Using Self-Regulated Learning to Reflect on the Critical Commitments in Educational Psychology

By Vassallo, Stephen | Knowledge Cultures, March 2015 | Go to article overview

Using Self-Regulated Learning to Reflect on the Critical Commitments in Educational Psychology


Vassallo, Stephen, Knowledge Cultures


Introduction

Educational psychology is prominently featured in teacher preparation programs in the United States and has become a foundational feature of a teacher's knowledge base. The contributions to pedagogy, curricula, and policy from this field are generally assumed to improve teaching, learning, and success for all students. However, critics raise concern about the function of educational psychology in schooling, charging that it tends to be normalizing (e.g., Bird, 1999), value-laden (e.g., Kincheloe, 1999a), positivistic (e.g., Bruner, 1990), reductionist (e.g., Martin, 2004a), and could stifle pedagogical practice rather than advance it (Bird, 1999; Kincheloe, 1999b; Gallagher, 2003). Consequently, the application of education psychology is implicated in marginalizing students, silencing diverse ways of knowing, endorsing problematic ideologies, and reproducing inequality. The integration of critical theory can support efforts to address and mitigate some of these concerns. However, educational psychologists are lagging behind with their critical commitments (Bird, 1999; Martin, 2007). To offset this trend, a group of international scholars are committed to advancing critical educational psychology (CEP) (Billington, 2013; Burman, 2012; Corcoran, 2014; Kincheloe, 2005; Martin & McLellan, 2013; Sugarman, in press; Vassallo, 2013b). Although CEP can be conceptualized in different ways, it is defined here as a commitment to draw from multiple perspectives to illuminate ways that educational psychology is grounded in ethical, historical, political, cultural, and ideological contexts. The purpose of CEP is to equip educators and educational psychologists with a range of ethical and philosophical reflections about the function of psychology in schooling.

The application of CEP is especially needed for the study of self-regulated learning (SRL), which is a strategic learning process that involves cognitive, affective, and behavioral control directed at the attainment of academic goals (Hadwin, Jarvela & Miller, 2011). Researchers and teachers generally assume that SRL empowers individuals and can mitigate educational and economic inequalities. The prevailing assumption is that SRL enables individuals to exercise control over themselves and their situations by strategically adapting thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in order to achieve their desired goals. Therefore, to support educational opportunity, researchers contend that conceptual, methodological, and pedagogical improvements related to SRL are needed (Karoly, Boekaerts & Maes, 2005; Perry, 2002; Schunk, 2008). Few dispute the value of SRL for supporting students' academic success and general well-being. However, critical developments cast doubt on the value of this notion by pointing to ignored critical tensions (see, Martin & McLellan, 2008; Vassallo, 2013). This shortcoming is a problem given the prevalence of SRL in the literature, its growing presence in policy, and that it encapsulates a number of foundational educational concepts, such as motivation, self, meta-cognition, and cognition. The treatment of SRL in the literature is a clear example of how the development and application of educational psychology discourse ostensibly supports teaching, learning, and educational opportunity, yet has the potential to produce and exacerbate problematic curricula and pedagogy.

Critical Educational Psychology

Although absent in mainstream educational psychology journals and textbooks, there is a group of scholars who are committed to CEP (Billington, 2013; Burman, 2012; Corcoran, in press; Goodman, 2008; Kincheloe, 2005; Martin & McLellan, 2013; Sugarman, 2014; Vassallo, 2013). Their work is part of a group of critical psychologists who are committed to understanding and changing institutional policies and practices that work to maintain the status quo, especially those related to the production and application of psychological knowledge. …

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