04 SES 13 A, It Was Just Too Much': Lessons From Online Learning During COVID
Crises tend to bring out the best and the worst in people: furthermore, the latent characteristics of organisations and institutions are revealed. The COVID-pandemic tended to polarize people globally in many areas of social life into losers and winners, better adapters to change and those less able to cope with change. Adaptation to change can simply be understood as capacity for learning which is a fundamental survival mechanism. One of the biggest challenges for education systems globally have been school closures and the transition to distance learning during the past year. Some school systems did better than others and so did some individuals. What were the key factors that determined success in this situation? We are arguing that in addition to the availability of the digital infrastructure in the country and the digital skills of teachers and learners one of the most important competences was the self-regulatory competence.
This presentation is based on some results of the research “Coping of students, teachers and parents during the distance-learning of COVID-19 inflicted pandemic in Estonia” (Lauristin et al. 2020). The research project was initiated and completed by the Estonian Education Forum (EEF) which is a non-profit organisation initiating debates between different educational stakeholders across Estonia.
The aim of the study was to understand the experience of the main actors of the sudden distance-learning in web-based environments, forced by the pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, a new vision document for Estonian education in 2035 was drafted which proposed a future where the rigid boundaries between different learning environments would disappear and students would follow individual learning paths. Personalized learning was envisioned to take place to a large extent in web-based environments using digital tools (Smart and Active Estonia 2035). Nobody anticipated that this distant future would come true so quickly. Therefore, the distance-learning during the pandemic can be considered as a test that disclosed the main actors` - students, teachers and parents’ ability to cope with the challenges posed by this situation, and to learn from the experience for the future. The presentation focuses on the students’ perspective and discusses the most important competences that helped to cope with the unexpected situation.
Self-regulative competence is considered an essential skill to be a successful learner. It involves competencies such as beliefs about one's capabilities to learn or perform designated behaviors (growth orientation), mastery orientation, autonomous motivation and emotional self-regulation which are guided by meta-cognition: a skill to notice one’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour and to flexibly direct them if necessary. (Efklides, 2011, 2014; Flavell, 1979). Emotional regulation is important because learning can include both positive and negative emotions which are related to the workload, uncertainty or responsibility which is why it is necessary to notice and recognize emotions and be aware of the ways to regulate them accordingly (Garnefski & Kraaij, 2006).
Autonomous motivation has been theorized extensively within the self-determination theory as a much more desirable form of motivation compared to external motivation that is needed for maintaining a positive attitude towards learning and sustainable learning success because it is something that the learner is interested in and that he/she values. Autonomous motivation includes initiating activities, making decisions and taking responsibility without external pressure (Deci & Ryan, 2000).
Growth orientation is a belief into the possibility that people’s capacities and characteristics are malleable by trying different courses of action, making an effort and testing oneself. Backlashes and failures are not considered as a sign of lack of capacity but are a natural part of development (Dweck & Leggett, 1988).
The data collection took place via social media, during the last week of the distance-learning period in spring, from May 12-18. Students, teachers and parents of mainly general education schools filled out a questionnaire on the Facebook page of the EEF that consisted of quantitative and qualitative questions about coping with the situation, students’ self-management skills, needs for help, positive and negative aspects of the distance-learning, its impact to health and social relations and use of digital tools. During one week, survey data was collected from 686 students, 515 parents and 338 teachers. Students’ age varied from 7-19 but most respondents were between 14-19 years old. A separate group was formed of adult learners (n-50). The sampling was done using the snowball-method which means that the data is not generalizable to the whole population as the random-sampling requirement was not followed. Nevertheless, the sample is large enough to allow making some generalizations which would have to be confirmed by a randomly sampled survey. Due to the limitations of the data collection, only descriptive statistics was used. Most questions were qualitative questions, therefore we had to categorize the responses in order to enable some sort of quantification and standardization of this extensive qualitative data. As researchers we were surprised by the eagerness of the participants to answer our survey in such a short time which indicated that distance learning was something that preoccupied many people who wished to share their experience.
The outcomes indicated, that students can be differentiated by their ability to cope with the situation into four categories: 1 - Independently goal-setting and creative self-regulation; independent learner who enjoys autonomy (16-30% of the age cohort, 25% of all responses) 2 - follows prescribed goals and rules: self-regulation which is successful in certain frames; a diligent, mostly independently coping learner that can complete prescribed assignments (37-45% of the age cohort, 40% of the respondents) 3 – needs external help, self-regulation is not fully developed; a learner whose self-regulatory skills are weak, needs support (21-28% of age cohort, 24% of the respondents) 4 - lacking or deficient self-regulation, negative attitude towards learning; a learner who does not cope independently, lacks self-regulatory skills or has a negative attitude towards learning (10-13% of the age cohort, 12% of the respondents) The most important competences that defined coping during the distance learning were students’ self-regulative competences and digital competences. However, digital competences were relatively easy to acquire during the distance learning period, while self-regulation competences need to be developed from the beginning of the students’ educational paths. Students' own evaluation of their distance-learning experience depended on their age. While the youngest group tended to overestimate the success of their coping, the high school students were most confident that distance learning is actually a very good form of learning. 47% of the high school students estimated that they enjoyed the distance learning more than usual contact lessons. However, the middle group, aged 11-13 seemed to struggle the most. The results indicate that more attention needs to be paid to the different self-regulation skills of students when designing assignments and learning environments in the future. Also, there is a certain segment of students, according to teachers, approximately 10%-20% to whom distance learning is simply not suited.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The ‘what’ and ‘why’ of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227–268. Dweck, C. S., & Leggett, E. L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review, 95(2), 256–273. Efklides, A. (2011). Interactions of metacognition with motivation and affect in self-regulated learning: The MASRL model. Educational Psychologist, 46(1), 6–25. Flavell, J. H. (1979). Metacognition and cognitive monitoring: A new area of cognitive–developmental inquiry. American psychologist, 34(10), 906–911. Garnefski, N., & Kraaij, V. (2006). Cognitive emotion regulation questionnaire – Development of a short 18-item version (CERQ-short). Personality and Individual Differences, 41(6), 1045–1053. Lauristin, M., Loogma, K., Erss, M., Vernik-Tuubel, E.-M., Sarv,E.-S. (2020) Õpilaste, õpetajate ja lastevanemate toimetulek koroonakriisi aegses kaugõppes. [Coping of students, teachers and parents during the distance-learning of COVID-19 inflicted pandemic] Eesti Haridusfoorum, 1. august 2020. https://haridusfoorum.ee/images/2020/Distantsppe_uuring_EHF_250720.pdf Smart and Active Estonia 2035 (2019). Summary of the vision documents of three expert groups. Estonian Ministry of Education and Research. A. Valk (Ed.) https://www.hm.ee/sites/default/files/tark_ja_tegus_kokkuvote_inglk_a4_veebi_0.pdf
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