Revival – on a path to expertise

It’s time to revive my blog after many months of silence. I have been absorbed by my studies, and as blog postings have not been included in the tasks of the courses I’ve attended, I have been neglecting the blog simply due to having to prioritize things. Though, in hindsight, I think that blogging has been a good way to reflect my learning: writing about the things that you have learned or are currently processing, I’ve notices, has been a good way to check up on or verify your own understanding about the things you are learning – when putting your thoughts into words you realize what are the possible gaps in your understanding and what needs further processing.

Mentoring process from the mentor’s perspective

During this spring I as a second year LET student have been acting as a mentor for the first year students. Me and Daniel, my fellow 2nd year student, had six 1st year students in our mentoring group. The first meeting with them was earlier this year, in which we got to know each other, and also importantly, hear the mentees wishes about things they would like to know of and learn more. This was important as me and Daniel as mentors wanted to identify their needs and structure the mentoring process in accordance with those needs, the main objective being that the mentoring process would help the mentees in acquiring the information and skills they need on their path in developing their expertise.

Based on the mentees’ wishes and needs Daniel and me planned the following activities. We tried to make the activities varied to keep up the interest of the mentees, and also get them involved. That is, it would not be only me and Daniel who would be providing all the information, but we all would be exploring and building up knowledge together.

  Description and procedure Objectives
Jigsaw discussion on articles related to expertise A jigsaw discussion will be held in the classroom to introduce and discuss the central topics and findings within each of the articles assigned by the teacher. Both mentors and mentees  will expand their views on mentoring and expertise, and practice a jigsaw discussion design
Expert´s introduction to new technologies for education Technology expert Jari Laru will be invited to give a brief presentation on two tools with educational affordances. Mentees will gain insights on both hardware and software to exploit in educational contexts.
Mentees´ technological tools presentations Mentee dyads will present a technological tool of their choice and its applications to the field of education. Both mentors and mentees will widen their views on technological tools applied to education.
LET graduate testimonials and future career path alternatives LET graduate and PhD student Pavi Thangaperumal and LET graduate Antonella Conte will briefly introduce their current work and link it to their experience as graduates of the LET program. Mentees will have possible career paths showcased in words of LET experts both within and without the academy.
Reference manager software tutorial: Mendeley Mentors will present a tutorial on how to use the Mendeley reference manager software for research purposes. Mentees will be acquainted with a deeply useful tool for developing their own research.
Norssi school visit: innovative educational environments Mentees will visit the Norssi school grounds and have the opportunity of observing the educational environment design and other features of the UBIKO cell.

 

Before the visit, mentor Kaisa will give a presentation about Finnish educational system.

Mentees will see for themselves an ongoing effort of the Finnish educational system to enhance the learning process of school-age students.
Research in video games and education Mentor Daniel will introduce his research with an online presentation into video games and education. Mentees will broaden their perspectives on the application of games for educational purposes, and as a possible research orientation.
Research in adaptive expertise in the working life Mentor Kaisa will introduce her research with a presentation on adaptive expertise in the working life. Mentees will broaden their perspectives on expertise both in and out of the academy, and as a possible research orientation.

From a mentor’s perspective, the mentoring process is not only about giving, although you have to invest your time and resources in identifying the mentees’ needs, planning the activities to answer those needs, and make the practical arrangements. As a mentor you also receive, not only the joy of being able to help others, but also new information and rehearsal in your skills. I truly enjoyed the mentees’ as well as Jari’s technological presentations about different technological tools and their application in educational settings, as well as Pavi’s and Antonella’s presentations about future career opportunities after LET studies.

Instructional system design

Especially Antonella’s presentation about instructional system design (ISD) hit home because it is close to the thing I would want to do in my future career-wise. Basically, ISD is “a practice of creating instructional experiences which make the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient, effective, and appealing. The process consists broadly of determining the state and needs of the learner, defining the end goal of instruction, and creating some intervention to assist in the transition. Ideally, the process is informed by pedagogically (process of teaching) and andragogically (adult learning) tested theories of learning and may take place in student-only, teacher-led or community-based settings.”

Trendspotters_ISD Model (Medsker)

In my previous posts I have probably mentioned at least at some point that I would be interested in HR-related tasks and helping people develop their expertise. When listening to Antonella I realized that this is one way of doing it at the same time being able to make use of the know-how and skills learned in the LET studies as well as in working life. ISD is a process in which the need is analyzed and a solution is generated and implemented – phases very familiar to any type of project really. Also, it requires theoretical understanding of how people learn, and also how technological tools can be made use of in that – the things we have been taught during the LET studies.

Looking back at the studies I realized that we have actually carried out a project similar to the phases of ISD when we (a group of students) created a learning solution for a company that was shifting to team-based working and were faced with some challenges in that. But I will be writing about that project on another post later on..

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Peer mentoring in higher education

During the spring semester 2015 I have taken part in a mentoring process where the 2nd year LET students have acted as mentors and we 1st year students have been the mentees. This is what is commonly called peer mentoring or simply peer tutoring, which typically focuses on a more experienced or advanced student(s) helping less experienced  student(s). In peer mentoring the more experienced student helps a less experienced student to improve overall academic performance while at the same time the process supports mentors’ personal growth, and provides advice, support, and knowledge to the mentee (Colvin and Ashman, 2010).

I discussed my experiences of informal mentoring in work life in my post “Mentoring as a form of developing your expertise”. In that post I reflecting my experiences of when I was a young and inexperienced project manager at the start of my career, and received some valuable advice and help from the more experienced colleagues. Taking part this spring in a formal mentoring process, in which other students act as mentors, was an interesting and also a surprising experience. Compared to informal mentoring, in formal mentoring I felt that I’m responsible for fulfilling my role as a mentee in actively participating in the process. Also, the process itself was more reciprocal in that not only the mentees were the “receiving” party in it. In the peer mentoring process the student mentors and student mentees were equal in sharing thoughts, experiences and knowledge from different domains and thus contributing to our understanding and knowledge about what it means to be an expert in learning and educational technology.

