22 SES 07 C, Learning and Assessment
In this study, we follow the perspective of self-regulated learning (hereafter, SRL), which has shown to be an effective predictor of academic performance and satisfaction in different educational levels (e.g., Dignath & Büttner, 2008; Dignath, Büttner, & Langfeldt, 2008; Sitzmann & Ely, 2011). Within the field of learning strategies, the concept of SRL offers a complete framework to analyse the way in which students approach their study and what decisions they make in order to prepare their courses. SRL involves thoughts, feelings, and actions that are planned and cyclically adapted to the attainment of personal goals (Zimmerman, 2000). It can be understood as a set of cognitive, metacognitive, emotional and motivational skills that students apply in the context of learning (Panadero & Alonso Tapia, 2014; Zimmerman, 2000).
Many researchers argue that it is best for students to use learning strategies that require a higher level of cognitive processing of information instead of simpler strategies as memorization and rehearsal. Complex strategies are related to more significant and long-term learning, while simple strategies produce results in the short-term but are not effective in the long-term acquisition and elaboration of learning (Boud & Falchikov, 2006; Van Merriënboer & Kirschner, 2018). Although some studies have shown that when students change from secondary to higher education they are prone to develop more critical processing strategies (Coertjens et al., 2017), still surface strategies are widely reported in higher education (Donche et al., 2013; Heikkilä & Lonka, 2006). This makes necessary to analyse why students choose their specific learning strategies. As Weinstein, Acee & Jung (2011) argue, the utility of specific learning strategies may be different for every student, depending on variables like the learning tasks and subject areas.
Therefore, the aim of this study is to analyse how higher education students approach learning strategies in relation to different contents, assessment activities and academic challenges. We aim to understand how they prepare the subjects and what reasons they give to their use of specific learning strategies. Our intention is to combine their perspectives, reasons and ideas, with some important variables that research in this field has highlighted. For this reason, we selected the method of qualitative interviewing including different issues. To begin, we asked the students how they study and why they study that way. Then, we asked them about three different specific variables to get their view on its influence over their strategies. First, we considered the role of the specific contents in their decisions (Weinstein, Acee & Jung, 2011). Second, we inquired into the influence of different assessment activities (Boud and Falchikov, 2006; Rovers et al., 2018). Finally, we placed the focus in the existence of academic challenges that could make students to adapt their self-regulatory strategies (Koivuniemi et al., 2017).
Participants In total, 17 participants (7 men, 10 women) participated in the study. They were enrolled in two private universities in the region of Madrid (Spain) where two of the authors teach. We used a purposive sampling, selecting students from a previous quantitative study conducted with a wide sample of students. To select them, we followed the principle of maximum variation, considering these criteria: self-regulated learning profile (low, medium, high), year (1st, 2nd, 3rd), bachelor’s degree (Psychology, and Sport Sciences) and academic performance (low, middle, high). Instruments We interviewed participants using a semi-structured schedule with four sections. The first section, which was more open in nature, questioned about how students had approached their courses during the last term, and which criteria they used to apply different learning strategies. The second section related the different assessment activities they had made and how they have approached them, also focusing on how different kinds of contents could affect their strategies. The third section dealt with the challenges they had found in their studies, and the last one explored their self-perception as students. Procedure The study was reviewed and approved by the Ethical Committee. After we contacted the students by email, we cited them in a quiet room within the university. The interviews took place in one session with a duration between 30 and 60 minutes and were conducted by one of the two first authors. Students were informed before the interview that it was going to be voice-recorded and, at the beginning of the interview, they signed an informed consent explaining the process of the interview and the use of data. All students answered the interview with the sections in the same order, and there were some common questions, but depending on their answers the interviewers made more questions to get more in-depth into the participant´s perspective. Data analysis In accordance with the qualitative nature of the study, we conducted groups of 3 to 5 interviews, and analyzed them following these recursive steps: 1) transcription and overview, 2) mix coding using both theoretical and in vivo codes, 3) code cleaning, 4) conceptual analysis through networks, and 5) triangulation with group discussions about the results. After that, we decided the criteria to select the next cases and we adjusted the interview scheme when needed.
