Tsai, Chia-Wen (2009). Applying web-enabled self-regulated learning and problem-based learning with initiation to involve low-achieving students in learning. Computers in Human Behavior, 25, 1189-1194.
One of the areas I've been interested in is self-regulated learning outside of the auspices of a college/university setting, like Khan Academy or Coursera, and what roles public libraries can have in supporting these self-regulated learners (or SRL, which seems to be the academic term for people who learn on their own). It's somewhat of a new area, as most research for distance learning is done in academic library settings. Anyway, I found this article and thought it was a good follow-up to my prior Research Digest article investigating how to motivate students in traditional vocational tech courses.
Because of the ultra-competitive nature of Tawainese education, top tier students are able to go to prestigious, national universities while lower tier students are left to go to private vocational colleges, which are typically poorer performing. The authors of the article, experts in the field of SRL, sought to "examine the effects of applying web-based problem-based learning (PBL) with initiation... to help these low-achieving students be involved positively in their learning. (p. 1)". The success of a student in an SRL course is often contingent on their involvement. Students who succeed in SRL courses also demonstrate good time management and evaluation skills, skills lower achieving students often lack. In a way, these students are being set-up to fail.
The authors were interested in seeing if problem-based learning had an impact on students' involvement. From the authors;
PBL is a teaching method that may engage students in authentic learning activities that use professional problems of practice as the starting point, stimulus, and focus for learning.
While PBL has been shown to increase involvement by engaging students in problem solving, lower-achieving students are typically deficient in the skills pertaining to "seeking essential information" needed to solve these problems. As a result, a course instructor was included in the experimental group of the experiment to act as an initiator, or resource, who would guide students to the appropriate information.
Three experimental groups and one control group were set up for this experiment.
- The first group consisted of self-regulated learning & problem-based learning with initiation,
- the second group consisted of PBL with initiation, without the SRL component,
- the third group consisted of SRL & PBL without initiation,
- and the fourth (control) group only featured PBL.
The results of their study showed students in PBL courses with initiation showed significantly more involvement than their peers. However, while students in SRL courses displayed higher involvement than those in non-SRL courses, the results were not significant. The second group, consisting of PBL w/ initiation and no SRL component showed the highest level of involvement among all 4 groups.
The authors conclude that PBL learning with initiation works best for low-achieving students, and those same students probably lack the skills necessary to be successful in SRL courses (among those identified include keeping records, reviewing notes, and self-evaluation). This result doesn’t come as a big surprise. The authors note that a sea change in teaching methods towards an emphasis on the skills required to be successful in SRL courses is required before SRL courses can be considered useful to the vast majority of students, and not just top-performing ones.
Coursera offers courses from top-tier universities in higher level subjects, and is unlikely to attract lower-performing students. Khan Academy is more accessible to a wider breadth of students, primarily due to their larger course selection. I think the next step in improving SRL for low-achieving students is to look into what it would take to initiate the process of teaching the skills that have been proven to maximize involvement of students in SRL.
I think public libraries have an opportunity to use their staff in the initiator role for patrons. My vision is libraries promoting these free, online courses and having patrons form ad hoc study groups based on the courses they're taking, with a librarian acting as the initiator. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I haven't seen much research around this model, so if anyone's read anything they think might be relevant, I'd love to hear from you!