloway (1997) recommend for project-based learning. First, undergraduate students were expected to plan observations, conduct observations, collect data, analyze data, and draw inferences. Second, undergraduate students were required to design a rating scale and maintain anecdotal records of teaching practices. Third, undergraduate students were to collaborate with secondary school teachers and the teacher education course instructor to successfully complete their project.

Besides promoting self-regulated learning, the aforementioned project emphasized process-oriented writing advocated within Flower and Hayes' (1981) Cognitive Process Theory of Writing. In the process-oriented model, writing is categorized into three components: planning the text, translating ideas into text, and reviewing the text as it is written. The project facilitated teacher education students' writing by engaging them in the three composition processes. In conjunction with the phases of the process-oriented model, the project also incorporated three phases of Pintrich's (2004) self-regulated learning model: planning and activation of knowledge; monitoring of actions and outcomes; and reflection on task.

Planning and Activation Phase

Selected elements from Flower and Hayes' (1981) process-oriented model, generating information for the composition and organizing information retrieved from memory, were emphasized as planning processes to guide teacher education students' writing. Two forms of planning were involved in the field-based writing project. First, field observation component of the project was planned. Second, writing of the project report was planned.

Since the self-regulated learning model views learners as active participants in the learning process, learners are expected to regulate their cognition, behavior, motivation and context during the planning phase (Pintrich, 2004). To promote self-regulation of behavior and context, undergraduate students were provided with a letter of introduction to help find a fieldwork site. The students were responsible for contacting appropriate secondary grade schools, obtaining permission to observe in specific subject-area classes, scheduling time for field observation, and maintaining a record of observation hours by filing in time sheets. Additionally, cognitive self-regulation was facilitated by guiding undergraduate students' creation of a rating scale for recording data related to observed application of cognitive strategies (e.g., use of reference materials, use of visual images, and use of elaboration) and feedback strategies (e.g., complimenting students, correcting student errors, and answering student questions). Undergraduate students recorded teacher use of instructional strategies on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1--not used, 2 = used sometimes, 3 = used often, and 4 = used always. Finally, undergraduate students documented observed application of instructional strategies by taking notes, thereby ensuring self-regulated activation of procedural knowledge.

Planning of the project report, comparatively, required that teacher candidates review their observation notes and textbook chapters to generate and organize information. Zimmerman and Risemberg (1997) identify outlining as a self-regulatory process for creating and organizing written text. Therefore through teacher-led discussion, undergraduate students generated an outline and organized information into three sections: instructional setting (i.e., description of school and classroom features), lesson analysis (i.e., discussion of instructional activities and strategies), and reflection (i.e., discussion of strengths and limitations of observed lessons). Again, teacher candidates were afforded the opportunity to self-regulate the planning process through activation of procedural knowledge, specifically rehearsal and organization of content information. Thus self-regulated and process-oriented planning processes laid the foundation for the translating and monitoring phase.

Translating and Monitoring Phase

The translating process, as identified in the Cognitive Process Theory of Writing (Flower & Hayes, 1981), comprises of converting ideas into textual output. The process of transforming the outline into a written report was accomplished through undergraduate students working on their assignment at home. Since help seeking is an important self-regulation strategy and many students avoid seeking help from teachers to uphold their image of competence amongst peers (Schunk, 2005), teacher education students were asked to bring their written report for a class discussion focused on writing styles and strategies. Examples of student writing were used to illustrate accurate as well as inaccurate sentence structures, spellings, punctuations, organization of ideas, referencing of theoretical concepts, and expression of views. Students were then advised to continue work on their report at home by adhering to the Field-based Project Guidelines enumerated in their course syllabus. Upon completion of their report, undergraduate students self-evaluated one's written work with a Field-based Project Rubric and met with the course instructor for feedback. Self-evaluation of written work involved three types of review: (1) mechanics of written work (i.e., representation of grammar, punctuation, and spelling), (2) content of written work (i.e., description of instructional environment, teaching-and-learning activities, strategy application, and strengths and limitations of observed lessons), and (3) quality of written work (i.e., discussion of theoretical concepts, personal opinions, examples, and ratings). The course instructor provided two types of feedback: (1) errors were identified and corrected and (2) specific strengths and weaknesses were highlighted and suggestions for revision and rewrite enumerated. Undergraduate students then revised and rewrote their report.