Participants in our study reported a variety of strategies with different levels of cognitive elaboration, ranging from basic outlines and summaries to the elaboration of complex materials and discussing with classmates. Most students adapted their strategies to different circumstances, and only a minority reported using the same strategies in every situation. In some cases, their selection of strategies was attached to their knowledge and disposition of few strategies and the idea that “I get good results with these strategies, they work”. According to participants, the nature of the subjects (practical vs theoretical), the teaching methods and the materials provided by their teachers were basic in their decisions. Also, when asked about the assessment tasks, the type of examination (open questions vs multiple-choice) was crucial for them, being more frequent the use of surface strategies and less efforts in memorizing for multiple-choice tests. Finally, some participants reported that facing academic challenges (e.g., difficult courses, coordinating studies with work, hard transitions to the university) made them change their learning strategies. Our main conclusion is that students usually adapt their learning strategies to the different learning contexts they face. Although they report using low level strategies, sometimes these strategies are associated with high levels of performance and the same strategy can be used with different purposes and levels of elaboration (Weinstein, Acee & Jung, 2011). Therefore, it is important to note that if we as teachers want our students to employ complex and critical learning strategies, we should (a) teach them effective strategies adapted to our content domains and to the characteristics of our students and (b) design and use assessment activities that evaluate such competences.
Boud, D., & Falchikov, N. (2006). Aligning assessment with long‐term learning. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 31(4), 399-413. Coertjens, L., Donche, V., De Maeyer, S., van Daal, T., & Van Petegem, P. (2017). The growth trend in learning strategies during the transition from secondary to higher education in flanders. Higher Education 73(3), 499-518. Donche, V., Maeyer, S., Coertjens, L., Daal, T., & Petegem, P. (2013). Differential use of learning strategies in first-year higher education: The impact of personality, academic motivation, and teaching strategies. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 83(2), 238-251. Dignath, C., & Büttner, G. (2008). Components of fostering self-regulated learning among students. A meta-analysis on intervention studies at primary and secondary school level. Metacognition and learning, 3(3), 231-264. Dignath, C., Buettner, G., & Langfeldt, H. (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(2), 101-129. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2008.02.003 Heikkilä, A., & Lonka, K. (2006). Studying in higher education: Students' approaches to learning, self-regulation, and cognitive strategies. Studies in Higher Education, 31(1), 99-117. Koivuniemi, M., Panadero, E., Malmberg, J., & Järvelä, S. (2017). Higher education students’ learning challenges and regulatory skills in different learning situations/Desafíos de aprendizaje y habilidades de regulación en distintas situaciones de aprendizaje en estudiantes de educación superior. Infancia y Aprendizaje, 40(1), 19-5 Panadero, E., & Alonso-Tapia, J. (2014). How do students self-regulate? Review of Zimmerman’s cyclical model of self-regulated learning. Anales de Psicología/Annals of Psychology, 30(2), 450-462. Rovers, S. F., Stalmeijer, R. E., van Merriënboer, J. J., Savelberg, H. H., & De Bruin, A. B. (2018). How and why do students use learning strategies? A mixed methods study on learning strategies and desirable difficulties with effective strategy users. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(2501), 1-12. Valle, A., Martínez, S. R., Cabanach, R. G., Pérez, J. C. N., & Rosário, P. (2009). Diferencias en rendimiento académico según los niveles de las estrategias cognitivas y de las estrategias de autorregulación. Summa Psicológica UST, 6(2), 31-42. Weinstein, C. E., Acee, T. W., & Jung, J. (2011). Self‐regulation and learning strategies. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2011(126), 45-53. Zimmerman, B. J. (2000). Attaining self-regulation: A social cognitive perspective. In M. Boekaerts, P. R. Pintrich, & M. Zeidner (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation (pp. 13-40). San Diego, California: Academic Press
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