What Teachers Think about Self-Regulated Learning: Investigating Teacher Beliefs and Teacher Behavior of Enhancing Students’ Self-Regulation

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Copyright © 2012 Charlotte Dignath-van Ewijk and Greetje van der Werf

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  • Hindawi Publishing CorporationEducation Research InternationalVolume 2012, Article ID 741713, 10 pagesdoi:10.1155/2012/741713

    Research Article

    What Teachers Think about Self-Regulated Learning:Investigating Teacher Beliefs and Teacher Behavior ofEnhancing Students Self-Regulation

    Charlotte Dignath-van Ewijk1 and Greetje van der Werf2

    1 Department of Psychology, School of Social Sciences, University of Mannheim, A 5, 6, 68131 Mannheim, Germany2 Institute for Educational Research (GION), Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Grote Rozenstraat 3, 9712 TG Groningen, The Netherlands

    Correspondence should be addressed to Charlotte Dignath-van Ewijk, cdignath@mail.uni-mannheim.de

    Received 31 May 2012; Revised 16 August 2012; Accepted 20 August 2012

    Academic Editor: Annemie Desoete

    Copyright 2012 C. Dignath-van Ewijk and G. van der Werf. This is an open access article distributed under the CreativeCommons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided theoriginal work is properly cited.

    In order to foster self-regulated learning (SRL), teachers should provide students with learning strategies, as well as with construc-tivist learning environments that allow them to self-regulate their learning. These two components complement each other. Wheninvestigating teachers promotion of SRL, not only teacher behavior, but also teachers beliefs as well as their knowledge about SRLare relevant aspects to consider. Therefore, this study seeks to examine teachers knowledge and beliefs on promoting SRL, as wellas their predictive value on teachers promotion of SRL in the classroom. Forty-seven primary school teachers completed ques-tionnaires on knowledge and beliefs towards both components of the promotion of SRL: strategy instruction and a constructivistlearning environment. In addition, teachers had to answer open-ended questions on their understanding of SRL, as well as theirimplementation of SRL in their classroom. The results show that teachers are more positive towards constructivist than towardsSRL (teacher beliefs), and most teachers mentioned characteristics of constructivist learning environments, while only few teachersaddressed strategy instruction when being asked about their understanding of SRL (teacher knowledge). Moreover, teacher beliefsare the only predictor for teacher behavior. The results indicate how teacher education could support teachers to learn how topromote SRL effectively.

    1. Introduction

    Research on the promotion of self-regulated learning (SRL)has revealed that students can learn how to self-regulate theirlearning, but investigation of training them to do so haspointed out teachers producing weaker effects of trainingthan researchers do (see, e.g., [1] for primary school and [2]for secondary school). Observational studies of teachers fos-tering students SRL have shown that teachers give studentsthe freedom of self-regulation, but do not prepare them tohandle the new responsibilities (see, e.g., [3]). Although mostteachers tend to use learner-activating teaching methods,in most cases they neglect teaching their students how tolearn (see, e.g., [4]). However, providing students solely withautonomy but not with means to execute strategies has notbeen found to be beneficial for students (see for an overview

    [5]). Both the instruction of metacognitive strategiesstra-tegies on how to learnas well as learning environments thatrequire and enable self-regulation have been found to predictstudents self-regulation [6].

    According to Perry et al. [7], most teachers agree with theconcept to support their students to become self-regulatedlearners; yet many of the teachers that they investigatedreported to feel unsure about how to do that. Knowledge ofwhether teachers do not know how to enhance their studentsself-regulation or whether (for unknown reasons) they refuseto, could indicate where teacher training would have to startand which points would have to be addressed. Kramarski andMichalsky [8] found that teachers ability for SRL was asso-ciated with their pedagogical knowledge as well as with theirbeliefs on student-centered learning. Looking backwards,it would even enhance our understanding of the delineated

  • 2 Education Research International

    problem by comparing the beliefs of teachers who are foster-ing SRL in their classroom to those who are not. As Tillema[9] found, teacher beliefs are filtering the learning process ina way that learning is supported only when training contentand teacher beliefs correspond. Thus, bothteachers priorknowledge as well as their beliefsseem to have an impacton teacher learning and might also influence teacher behav-ior.