Our mentoring process started in the beginning of the year when we in the first two meetings got to know each other better, discussed the mentoring  process, and thought of issues we would like to address during the process. In our group of three mentors and four mentees it was decided that the whole group would meet regularly. But in addition to that we also formed smaller sub-groups of one mentor and 1-2 mentees to ensure that a more close and personal relations would be formed between the mentor and mentee.

In the joint meetings of the big group we had presentation of the educational systems of our home countries. It was very interesting to hear about the educational systems, and realize how different they actually are. I started to appreciate the Finnish educational system all the more as it provides equal and many opportunities to all (compared to many other countries) which we Finns take more or less for granted.

In the smaller sub-group I had Pavi as my mentor, and Hany was the other mentee. Over a cup of coffee we have been discussing our thesis processes, our LET studies, experiences, expectations and goals, as well as emotions towards these. The discussion have provided valuable new perspectives on these issues, and help taking the next steps into attaining expertise.

Our mentoring group

On an outing – Pavi, me and Hany.

Peer mentoring roles, risks and benefits

According to a study about roles, risks, and benefits of peer mentoring relationships in higher education, Colvin and Ashman (2010) found that there are five specific roles of mentors: connecting link, peer leader, learning coach, student advocate, and trusted friend. A connecting link is a student that helps other students inside and outside of class to get involved with their campus and education. Mentors as peer leaders show leadership qualities in motivating and guiding their mentees. A learning coach helps students identify learning strengths and styles and achieve their potential. In the role of learning coach, peer mentors teach students important academic as well as life skills. The student advocate role is related to the peer mentor being a helper, mostly in being a liaison between the student and the instructors and helping the students with their academic and personal needs.

Colvin and Ashman’s (2010) study indicate that peer mentoring benefit both sides of the mentoring relationship. Mentors value being able to support, help out, or uplift the mentees. They also appreciate the chance of getting involved with others in the program and developing friendships through the mentoring process. Additionally, mentoring can allow mentors to reapply concepts into their own lives and help them become even better students themselves. Interesingly, in the study, majority of women’s comments focused on relationships, and the majority of men’s noted grades and overall academic performance, not just for the students they worked with but also for mentors themselves.

Mentees also considered having mentors beneficial in helping with their class work and connecting them to campus. The next most often expressed benefit for mentees was individual attention, on having a friend or someone to help them one on one.

Instructors, peer mentors, and students all saw some risk or challenge in maintaining a peer mentor relationship. Comments from mentors focused on their personal lives, interactions with students, and interactions with the instructors. Balancing both the specific requirements and personal desire to do well as mentors with time and other commitments was seen challenging. Mentors also felt that there is a risk of rejection if students didn’t accept them, or conversely, the students being too dependent on the mentor.

Mentees saw risks and challenges in working with a peer mentor through two aspects: the role the mentor was fulfilling and the relationship that occurred. Considering the role of the mentor, the mentees either worried about being too dependent about the mentor, or the mentor bothering them too much when they did not need help. Relationship challenges were seen as either not feeling the relationship close enough to enable open communication with the mentor, or the mentees were worried about favoritism.

Some thoughts about peer mentoring process

After having experienced peer mentoring process from the side of a mentee, and after reading Colvin and Ashman’s article, I realise that although I felt being responsible for being “a good mentee”, the mentors must feel even more responsible and perhaps even pressure to do well in their role as a mentor. Although I highlighted how the peer mentoring process is quite reciprocal in sharing thoughts, experiences, knowledge and even feelings, it’s still the mentees needs that are focused on, and that mentors need to be very sensitive in seeing what they are, even if the needs are not expressed explicitly.

I feel that mentoring process is a very delicate one. What I mean is that there needs to be a mutual trust and respect between the mentor and mentee, shared understanding of the goals, and commitment to the process. If any of these aspect fail, so are the chances of the whole mentoring process to fail.

Not wanting to sound too grave, I don’t want to end this post by discussion of the risks and challenges of the peer mentoring process, but instead I want to bring out one more aspect of the process. And that’s FUN. I think one key issue for the mentoring process to succeed is the aspect of fun, that is, that the process would feel enjoyable for both the mentee and the mentor. If both are enjoying the process, rather than concentrating on fearing if they are able to fulfill their roles, the chances are that both will benefit from the process.

Last but not least I want to thank Pavi for being a great mentor to us! And also Hany, I really enjoyed our discussions. Together we had a laugh, but also learned something during it. 😉

References:

Colvin, J. & Ashman, M. (2010). Roles, Risks, and Benefits of Peer Mentoring Relationships in Higher Education. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 18(2), 121–134.

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Mentoring as a form of developing expertise

I remember myself years back as a young documentation project manager who had just started with the job. I had some previous knowledge about technical documentation and being a project member as I had worked as a technical writer for a couple of years, so I knew about the basics of what happens in a documentation project. However, I had no knowledge about all the responsibilities and tasks of a project manager.

At that time in our company we did not have any official competence transfer process, so there was no formal training for becoming a project manager. You just had to pick up the tasks and start doing them, and learn on the go, so to speak. If I was faced with tasks, processes, or problems I felt I could not cope with or solve by myself, I relied on the help from other more experienced project managers in the company, by asking them questions and their opinions. The more experienced project managers provided me with a lot of information or sources where to find answers, helped me in solving complex problems, and of course gave me the kind of emotional support so that I felt that I will manage and I’m doing the right things. During the first years this helped me to develop into a competent project manager, who is capable of acting very independently in different kinds of situations and projects.

I could say that the more experienced project managers acted as my mentors who guided and supported me on my path to becoming a skilled project manager. According to Anderson and Shannon (1988) (as cited by van der Weijden et al., 2014), mentorship can be defined as a process in which more skilled or experienced person serves a role of a model who teaches, sponsors and encourages a person who is less skilled or experienced and this way promotes the professional and /or personal development of that person. Mentoring can be a formal process, but also informal as in my case.

