Investigating relationships between self-regulated learning processes and formal classroom science assessment. (2023)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Self-regulated learning (SRL) processes contribute to the short- and long-term academic success of young people. In particular, students’ SRL processes before and after a task predict learning and performance. The research on SRL suggests that environmental conditions such as classroom assessments can help students develop and implement effective strategies for learning before and after the task. Consequently, identifying how classroom assessments can be designed and administered that account for these SRL processes has gained increasing attention. Classroom assessments may be characterized as formal or informal based on their purpose (e.g., formative and summative) and format (e.g., quiz, observations, tests, etc) across disciplines. The current study focuses on formal assessments which typically take the form of an exam or test and tend to serve a summative function. There are compelling reasons to use such summative assessments for developing SRL, especially in India, where such assessments are more common. In particular, evidence suggests that teachers build tasks and make decisions about classroom assessments that often inform students about how to learn and perform. Yet, few studies have explored these aspects concerning students’ SRL in the forethought and self-reflection phases. Therefore, in this thesis, I investigate an underexplored type of classroom assessment-formal classroom assessments—and their relationship to students’ processes in the planning and reflection stages. This thesis offers the first substantial work to examine SRL for formal classroom assessments in India.
I used a mixed methods design to explore classroom science assessment and SRL processes across two studies. To begin, I developed a microanalytic interview protocol to gather rich data on SRL processes in the forethought as well as self-reflection phases described in Zimmerman’s SRL model (2009). The sample comprised 229 high school students from India. Results indicated that students’ goal-setting and self-evaluation strategies were largely focused on performance, and study strategies reflected surface learning approaches (e.g., rehearsal). On average, students felt confident about their abilities to learn and perform on the assessment. They were also moderately interested in the subject. Even though students reported confidence and interest in learning science, they were more likely to set performance goals than mastery goals. This approach to goal-setting can weaken other SRL processes which include their motivation, monitoring and regulating capacities, and ways in which they reflect on their learning. Self-regulated students who focus on acquiring content knowledge are more likely to optimize their learning for success than those learners who focus on achieving a grade or score.
The second part of my research was focused on the relationships between reported SRL processes and the assessment task. Given that SRL processes are determined by the ongoing interaction between the learner and task, it is necessary to understand the characteristics of the task presented to them. Researchers have identified task conditions that support and promote SRL among students in the classroom, but were not necessarily assessment tasks (Perry et al., 2006). Therefore, I integrated insights from previous research and developed an instrument that measured the design features of the teachers’ assessment task. Findings indicated that the assessment design is associated with how students think and act in learning and performance settings. For instance, students were less likely to feel efficacious or interested if the number of questions that required higher-order thinking skills were more than the number of questions focused on lower-order thinking skills. The results also indicated that students were more likely to focus on the journey of learning (process goals) than the destination (outcome goals) when the task covered a range of topics and questions and demanded higher-order thinking skills.
The third and final part of my research aimed to investigate teachers’ decisions concerning the assessment task and the impact of these decisions on students’ SRL. This series of questions taps into the foundation of students’ assessments: what did teachers think about when designing assessments and in what ways did SRL differ based on these reported intentions? Within student group differences indicated that students who reported adaptive strategies and higher motivational beliefs belonged to the classroom in which the teacher reported a learning-focused orientation toward assessments. Students’ goal-setting and strategy selection differed between teachers’ stated intentions regarding task design. Chi-square (Χ2) tests for independence indicated teachers’ intentions regarding design and evaluation styles were associated with how students chose to attribute their failure. Overall, the results suggest that teachers’ reported assessment decisions can contribute to students’ approaches before and after a formal assessment task.
In sum, my findings revealed that students’ SRL processes appeared to be less adaptive for a classroom assessment task, which could mean that they lack the flexibility in analysing the situation and identifying necessary strategies for learning and performance success. Although this exploratory research does not explain the causal effects of teachers’ design decisions on students’ SRL, it highlights that multiple factors are at play. Consistent with a social cognitive framework (Zimmerman, 2013), it is likely that the assessment context creates an environment in which students think about and (attempt to) learn. How we think about and approach assessment design, therefore, matters.
This research has several novel elements. First, I developed an instrument to measure task features for a formal assessment which offers a new way to understand the design of a task and how it relates to SRL processes. Researchers and educators could use this tool to analyse and design assessments that help promote SRL within students. Second, I provide validity for the SRL microanalysis protocol (Cleary, 2011)—a relatively new methodological approach for academic tasks in a classroom context. Third, this research provides insights into an under-researched assessment context: India. Given that most SRL research is conducted in developed countries, this thesis provides significant implications for improving learning and performance for millions of students in the Indian context. The findings provide substantial evidence on the types of tasks designed, students’ approaches to learning, and how teachers make decisions concerning formal classroom assessments.
In this thesis, I argue for the use of formal assessments as a promising event for promoting and sustaining SRL forethought and self-reflection processes. In particular, the results and findings have implications for practice and policy in the Indian context. Based on the current research, I present an initial checklist that teachers could realistically use to facilitate assessment design decisions with an SRL-focused lens. I contend that the structured nature of a formal classroom allows for a systematic process to evaluate the task design and integrate practices that promote planning, strategy selection, and self-reflection. I propose a framework that integrates SRL processes into formal classroom assessment decisions. More research is needed to identify how and when SRL-promoting methods can be introduced into the formal assessment process. Future research could also shed more insight on assessment task design features across academic subjects to help distinguish appropriate practices for developing SRL. Through intentional assessment design, teachers and researchers in India can raise students’ scientific knowledge, competencies, and attitudes to become successful lifelong learners.
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