Reviewing and Reaction Phase

The review and reaction phase, like the review process delineated in Flower and Hayes' (1981) Cognitive Process Theory, emphasized two sub-processes, evaluation and revision.

Evaluation Process

Flower, Hayes, Carey, Schriver, and Stratman (1986) describe the evaluation process as "a generative process built on the principle of a progressive enlargement of the goals and constraints one entertains" (p. 25). The evaluation process, which is portrayed from the perspective of the writer as well as the reader of a written text, involves two forms of review, detection of problem and diagnosis of problem. Since an important goal of writing instruction is development of writers who can monitor progress of written text, and because students do not spontaneously self-evaluate their capabilities, teachers can periodically engage students in assessing their progress in skill acquisition by providing guided instruction (Schunk, 2003). Teachers can plan assessment that encourages students to reflect on their work and provides opportunities for planning and regulating their own learning (Paris & Paris, 2001). Specifically, teachers can provide students with opportunities to self-evaluate through assessment measures like conferences, checklists, rating scales, questionnaires, journals, and learning logs (Carr, 2002). Self-evaluation therefore was implemented in the current plan to facilitate undergraduate students' ability to detect and diagnose problems within their report.

Teacher education students self-evaluated their written report for mechanics, content, and quality with a Fieldwork Project Rubric (see self-evaluation categories identified in the translation phase). Self-evaluation involved reading of one's written report and assignment of scores ranging from 0-5 for each criterion within the three categories, mechanics, content, and quality. A score of 0-1 = below average; 2-3--average; 4-5 = above average. Scores ranged from 0-20 for mechanic, 0-40 for content, and 0-40 for quality, resulting in a total score ranging from 0-100. Teacher candidates also identified the strengths and limitations of their written work and specified suggestions for revision. A rubric was selected as the preferred method of engaging students in the self-evaluation process because in recent years rubrics have received considerable endorsement from teachers, parents, and students not only as a tool for evaluating student work but also as a tool for promoting student learning and critical thinking. Additionally, because of its ability to clearly articulate the criteria corresponding to target writing assignments and the degree of reliability inherent within the feedback provided to the students regarding the strengths and limitations of written text, rubrics have emerged as an effective measure of evaluation and accountability (Andrade, 2000). Like Andrade, Schunk (2003) suggests that students complete a self-report scale and discuss their progress ratings with teachers for feedback. Teacher candidates therefore were instructed to critically evaluate their written report by completing the Fieldwork Project Rubric during the translating and monitoring phase and were provided feedback for improvement through review of the completed rubric with the course instructor. Based on their self-evaluation and follow-up conference with the course instructor, teacher education students revised and rewrote their project report.

Revision Process

As with the evaluation process, Flower and her colleagues (1986) identify Rewrite and Revise as two revision processes for dealing with detection and diagnosis of problems within written text. The rewrite strategy is used when (a) it is not important to save the original text, (b) the original text has several problems, and (c) the purpose of the text is clear and an alternative text can be generated easily. Conversely, the revise strategy is used when (a) the original text has to be saved, (b) the original text has few problems, and (c) the purpose of the text is unclear and an alternative text cannot be generated easily (Hayes & Flower, 1986; p. 1111). This paper emphasized the revise and rewrite processes specified above. Based on research evidence available from classroom applications of self-regulated writing strategies, Schunk (2003) suggests extensive use of models in the classroom, especially models who verbalize their actions and thoughts as they work on a task. Although revising is an important component of writing, many students do not revise their work because of ineffective knowledge of revision strategies. For effective modeling of the revision process, Schunk suggests that teachers "state their purpose of writing, then as they read aloud what they have written, evaluate whether it is focused on the purpose, clearly stated, and comprehensive" (p. 170). Accordingly, a whole class review of student reports was conducted to provide feedback about areas of strength and areas in need of revision. The course instructor modeled effective revision strategies by verbally evaluating the strengths and limitations inherent in student reports. Reports that did not meet majority of the criteria were revised by students for improvement of content, quality of writing, and correction of mechanics like spelling, grammar, and punctuation.