So I have had my own, and I must say very good experiences about being a mentee, which has had a great effect on my professional development. But before reading a couple of interesting articles, I had never realized how mentoring can be effective and helpful for children in addition to adults, and for mentors in addition to mentees.

Positive effects of mentoring

There is research about the positive effects of mentoring, both for the mentor and the mentee, and research also suggests that both young children and adults benefit from mentoring. Over the years several studies have shown the importance of mentorship. Ehrich et al. (2004) (as citec by van der Weijden et al., 2014) conducted a meta-review analysis of more than 300 research-based articles on mentoring in mainly education. Though mentoring sometimes suffers from lack of time and expertise, which is often the case in any project, the analysis showed that mentoring offers many far-reaching benefits for mentees as well as for mentors:

Mentoring mind map

Positive effects of mentoring as according to Ehrich et al. (2004)

Modelling as a form of mentoring

Nash and Shaffer Williamson (2011) studied one particular form of mentoring – modelling – and how it promotes professional thinking of the mentees. The study included middle-school age students and the mentoring took place through epistemic game called Urban Science. In the game it was studies whether mentors’ modeling of professional thinking contributed to players’ development of epistemic frame (that is, a profession’s particular way of seeing and solving problems) of urban planning through gameplay.

According to the results from the study, the epistemic frame that the players imitated during the game persisted after the game, and this serves as evidence that the players of Urban Science internalized professional thinking to the extent that they no longer needed the mentors’ scaffold. The professional thinking used by players went from being in the their zone of proximal development during the game to being within their actual development level by the time the game was finished.

Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development

Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development

While it is unclear when exactly this transformation (internalization) took place, there is evidence that the players of Urban Science began to achieve some autonomy in their ability to think as professionals, and that their autonomy was derived from their interactions with mentors. Thus it can be concluded that imitation of modeled behavior is one important step in the process of internalization.

I conclude based on my own experience and on the articles discussed above, that mentoring can have a strong effect on professional development, and potentially also in development of expertise. Mentoring is one path for learning, and I’m interested to see if this is something that will come up in my thesis where I plan to interview experts in trying to map their learning path to adaptive expertise.

If one is offered a possibility to a formal mentoring process, either as a mentee or mentor, it certainly must be worth to take. However, mentoring can also be more informal, and actually after remembering my past experiences and reading the articles, I was reminded that every encounter can be a learning experience. When you talk to and work with different people, whether they are your teachers, fellow students, colleagues, neighbours, relatives, or whoever, you can always take something with you from that encounter. For example, I have been talking about my thesis plans with my daugther’s friend’s mother, who happens to be in the process of writing her doctoral dissertation, and from those talks I’ve had many new ideas about what to do and how to proceed.

I conclude that learning truly is a social process and when you, with an open mind, talk to and work with different people, you are able learn a lot.

mentoring

References:

Nash, P. & Shaffer Williamson, D. (2011): Mentor modeling: the internationalization of modeled professional thinking in an epistemic game. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning.

van der Weijden, I. et al. (2014): How do young tenured professors benefit from a mentor? Effects on Management, Motivation and Performance.

 

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Teacher expertise and professional development

UBIKO

As part of our LET -studies we got an opportunity to visit Oulu University Teacher Training School (“Norssi”), and discuss UBIKO -project (which stands for ubiquitous technology enhanced learning) with Heikki Konturi who is a teacher in Norssi and was project manager for the project. UBIKO -project was mainly funded by Finnish National Board of Education, it was conducted between 2011 and 2013, and it included 110 4th and 5th grade students working together with their teachers.

The main idea in the project was to modify school life to the 21st century learning needs by addressing pedagogy, infrastructure and culture. Physical changes in the project were that 5 traditional classrooms were molded into a learning environment that would promote self-regulated learning and collaborative learning in students as well as to support and enhance team work among teachers.

UBIKO

UBIKO

But how does this kind of physical learning environment promote self-regulated learning and collaborative learning? In practice, in UBIKO pupils have a lot of choices related to their learning; for example the location, whether they want to learn by themselves (solo), with a pair or in groups, they have access to technology (e.g. iPads), and they can choose the level of support and challenge they want.  Communal places, for example, are thought to give opportunities to think and reason together, which enhances students collaborative skills as well as self-regulation skills (opportunities for co-regulation and socially shared regulation). Additionally, communal places are natural and creative places for shared expertise to both pupils and teachers.

luokka

This looks like a typical Finnish elementary school classroom.

I have to say that I loved the new kind of learning environment! It is so different from the typical class I had as a child; we sat in the same class, in front of our own school desks the whole year round. I’m sure that the children in UBIKO all love their learning environment, especially due to the fact that they are able to move, and have the freedom to choose themselves, for the most part, where and how they want to learn.

When walking around the UBIKO, I was thinking to myself that I wish work places could be something like this also. In many cases, in information work at least, us adults spend most of our days sitting in front of our own worktables staring at a computer screen. If we had working environments similar to UBIKO, I’m sure there would be a lot more opportunities to be more creative and a lot more collaboration and sharing of expertise would be possible. I remember that many times in my former workplace the most creative ideas were born and a lot of important information passed between people during the coffee breaks when we were all sitting in the kitchen sofas discussing freely with each other and having a laugh.

Anyhow, back to UBIKO -project. In addition to just changing the physical learning environment to promote SRL and CL is not enough. Teachers are in central role in this, as they are expected to obtain a new role in supporting the pupils’ SR processes instead of just teaching the subjects. This means a fundamental change in the pedagogical role of the teacher from a mere information giver to being a diagnostician, a challenger, a model, and an activator. They should be able to model metacognitive strategies for students, coach students in the acquisition of those strategies and fade their support when students become more proficient in their use (Collins et al., 1989, as citec by Bakkenes, Vermunt, & Wubbels, 2009). Teachers should be able to design assignments, supervise project groups, coach cooperative learning, assess skills of self-regulated learning, etc.

