10 SES 12 C, Autoethnography, Cognitive Engagement and Professional Identity
Promoting student engagement, interest and participation in mathematics is important for students’ learning and subsequent study in mathematics. Although engagement is considered a multidimensional construct, this research specifically focuses on investigating the role of cognitive engagement for promoting student learning outcomes.
Cognitive engagement reflects a student’s approach to academic tasks and overlaps with motivation research (Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004). Specifically, conceptions of cognitive engagement draw on goal orientation, cognitive strategy use and self-regulation theories that have historically been connected with motivational processes and academic functioning (Cleary & Zimmerman, 2012; Wolters & Taylor, 2012). To gain a deeper understanding of cognitive engagement aspects of self-regulated learning are also considered. Self-regulation involves several processes or phases including: forethought (goal setting and planning); monitoring and control; and reflection on learning (Cleary & Zimmerman, 2012; Lee & Reeve, 2012; Zimmerman, 2002). For example, students can exhibit self-regulation and, by implication, cognitive engagement by asking questions to clarify meaning, setting aside time to practice questions, and assessing their progress.
As there are no existing theoretical frameworks for cognitive engagement, this study uses two complementary theoretical frameworks. The first framework describes types and degrees of engagement, including the interrelatedness of cognitive engagement (goals, motivations and regulation) with behavioural engagement (participation and involvement) and emotional engagement (interests, attitudes, feelings and values) (Fredricks et al., 2004). The second focuses on aspects of self-regulation including metacognitive processes (Pintrich, 2004; Wolters & Taylor, 2012) as central components of cognitive engagement. Both frameworks reflect motivational factors and take account of learning contexts.
The extent to which students are cognitively engaged is likely to be influenced by their goal orientations as this guides the types of cognitive and self-regulative strategies that students use when doing academic work (Anderman & Patrick, 2012). The amount of time students are engaged in academic tasks is influenced by their studying skills, ability to plan and organise, approaches to assessments, etc. However, in school settings goals and cognitive strategy use can be mediated by teachers to support students to monitor, regulate and control their learning and motivation.
Emotions also play a central role in cognitive processing and student engagement (Linnenbrink-Garcia & Pekrun, 2011). Hannula (2006a, 2006b) argues that in terms of learning processes, cognition and emotion should be considered together because emotional responses, which are intrinsically linked to motivational factors can influence cognitive processing. Therefore knowing how teachers perceive student cognitive engagement and emotions are important because they influence the efforts, strategies and interventions that they use (Hardré & Sullivan, 2008, 2009).
Research that investigated teachers’ perceptions of student engagement in mathematics revealed that teacher perceptions about cognitive engagement were less extensive and detailed than for behavioural and emotional engagement (Skilling, 2013). This may be in part because it is more difficult to identify signs of cognitive engagement (e.g. they are less observable than student behaviours), or because teachers feel less confident about assessing the indicators of cognitive engagement. Further, it was revealed that some teacher perceptions of students’ cognitive engagement were restricted to the homework they did and study strategies focusing on behavioural aspects, such as time management; little was reported about planning, monitoring and evaluating learning during lessons (Skilling, 2013). Therefore the focus of this research is to investigate how teachers perceive cognitive engagement and underlying influences in their mathematics classrooms.
The research questions for the present study include:
- How do teachers perceive the role of cognitive engagement in early secondary mathematics classrooms?
- What strategies do teachers report using to promote student cognitive engagement?
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