    The goal of the present study was to investigate therelationship between teachers knowledge and beliefs onfostering self-regulation of learning among their studentsand their teaching behavior, while taking into regard strategyinstruction. Equally important was the consideration in howfar students were provided with a learning environment con-ducive to self-regulation. Since research on SRL is increas-ingly taking students into account as early as at primaryschool age [1], we focused on investigating primary schoolteachers promotion of SRL.

    1.1. Fostering Self-Regulated Learning. When searching theliterature on SRL, it becomes obvious that a wide range ofdefinitions exists varying among their focus on differentaspects of the concept. The probably most-quoted definitionof SRL [10], grounded on social-cognitive theory, stemsfrom Schunk and Zimmerman [11]: SRL means the learners. . .self-generated thoughts, feelings, and actions which aresystematically oriented toward attainment of their goals.

    As the literature shows, teachers can support students toacquire self-regulation strategies [2, 12], using different ele-ments of instruction that are not necessarily mutuallyexcluding: on the one hand, teachers can model strategy use,or explicitly instruct strategies [6, 1315]; on the other hand,teachers can structure the learning situation in a way thatstudents have the opportunity to discover strategic proce-dures themselves. S. G. Paris and A. H. Paris [14] refer totwo well-established theories to provide examples for bothdirect as well as indirect ways to support SRL. To illustrateexplicit strategy instruction, they draw on Brown et al. [16]who distinguish three levels of strategy instruction. On thelowest level of training, the so-called blind training, studentsare induced to use a strategy without providing them withany information about this strategy in order to foster aconcurrent understanding about the significance of thisactivity. They are not explicitly told why to use a certain stra-tegy, and in which situations this activity is appropriate. Thestudents are induced to perform a certain activity withoutbeing explicitly informed that this activity is a learningstrategy. Although this can enhance childrens use of thisactivity, it is prone to fail in its adaption as a general toolby the student. The intermediate level includes the informedtraining. Students are both induced to apply a certainstrategy but are also provided with some information aboutthe significance of this strategy. This type of training shouldlead to an improved performance as well as keeping theactivity up when a similar problem reoccurs. The self-con-trol training, the highest level of instruction, combines theinformed training with an explicit instruction of how toapply, monitor, check, and evaluate that strategy. This type

    of training facilitates the transfer of strategy application toappropriate settings in the most sustainable way [16]. Thisaspect plays an important role when looking at the promo-tion of SRL.

    Another example for direct, although less explicit waysof supporting SRL can be derived from Collins et al. [17]model of Cognitive Apprenticeship, which assumes successfulteaching to be based on several components of the learningenvironment: the content taught, the instructional methods,the sequencing of learning activities, and the sociology oflearning [17]. This way of apprenticeship almost approachesor can overlap with explicit strategy instruction. In additionto this, teachers can design the learning environment in a waythat it fosters students self-regulation.

    Self-regulation is a complex concept, including variousfeatures of the learner and his or her environment that havean impact on the learning process [18]. Therefore, the pro-motion of SRL is supposed to take place on two differ-ent levels: in addition to systematic strategy instruction,students need opportunities for exercising self-regulation.Therefore, features of the learning environment that fosterthe application of self-regulation strategies should also beacknowledged. Theorists on self-regulation describe SRL asan inherently constructive and self-directed process (e.g.,[19]). In the same scope, Pressley et al. [15] describe success-ful strategy instruction in constructivist terms. The environ-ment has to have features that allow active construction ofknowledge, in order to be conducive to SRL.

    When investigating teachers beliefs on promoting SRL,both approaches thus have to be taken into account: teachersbeliefs on the instruction of self-regulation strategies, as wellas their beliefs on the design of the learning environment.The same applies to teachers knowledge on the promotionof SRL. In the following chapter, we will take a closer lookat theories on teacher beliefs and teacher knowledge and willtransfer these theories to teacher beliefs and knowledge aboutthe promotion of SRL.

    1.2. Teacher Beliefs

    1.2.1. A Distinction between Teacher Beliefs and TeacherKnowledge. According to Pajares [20], when talking aboutteachers attitudes towards education, one refers to teachersedu-cational beliefs as only a subpart