Teaching should always be based on research-based pedagogy. So what happens if school leadership decides to change the pedagogy of the schools, to for example promote self-regulated learning. Teachers are expected to adapt their way of teaching accordingly, and this makes them learners along all dimensions of Shulman and Shulman’s (2004, as citec Bakkenes, Vermunt, & Wubbels, 2009) model: they have to develop another vision on
learning and teaching, be motivated to learn about the new pedagogy, understand what the innovation is good for, develop skills to bring the innovation into practice, reflect on their experiments with the new pedagogy in order to learn, and form part of a community of teachers who all are learning new things.

Teacher learning in the context of educational innovation

Teachers are supposed to be experts in learning, and teachers are the most important agents in shaping education for students and in bringing about change and innovation in educational practices. Thus, it is of utmost importance to develop the professional expertise of teachers.

There is a multitude of studies about how teachers could and should promote student learning, but not so many about teacher learning. A study conducted by Bakkenes, Vermunt, & Wubbels (2009) aimed at understanding teacher learning by studying learning activities of experienced teachers in the workplace. Their study was conducted among secondary school teachers within the context of a national innovation programme in Dutch secondary education which aimed at encouraging teachers to foster students’ ASRL (active and self-regulated learning). The study examined teachers’ learning activities and learning outcomes in the context of this educational innovation.

In the study six categories of learning activities, in which teachers engage when confronted with education innovation, emerged: “Experimenting” and ‘”considering own practice” were the learning activities teachers reported using most frequently. “Getting ideas from others” and “experiencing friction” were the next most frequently reported categories, followed by the categories “struggling not to revert to old ways” and “avoiding learning”.

Teachers reported learning mostly through experimentation and reflection on their own teaching practices. They seem to learn much less by external input like the ideas from others, such as colleagues or authors of professional literature. Yet, there appear to be large individual differences among teachers in the learning activities they employ.

Learning outcomes were represented by four main categories: “changes in knowledge and beliefs”, “changes in emotions”, “changes in intentions for practice”, and “changes in actual teaching practices”.  (These main categories included several subcategories.) The teachers mainly reported changes in knowledge and beliefs and in emotions, and hardly any changes in teaching practices. However, intentions for practice were often reported, which can be seen as precursors of change in actual practices.

The extent and the way in which teachers’ learning activities were related to the types of learning outcomes were found to be the following:

  • “Experimenting” was associated primarily with the Intention to Continue New Practices, Confirmed Ideas, Positive Emotions, and Surprise.
  • Of all learning activities, “considering own practice” turned out to be associated with the most learning outcomes, especially with Awareness, Change to New Practices, Intention to Continue Current Practices and Intention to Try New Practices.
  • “Getting ideas from others” mainly yielded new ideas and the intention to do
    something in practice with those ideas.
  • “Experiencing friction” often was associated with Negative Emotions and Surprise.
  • Finally, “struggling not to revert to old ways” mainly showed associations with Back to Old Practices and Confirmed Ideas.

Bakkenes, Vermunt, & Wubbels (2009) also studied how teachers’ learning activities and learning outcomes are connected to the type of learning environment they were in. Teachers in informal workplace learning environments reported relatively often that they considered their practice, experienced negative emotions and continued current (old) practices. They reported little experimenting, surprise, and new ideas compared to the groups in organized learning environments.

Teachers in organized learning environments (reciprocal peer-coaching and collaborative
project groups) reported relatively often that they experimented and got new ideas, and relatively little experience of negative emotions. Besides, teachers participating in
reciprocal peer-coaching reported relatively often that they struggled not to revert to old ways and experienced surprise. Thus, organized learning environments (reciprocal peer-coaching, collaborative project groups) did seem to elicit qualitatively better learning activities and outcomes than informal learning in the workplace.

Adaptive expertise

After visiting UBIKO and reading the article from Bakkenes, Vermunt, & Wubbels,  Teacher learning in the context of educational innovation: Learning activities and learning outcomes of experienced teachers” (2009), I could not help but to think that teachers have quite a challenge in head of them in adapting to new way of teaching (or should I say, helping students to learn) now that in Finland curriculum is reformed. I wonder how prepared the teachers are to adapt to the changes, and how prepared The National Board of Education and/or other instances are to give concrete instructions and support to the teachers.

I think that it’s often the case that there are great visions and strategies, excellent research and accurate theories, but too often also a lack or even failure to give practical examples and instructions how to adapt these to the common life and work environment. I wonder if the case with the curriculum reform is that schools and teachers are expected to develop suitable practices themselves. If this is the case, there is certainly a great need for adaptive expertise.

Based on research adaptive expertise is characterized by flexibility, innovation and ability to adapt in new and challenging conditions. Research has shown that adaptive experts are more flexible in using knowledge, they see problem solving as an opportunity to broaden their expertise, they tolerate ambiguity, and adapt in uncertain and changing situation. Research on adaptive expertise has also shown that adaptive experts are more prepared and willing to learn from new situations and that they are successful learners who are able to constantly learn throughout their lives.

Considering curriculum reform and teacher learning in this context, merely skilled experts may face difficulties in adapting to a new pedagogy and may be tempted to revert to old ways of teaching if they are not able to understand and make connections between the new theory and practice. Normal working environment may not be powerful enough for the teachers to learn a new pedagogy, but would require a community of teachers (possibly together with the theorists, administration, and students) to share expertise.

There is research based evidence that expertise can be developed in collaboration and especially in collaborative problem solving. So to support teachers, I think collaborative work is called for to share experiences, views, best practices, and solve problems together. Also the study of Bakkenes, Vermunt, & Wubbels (2009) showed that organized learning environments (reciprocal peer-coaching, collaborative project groups) did seem to elicit qualitatively better learning activities and outcomes than informal learning in the workplace.

The question is how this could be organised, as there are usually the problems of limited time and lack of resources, which is often the case in any organisation or company, which hinders the sharing of expertise efficiently. One possible solution to this could be technology to enhance learning and sharing of expertise. For example, social media tools could provide an adequate platforms to share information, interact and keep in contact with other experts.