Upon completion of their teacher education course, undergraduate students were asked to anonymously evaluate the effectiveness of the field-based project. Student responses were evenly split, with 50 percent stating that the project was helpful and the other 50 percent claiming that the project did nothing to help them. Students who claimed that the project was beneficial stated that the assignment helped them (a) observe grades 712 classes in an analytic manner, (b) prepare for future teaching in grades 7-12 classes, (c) understand use of instructional strategies in grades 7-12 lessons, and (d) relate educational theories to observed classroom instruction. Comparatively, students who did not find the project helpful stated that the assignment was (a) too academic, (b) very time consuming, (c) superfluous, and (d) required a lot of information. Although some students claimed that the project was not helpful, their grievances related to the amount of time and effort that had to be invested for successful completion of the project rather than ineffectiveness of the project as a teacher preparation course.

Student evaluation of the project could be interpreted in terms of goal orientations that play a key role in self-regulation. Students' goal orientations are generally divided into mastery goals and performance goals. Mastery goals reflect a focus on acquisition of knowledge, skill, and competence, while performance goals involve a focus on demonstration of competence by outperforming peers. Mastery goals generally lead to an increase in positive emotions (e.g., excited when engaged in a task) and a decrease in negative emotions (e.g., nervous when engaged in a task), whereas performance approach goals are unrelated to positive emotions and increase in negative emotions (Schunk, 2005). Based on the distinction between mastery and performance goals and their relation to emotional states, it may be concluded that students with a mastery orientation possibly provided positive evaluations of the field-based project and students with a performance orientation seemed to have offered negative evaluations.


Andrade, H. (2000). Using rubrics to promote thinking and learning. Educational Leadership, 57, 13-18.

Carr, S. C. (2002). Self-evaluation: Involving students in their own learning. Reading and Writing Quarterly, 18, 195-199.

Flower, L. S., & Hayes, J. R. (1981). A cognitive process theory of writing. College Composition and Communication, 32, 365-387.

Flower, L. S., Hayes, J. R., Carey, L., Schriver, K., & Stratman, J. (1986). Detection, diagnosis, and the strategies of revision. College Composition and Communication, 37, 16-55.

Graham, S., & Harris, K. R. (2000). The role of self-regulation and transcription skills in writing and writing development. Educational Psychologist, 35, 3-12.

Hayes, J. R., & Flower, L. S. (1986). Writing research and the writer. American Psychologist, 41, 1106-1113.

Marx, R., Blumenfeld, P., Krajcik, J., & Soloway, E. (1997). Enacting project-based science. Elementary School Journal, 97, 341-358.

Paris, S. G., & Paris, A. H. (2001). Classroom application of research on self-regulated learning. Educational Psychologist, 36, 89-101.

Pintrich, P. R. (2004). A conceptual framework for assessing motivation and self-regulated learning in college students. Educational Psychology Review, 16, 385-407.

Schunk, D. H. (2005). Self-regulated learning: The educational legacy of Paul R. Pintrich. Educational Psychologist, 40, 85-94.

Schunk, D. H. (2003). Self-efficacy for reading and writing: Influence of modeling, goal setting, and self-evaluation. Reading and Writing Quarterly, 19, 159-172.

Zimmerman, B. J. (2000). Attaining self-regulation: A social cognitive perspective. In M. Boeckaerts, P. Pintrich, & M. Zeider (Eds.), Self-regulation: Theory, research, and applications (pp. 13-39). Orlando, FL: Academic.

Zimmerman, B. J., & Risemberg, R. (1997). Becoming a self-regulated writer: A social cognitive perspective. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 22, 73-101.

Alpana Bhattacharya, Ph.D., is assistant professor of educational psychology in the Secondary Education department at Queens College of the City University of New York.
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Author:Bhattacharya, Alpana
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Date:Dec 22, 2006
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