Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Strategy Use, Self-Regulation and Achievement

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Strategy Use, Self-Regulation and Achievement

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper reports on the students' awareness of their learning strengths and weaknesses and their awareness and use of learning strategies in a final-year high school biology class in New Zealand. Most students were aware of strategies that could help them to learn more effectively but did not always use this knowledge. Three case studies illustrate students' awareness of their learning needs, their knowledge and use of learning strategies and how they applied these strategies to tasks. Students who not only knew learning strategies but who could self-regulate their learning through selecting strategies, produced essays of higher quality.

Self-Regulated Learning

Recently the New Zealand Ministry of Education proposed a framework of key competencies to underpin the New Zealand school curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2005). These include principles associated with self-regulated learning such as reflective thinking, meaning-making and self-management. Potentially there are multiple ways (procedures) for tackling tasks which can be evaluated by the processes of forethought, performance control and self-reflection (Zimmerman, 2001). An emphasis on student self-regulation means teaching specific strategies so that students can self-evaluate their work. Teachers may need to model a range of learning processes or provide prompts to help students to know some of the possibilities. This is so that students increase their self-confidence through believing they have the "tools" to succeed (Kluwe, 1982). Through the use of learning strategies, individuals are likely to develop more responsible roles and enhance self-regulation (Alexander & Schwanenflugel, 1994).

Self-regulated learners are aware of their strengths and weaknesses and use this awareness to approach learning tasks strategically (Darr, 2005). However, students may know of learning strategies and therefore be aware of ways to learn more effectively, but may not actually use these strategies. Self-regulation requires the deliberate use of learning strategies. It is also likely that the extent of use varies among individuals and for any individual in different contexts. Of interest here though is the important question; do learners who strategically use learning strategies for self-regulation have higher achievement? This paper provides examples to show that students who used a combination of learning strategies to enable forethought, performance control and self-reflection, achieved higher essay scores than students who did not use as many of these strategies.

The Learning Context

The unit of work required students to independently research and write essays about bioethical issues associated with cancer. The high-stakes assessment for this section of the curriculum was an essay worth 20% in an external national examination. Therefore it was very important for students to develop skills in researching and essay writing, as well as develop their biological knowledge about cancer and an understanding of the bioethical implications of causes and treatments and social implications of these. Enquiry about bioethical issues requires students to articulate, question and evaluate their personal views about the issues. These self-questioning skills, especially linked to learning intentions are what we expect students to develop as self-regulated learners. Therefore this content context was considered to be very suitable for developing self regulation.

The usual class teacher continued to teach the class during the intervention. Cueing students to identify prior knowledge and next steps for inquiry was used to scaffold knowledge of content, issues clarification, issues analysis, and knowledge of learning processes. Students were expected to ask questions of themselves, their group and resource people, and then to refine these questions. Students also were expected to identify and process relevant information from a variety of sources and to evaluate the quality of information gathered and its degree of relevance. …

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