As an example, I came across a blog post of a teacher who had read through the newly approved curriculum for 2016 (OPS 2016). He had made his own interpretation of it, and made a comprehensive list of what he thought 1. had been removed, 2.what there will be less of, 3. what continues, 4. what there will be more of, and 5. what is completely new in the new curriculum compared to the previous one. (Here’s a link to the post, it’s only in Finnish though, sorry.) However, this is a great example of how to share knowledge and help out other teachers in interpreting the new curriculum.

curriculum

References: Bakkenes, I., Vermunt, J. D. & Wubbels, T. (2010). Teacher Learning in the context of educational innovation: Learning activities and learning outcomes of experienced teachers. Learning and Instruction, 20, 533-548.

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Implementing interventions and assessing SRL

Planning

During the upcoming week we are going to be dwelling on the subject on how to implement effective interventions and how to assess SRL. So I’m anticipating that we will get information about how students can be helped to learn to regulate their learning and with it, practical suggestions for teachers how to teach and support SRL in students, all this grounded in the recent research about the interventions that have been found most useful and and effective. In addition, I anticipate that we are going to learn about different methods to assess SRL, and how we could apply that in our own studying and work.

My group also has to work on planning the teaching session the be held for the other course participants. So this week I really have to concentrate on that. I plan to attend the lecture about interventions and assessment of SRL and make the ICE notes, but I have to leave the articles to be read later on when I have finished all the other urgent tasks.

Three main points from the articles

Dignath, C., Buettner, G., Langfeldt, H-P. (2008). How can primary school students learn self-regulated learning strategies most effectively? A meta-analysis on self-regulation training programmes.

1. SRL among young children. A large amount of research has been conducted about how to make learning more efficient in the knowledge based society that requires new kind of competencies than before. During the last 30 years the construct of SRL has been developed to meet these new requirements. In SRL research the focus has been on how learning functions (focusing on the learner’s cognitive and motivational processes) as well as on how instructions function (focusing on the interaction between learner and instructor in a social environment).

Research has given empirical evidence that young children can and do engage in activities to self-regulate their learning. According to Dignath, Buettner and Langfeldt (2008) “the major advantage of training children how to self-regulate their learning is that during these first crucial years in school, students set up learning and self-efficacy attitudes, which are easier to change than when students have already developed disadvantageous learning styles and learning behaviour.”

Empirical studies have shown that students can develop strategies based on their experiences, but that strategy construction can also be guided to develop SRL strategies. However, instructing and training students about learning strategies at the first years of elementary school is still rare, thus leading to lack of metacognitive knowledge among young children.

2. Main effects of SRL interventions. The meta-analysis conducted by Dignath, Buettner and Langfeldt (2008) examined self-regulated learning interventions’ effectiveness on primary school students’ academic performance, strategy use, and motivation. It also investigated the effect of the different training characteristics on the effectiveness of the intervention.

The results of the meta-analysis showed that self-regulated learning training programmes have a positive effect on learning outcomes, strategy use, and motivation even for primary school childrenThe highest benefits from the analyzed interventions can be gained in mathematics performance (effects were higher for mathematics than for
reading and writing), motivational outcomes, as well as the use of cognitive and metacognitive strategies. These results revealed that young children benefit more in strategy use and motivation than primary school students in higher grades do.

The results of the meta-analysis conducted by Dignath, Buettner and Langfeldt differ to some extend compared to the findings of the meta-analysis conducted by Hattie et al. in 1996. In meta-analysis by Hattie et al. the highest effects of intervention was found to be on performance, and the lowest on motivation and study skills. In addition, academic performance attained the highest effect in the meta-analysis of Hattie et al., whereas the average effect size was higher for cognitive and metacognitive skills than for academic performance in the meta-analysis of  Dignath, Buettner and Langfeldt. These differences in the results could be explained by age differences, since the studies used in the meta-analysis by Hattie et al. were conducted with older students or adults.

3. Inferences drawn from the meta-analysis results by Dignath, Buettner and Langfeldt (2008) suggest that:

  1. A training programme should be based on social-cognitive theories
    • The interventions, which were based on social-cognitive theory or a combination of social-cognitive and metacognitive theories, led to the highest effect sizes, while interventions which were based on motivational theories reached only low effects. In the social-cognitive perspective, social factors play a significant role in cognitive development, which might be best suited to young children’s learning.
  2. A training programme should train cognitive (especially elaboration and problem solving strategies), metacognitive (especially planning strategies), and motivational strategies (especially feedback)
    • The highest effects were found for interventions that combined the instruction of different types of strategies. Interventions should be integrative and consider various different aspects of learning, including metacognitive and motivational aspects.
  3. A training programme should provide knowledge about strategy use and about its benefit
    • The highest effect sizes were found for interventions which provided students’ with knowledge about strategies and benefits of applying the strategies, or additionally also stimulated metacognitive reasoning.
    • Most effective training programmes provided students with feedback about their (strategic) learning. In addition, the instruction of action control strategies influenced positively students’ strategy use. This is related to the strategies of metacognitive reflection, and might be most efficient because it is very close to the concrete learning content and strategy use.
  4. Programme developers should emphasize the implementation of group work.
    • Effect sizes were significantly higher for interventions that did not train students by group work than for those that did. In the studies that were included in the meta-analysis only very little information about the implementation of group work in the learning settings were found. Thus, a possible reason for the negative effect of group work on training effects at primary school level might be that students were not used to working in groups and did not receive enough instruction about cooperative learning.
    • Primary school students may not yet have the competencies to work efficiently in groups and thus need instructions about cooperation. Therefore, researchers and trainers should give instructions of group work strategies before and during using this method.

Dignath, Buettner and Langfeldt  (2008) remind that there are several questions concerning the implementation of training programmes by teachers that remain unanswered and require further investigation. Also, further research should be made about the differences of instructing self-regulated learning to younger and older students in order to improve interventions and to make them suitable for the different needs of students at different ages.


Panadero, E., & Alonso-Tapia, J. (2013) Self-assessment: Theoretical and practical connotations. When it happens, how is it acquired and what to do to develop it in our students.

