Spotlight: Lamar University AP Faculty Research Grant Recipients
Lamar University College of Education professors, Sedef Uzuner Smith, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Randy J. Davis, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, and Carl J. Sheperis, Ph.D., NCC, LMHC, LPC, ACS, Chair and Associate Professor were awarded the AP Faculty Research Grant last year. Their final report is now complete so we wanted to highlight the great work they have been working on over the past several months. Below are the abstract, introduction, and a link to the full report.
Congratulations and great work, Drs. Smith, Davis, and Sheperis!
The aim of the project was to develop a feedback pool from which online instructors can choose comments to help their students become more
cognizant of their efforts and become more self-regulatory in online discussions. This was done using discussion transcripts from six fully online graduate-level counselor education courses. The next step in the project (pending funding) is to refine the comment pool with additional analysis and develop a feedback plug-in application for Blackboard Learning Management system that will allow instructors to provide feedback on their students’ discussion participation effectively and efficiently by selecting appropriate comments from the pool and inserting them into their evaluation.
There is an established literature base in education viewing self-regulation as a precondition for student success in traditional, face-to-face classrooms (Pintrich, 2000; Winne & Hadwin, 1998; Winne & Hadwin, 2008; Zimmerman, 2000, 2011). In this literature, self-regulation is described as “students’ proactive use of specific processes or responses to improve their academic achievement” (Zimmerman, 2008, p. 167). Such processes include setting goals, selecting and deploying strategies, and self-monitoring performance and effectiveness. Recently, a number of researchers (Artino & Stephens 2009; Cho & Shen, 2013; Paraskeva, Mysirlaki, & Choustoulakis, 2009; Shea & Bidjerano, 2010; Shea, Hayes, Uzuner, Vickers, Bijerano, Pickett, Gozza-Cohen, Wilde, & Jian, 2012; Shen, Lee, & Tsai, 2007; Sun & Rueda, 2012) have argued that self-regulation is even more important in online learning environments. These researchers contend that helping students plan, monitor, and reflect on their
learning and performance is vital in promoting profound learning opportunities and achievements in online courses.
As online learning environment is characterized by social constructivist approaches that view interaction as the primary means of learning, discussions where students interact with each other to collectively explore and construct knowledge form a crucial feature of online classes (Swan, 2010). Researchers have repeatedly shown that learner interaction and collaboration in online discussions positively influence individual learning outcomes (Agee & Uzuner Smith, 2012, Garrison & Cleveland-Innes, 2005; Paus, Werner, Jucks, 2012; Vonderwell, 2003; Wu & Hiltz, 2004, Zhu, 2006). If discussions are important to the success of online learning, it can be expected that student self-regulation plays an especially important role in those discussions. Online students who self-regulate their efforts in discussions will most likely produce quality conversations that are associated with meaningful learning, whereas students who do not plan, monitor, and reflect on their discussion participation may not meet or achieve the learning goals they are expected.
Garrison and Cleveland-Innes’ (2005) research, which assessed the depth of online learning, revealed that “simple interaction, absent from structure and leadership, is not enough” to support high levels of learning (p. 145). In a similar vein, in her examination of students’ cognitive engagement in class discussions, Zhu (2006) concluded that “the online learning environment, such as a discussion forum, does not guarantee student learning if […] students do not take full advantage of what an online discussion forum can offer for them” (p. 474). In light of these considerations, we contend that the degree to which students self-regulate and guide their talk and participation efforts in online discussions has important implications for their learning. This idea has led us to seek ways we can promote self-regulation to help students become more cognizant of the participatory behaviors they display in online discussions as well as become more cognizant of the talk they produce and share in those discussions.
We realized that in order to find ways to promote student self-regulation in online discussions, we needed to understand the key elements that trigger self-regulatory functioning. With this realization, we turned to the diverse body of research and theorizing that has been done on this topic.
Boekaert, Pintrich, and Zeidner (2000) noted that in the last two decades, there have been significant attempts at taxonomies, theories and measures of self-regulation, most notably in the domains of educational psychology, counseling psychology, and health psychology. Although the works produced in these domains vary considerably in their scientific terminology and technical specification, they share a common understanding: Feedback controls and guides self-regulation.
In their conceptualization of self-regulation, Shapiro and Schwartz (2000) described feedback as a powerful means of directing people’s attention to their own thoughts, intentions, and behaviors. They maintained that such conscious attention triggered by feedback cultivates self-awareness and mindfulness, which in turn leads individuals to regulate themselves to achieve specific goals. According to this formulation of self-regulation, feedback that is indicating present behavior’s deviation from desired norms or expectations allows individuals to decide whether to seek self-corrective actions to decrease that deviation. In the same way, feedback that is indicating success in performance provides information for individuals to decide whether to maintain that performance or to raise goals to achieve maximum condition. In both examples, feedback serves an important role in enhancing individuals’ mindful engagement with their tasks and goals, and this mindful engagement, according to Shapiro and Schwartz, is a necessary part of self-regulation.
Recognizing feedback as a key precursor of self-regulation leads one to the question of which sources of feedback might trigger self-regulatory functioning in learners. At least three sources of feedback are identified in the literature on self-regulation: self, environment, and other people. Specifically, Zimmerman and Cleary (2009) wrote: “The sources of feedback can be social (e.g., such as praise or guidance from a teacher, peer, or a parent), environmental (e.g., task, micro-environment, or computer outcomes), or personal (e.g., awareness of covert, physiological, or behavioral outcomes)” (p. 247). We concur with Johnson and Johnson (1993, p. 136) that while the optimal situation may be to receive feedback concurrently from all three sources, “the most powerful source of feedback is from other people” – the social, especially the guidance from a teacher. Therefore, we argue that teacher feedback can help promote a high level of self-regulatory functioning in students as they participate in online discussions.