1. Self-assessment as part of self-regulation. Self-assessment can be viewed from two perspectives; firstly, it can be seen as instructional process that teachers initiate for students to assess their work in school, and secondyl, as a self-regulatory process exerted by the students themselves to evaluate their own learning process. Self-assessment is a self-reflective process through which students can evaluate their learning process (during and after it) and final products, and thus develop their learning skills based on their “lessons learned”.

According to Panadero “self-assessment is the qualitative assessment of the learning process, and of its final product, realized on the basis of pre-established criteria”. (Panadero and Alonso-Tapio, 2013) This refers to the fact that students should set goals based on the assessment criteria before starting the task or activity, thus it is easier to self-regulate during learning and also assess how the goals are reached. Assessment criteria can be 1. set by the teacher, 2.  set externally but accepted internally by the student, or 3. criteria can be set by the student.

Goals and assessment criteria should be clear because this can enhance student motivation, feeling of control over the tasks (knowledge of what is expected of them), and gives opportunity to better self-regulation.

2. How self-assessment is acquired. Self-assessing different tasks and phases in one’s learning is complex, and should thus be taught and supported by teachers.

The conditions needed for self-assessment are:

  • awareness of the value (usefulness for learning) of self-assessment,
  • access to criteria the assessment is based on (the students should know the criteria before starting the task, so they can set goals, monitor their progress during the execution, and assess their success after finishing the task),
  • tasks assessed need to be specific (if a task is not well-defined, it will complicate self-assessment).

The instructional aids to promote self-assessment are:

  • self-assessment modelling (watching a model, an “expert”, perform the task),
  • direct instructions and assistance (give instructions for and feedback on the student’s performance),
  • cues to help to know when to self-assess (by giving instructions and also modelling),
  • practice (training self-assessment in various contexts and tasks, e.g. in reading, writing and problem solving situations),
  • opportunities to review and improve (detecting mistakes, and being allowed to correct them, improves performance).

3. Instructional help for self-assessment. There are three major types of instructional help that promote self-assessment:

  1. Self-grading or self assessment without specified assessment criteria, in which students assess or grade their performance at the end of the tasks without assessment criteria.
  2. Self-assessment using rubrics. Rubric is a tool that explicitly states the assessment criteria, and thus helps the students to evaluate their performance against the criteria.
  3.  Self-assessment through using scripts, which are  a set of questions  organised systematically and focus on the process of performing a task.

In self-grading, when assessment criteria is not given in advance, the students self-assessment is not accurate and self-regulation skills are not likely to develop. By contracts, rubrics and scripts promote self-assessment as they give the assessment criteria based on which the students can assess their progress.

If students are given the assessment criteria before starting the task (not just after finishing it), the students have a better opportunity to set goals for themselves based on the assessment criteria, choose their learning strategies, monitor (assess) and modify the strategies during the execution of the task, and finally assess their success in reaching the goals after finishing the task, which also helps them to develop their learning skills and use them effectively in the next tasks to come.

ICE notes

ICE 1How can SRL be studied? SRL is an internal process, so how can it be reliably measured as we usually have to make inferences about SRL based on external cues (such as behavior). I would suspect that this is especially hard regarding young children as, compared to adults, they are not yet able (mature enough) to recognise the features of SRL in themselves and talk about these, as adults would. Though, there are of course differences among adult as well to what extend they are aware of SRL processes and thus able to discuss them.

Quite often young childrens’ behavior is observed to draw inferences about SRL, but how valid conclusions can one make about SRL based on external cues. Take for example the well-known Marshmallow test:

Surely one can see that some children are better able to resist the temptation of a marshmallow than others for a period of time. But what are the conclusion that one can draw from a test like this, done in a test environment, about the childrens’ self-regulation; are the children who can resist the marshmallow better self-regulators, and if so, does this transfer to other domains (such as reading, writing, or problem solving) in real life, and does this preserve over time?

Contrasting to observing behavior, SRL can be studied based on the study subjects’ own reports of their SRL through, for example, surveys and interviews. Some obvious problems that comes to my mind is that to what extend are the study subjects (even if they were aduls) able to recognise SRL processes in their own learning, and how truthfully they answer the questions. That is,  do the study subjects answer the questions based on how they view their SRL processes or rather how they would like to see themselves (the ideal).

So, SRL is not easy to measure and when conducting studies, it should be carefully considered that the study is as valid and reliable as possible. (A valid measure measures what it is supposed to, where as non-valid measure measures something that it was not supposed to, or is too narrow. Reliability has to do with the quality of measurement. In its everyday sense, reliability is the “consistency” or “repeatability” of the measures. Reliability problem surfaces when we are not able measure the true value but only the measured value that includes random error. ) Also, the sample size and composition should be meaningful, and it also needs to be considered whether the study is conducted in test environment or in “real world”.

My point above is, that one needs to be careful and critical when conducting research on SRL, and also when reading about and forming views of SRL based on different research made.

ICE 2There are different methods to measure SRL: self-report, observation of overt behavior, interview, thinking aloud protocols, traces of mental event and processes, learning diaries, case studies, which all have their good and bad sides. One should choose the research method(s) used that are in line with one’s research goals.

Lately I have been thinking about my thesis subject, and how I am going to collect the data for it. I’m interested in expertise, so my thesis will most likely be related to that. Though, I’m only at the beginning of my studies, and do not yet know so much about learning of expertise, so my plans for the thesis are not yet clearly defined. However, I think that the obvious choice for collecting the data is to interview (using semi-structured interview) different experts as I want to go deep in the experts’ minds in trying to understand the underlying factors of learning of expertise.

Of course, being able to interview only a limited number of experts for the thesis might pose a problem in the sense that to what extend the inferences made from the data can be generalised to and across other experts (external validity issue). However, I try to surpass some of the validity problems by choosing experts with different background variables (interview both men and women, from different age groups, and different domains of expertise). And what I really carefully need to consider, and do some studying about, is how to construct the semi-structured interview – what kind of questions need to be asked that will tap on the learning of expertise so that I would be really able to study and draw conclusions about it.

 Reflection

My planning for this solo phase succeeded in that I initially decided that due to schedule pressure (exams and group work in other courses) I will leave reading of the articles to the last week of studies before Christmas break. Prioritising and scheduling tasks helped me to concentrate on those ones that needed to be completed first before starting others.

One challenge I faced in this task was due to technical problems, namely, the bad connection when Mr. Ernerto Panadero was giving us a lecture online. Due to the nature of the subject that I find quite difficult (understanding different research methods and how to implement them), it was a pity that at some points it was really hard to follow the lecture. I could grab some ideas from the lecture, but some issues remained unclear to me, so I decided that I should look at the lecture slides again before writing ICE notes.

Overall, I think I have succeeded quite well on this course of Self-regulated learning. I know so much more about SRL now than I did at the beginning of the course, and I think I have started to see the big picture more and make connections between SRL, CL, and learning of expertise. Though, I’m sure that there is still a lot more to learn. 🙂

Considering my motivation and learning strategies, I’m quite happy how I did. There were some occasional drops in motivation, usually when faced with pressing schedules or issues (concepts or such) that were hard to understand. But, taking short breaks, breaking the tasks into smaller pieces, and scheduling helped to overcome motivational challenges. Also, as I find the subject of SRL to be very interesting and I want to understand it, it helped me to persevere in the face of challenges.

Reading many articles about SRL and writing about them to this blog really helped to understand what are the different factors that affect self-regulation and self-regulated learning (emotions, motivation, metacognition). I would have liked to spend some time in the classes to discuss the articles with the other students and the teachers. It would have been interesting to discuss what the others found to be the key points in the articles, and how they view SRL after reading the articles. Additionally, we could have discussed the issues we had trouble understanding, and hopefully this way the students and the teachers together could have helped to clarify those difficult issues.

In the future in my LET studies, I hope to further deepen my knowledge about SRL, CL, and learning of expertise. Now that I have gained knowledge about these issues, I hope I’m able to start forming relevant connections between them more and form a big picture about the features of an active and efficient self-regulated learner and learning, and what factors promote those in the best way.

References:

Dignath, C., Buettner, G., Langfeldt, H-P. (2008). How can primary school students learn self-regulated learning strategies most effectively? A meta-analysis on self-regulation training programmes. Educational Research Review, 3, pp. 101-129

Panadero, E., & Alonso-Tapia, J. (2013). Self-assessment: Theoretical and practical connotations. When it happens, how is it acquired and what to do to develop it in our students. Electronic Journal of Research in Educational Psychology, 11(2), 551-576.

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SRL, CL and learning of expertise in real life situations

My mind has been occupied by self-regulation, collaboration and expertise to a great deal lately, as we have been studying those issues, and I’ve been discussing these issues also outside classroom. I have been talking with some of my friends and my family members about what self-regulated learning comprises of, and how it and collaborative learning can enhance learning of expertise.

Enhancing SRL on traditional lectures

With a friend of mine, who teaches accounting in University of Oulu, we discussed how they have huge lectures with around 100 or more students. This is a typical situation in teaching in university, that you have mass lectures and at the end of the course you have an exam. And typically, the students start reading for the exam at the end of the course, not minding it too much during the course.

On the said accounting course, in addition to lectures, the students are given optional assignment (home work), and by doing those tasks they can earn extra points for the exam/final grade. The trick is that the students have to read the course material to be able to do the given tasks, so they engage in reading and learning the issues and applying them during the course, thus they also perform better in the exam. And that being said, based on the feedback from the students’ on that course they also themselves found the assignments to be really helpful in understanding better the theories taught on the mass lectures.

Teaching large groups is always a challenge, and I think adding the optional home work to complement the lectures is a good idea. But how could this be still improved? Perhaps giving the students feedback on the assignments and giving them a change to improve their home work tasks based on the comments. In addition, the assignments could be done in small groups instead of as solo work. Maybe also the students could be asked to set goals for themselves at the beginning of the course, and advising them to reflect on their progress during the course, and reflecting their success in attaining those goals after taking the exam and finishing the course.

As said, teaching large groups is a challenge, and sometimes you just have to have those mass lectures. But maybe by little additions to the mass lectures, as mentioned above, there is a change to support the students’ learning better, and to enhance their self-regulated – and collaborative learning.

Enhancing learning of expertise in work life

My husband works as a software developer and is a scrum team master.  Scrum is an iterative and incremental agile software product development in which development team works as a unit to reach a common goal. At the beginning of the sprint, that lasts for 2-4 weeks, the team chooses which features or components they are going to work on during that period. This method enables teams to self-organize by encouraging physical co-location or close online collaboration of all team members, as well as daily communication among all team members and disciplines in the project.

scrum

We discussed how at the beginning of each sprint (or iteration) the team chooses their goals for software development, discusses the progress during the sprint, and at the end of the sprint has a retrospective in which the team reflects on their success on reaching the goals.

So there are already some elements of self-regulation and socially shared regulation and/or co-regulation, as the team decides upon and commits to common goals, and they work together to reach those goals, the actual production process including both co-operative and collaborative phases.

But the goals are only limited to the development of the software. We were thinking that perhaps they could add also personal goals and even team goals to the process, and reflect also those at the end of the sprint; were the personal goals reached, were the team goals reached, what went well and what could be improved.

The team member obviously need to have at least some basic self-regulation skills as well as knowledge about working together, as without any it would be impossible for them to work in a scrum team. But I think that adding personal and team goals to the process would further advance their SR skills, team collaboration and most of all each team member’s development of expertise.

Of course, what each team member will learn depends on the goals they set for themselves, but I suspect that many of them would set such goals that are related to deeper knowledge and understanding of the functionality of the software they are building, thus this will promote their expertise in the field of software development. At least this is what I would do in my profession as a project manager (I’ve been doing that job for over 10 years); I would set myself goals through which I would gain more knowledge and deeper understanding about project management to be more skillful and efficient in my profession.

Learning of expertise is something that I’m very interested in, and I’m planning to write my thesis related to this. In addition, I’m hoping that in my future job I could be involved in promoting employees professional growth and path towards expertise somehow (maybe a job related to HR in some way).

In my previous post I talked about how I think SRL, CL, and learning of expertise are intertwined. I think good abilities in self-regulation and collaborative learning can be a pathway to expertise, not only in school environment, but can also be applied in working life. So, I’m eager to learn even more about these topics, and hope to be able to apply them in work life after my studies, not only personally, but to help other people in that in some way or another.

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SRL, CL and learning of expertise intertwined

On our Learning Theory and Pedagogical Use of Technology -course we have been going deeper into the three theoretical viewpoints on learning: self-regulated learning, collaborative learning, and learning of expertise, and discussed also the possibilities to support such learning with technology. I’ve discussed all of the three theoritical viewpoints in my previous posts also, but I would like to highlight some issues that I’ve recently been pondering more about.

Learning is a social process

Learning is a social process, because learning is affected by the environment and other contextual variables that might strengthen or hinder learning of the individual. People learn in participation with others in social systems, whether formal or informal. Learning requires social support, like modelling, scaffolding or other types of support like strategy use, metacognitive monitoring and information processing.

PLE’s supporting self-regulated learning

PLEs (Personal Learning Environments) can be applied in order to enhance learners’ self-regulated learning. Student can be gradually introduced to PLEs.

In the first phase a PLE works as a personal information management tool (or more specifically, a collection of tools) that the student can use as a personal information production platform, a private learning environment, where she can rehearse setting goals and planning. In the next phase, social interaction and collaboration is added to the mix. The student begins to communicate with others, and the private learning environment is turned into a social learning space. In it, the student can rehearse self-monitoring and help-seeking. In the third and final phase, the PLE develops into information aggregation and management tool in which the student is practicing self-regulation and self-evaluation and adapting her learning.

So, PLE promotes collaboration and social networking, as well as informal learning in addition to formal learning. Along the way student develops into an active and engaged learner who is responsible for her own learning, which is the aim of becoming a self-regulated learner.

Advantages that technology provides for collaborative learning

Contemporary technology can provide means that enhance learning, and collaborative learning in particular. Firstly, it removes the traditional barriers of time and space. It also provide similar opportunities for all learners. Learning can be synchronous or asynchronous, asynchronous being especially helpful for the students to learn at their own pace. By technological means, same skills can be rehearsed and learned as in face to face situations, such as negotiation, critical reflection, and consensus building. Also, learning through technology is social.

Collaborative learning is successful when group members are able to negotiate and agree on a joint task and they are all committed to work together to achieve the socially agreed goals. Group members should be equal and have mutuality in influence. Everyone should be motivated and committed to the jointly agreed goal.

There can be a range of challenges in collaborative learning from motivation, emotions, communication, to working styles, learning habits, even cultural differences, but if the group members are aware of this, and are able to negotiate and compromise, they are likely to succeed.

I think to be successful in collaborative work, one needs to be a good self-regulated learner as well. A self-regulated learner can set herself learning goals, and choose strategies how to reach those goal. During the learning process, the learner is aware and regulates motivation, emotions and cognition, and also monitors how she is progressing. If there are problems, the student can adapt the strategies. When the learning task is done, student evaluates and reflects on the learning progress and outcome if she was successful or not, and can readjust strategies in the next task.

Being a self-aware learner helps also in collaborative learning situations, and probably the learner is also able to regulate her motivation, emotions and behavior in collaborative learning situation, but most likely also others (co-regulate and engage in socially shared regulation).

What I think is crucial about Web2.0 tools and how they can affect learning, is that they promote social interaction and learning through building knowledge together. The important thing is how the given technological tool(s) affects the learners’ thinking and engage them in progressive information processing and aggregation, and problem solving.

You can take a look at this video that I came across in YouTube to get a better idea of what I’m on about:

Learning of expertise

I was talking about progressive information processing and aggregation as well as problem solving. These are features that I think marks the experts.

Experts differ from novices on how they approach new information or challenging problems and what they are trying to do with it. An expert tries to understand the nature of the new information or problem, see beyond the obvious, and try to extend her existing competence in order to find the best possible solution.

Experts approach new information with an open mind, thinking that there probably is more to learn that you could imagine in the first outset. They assume that there are important things to learn, though they yet would not be able to distinguish what that is. They are also aware not to make simplistic assumptions, but watch for the complicating factors. So instead of relying on the best-fit match, experts rely on a sort of a knowledge-building schema, a frame for progressive solving of knowledge problem which results in new knowledge and deeper understanding.

Rarely in today’s world an expert can work alone. In work life there are expert groups who solve problems together, create new knowledge and innovate. Experts learn from each other when joining forces, and can solve very complex problems together that they probably could not alone. This is the same in education as well, people (students, teachers, and other interest groups) have different expertise, and combining this, they can learn from each other, deepen their knowledge, and create new knowledge.

During this course I have come to the conclusion that self-regulated learning, collaborative learning and learning of expertise have a strong correlation, being intertwined and each supporting the other. Adding technology into the mix (especially highlighting how it promotes social interaction and can affect people’s thinking) opens up a new dimension for learning, offering both vast opportunities but also, not to forget, its own challenges.

To finish my deliberation on a lighter note, I want to leave you with a video we did on a small group, which summarises the themes (SRL, CL and learning of expertise) on our Learning Theory and Pedagogical Use of Technology -course.

Jingle bells, jingle bells…

References:

Bereiter, C. and Scardamalia, M. (1993). Surpassing ourselves: an inquiry into the nature and implications of expertise. Chicago : Open Court, cop. 1993.

Dewiyanti, S., Brand-Gruwel, S., Jochems, W., & Broers, N. J. (2007). Students’ experiences with collaborative learning in asynchronous computer-supported collaborative learning environments. Computers in Human Behavior, 23(1), 496-514.

Järvenoja, H. & Järvelä, S. (2009) Emotion control in collaborative learning situations: Do students regulate emotions evoked by social challenges? British Journal of Educational Psychology, 79, 463-481.

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