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How Well do They Self-regulate? A Case Study of Two Undergraduate Students’ Self-regulated Learning in a Telecollaborative Flipped Classroom

Abstract

This paper presents case studies of two undergraduate learners studying to become primary school teachers. The qualitative analysis focused on their self-regulated learning (SRL) in a highly demanding technology-enhanced university course employing an instruction model that combines flipped classroom and telecollaboration. The study aimed to identify problems they face in each of the three phases of Zimmerman ́s model of self-regulated learning: forethought, performance and self-reflection. The data was collected using an online questionnaire, self-made screen recordings of students ́ work on tasks, snapshots of their use of Trello for work organization and recordings of online Skype meetings. Several problems were found inall the three phases of students ́ SRL. The paper presents these problems and discusses possible causes and solutions that can help improve the course that is the context of this study as well as similar technology-enhanced courses.
AbstractThis paper presents case studies of two
undergraduate learners studying to become primary school
teachers. The qualitative analysis focused on their
self-regulated learning (SRL) in a highly demanding
technology-enhanced university course employing an
instruction model that combines flipped classroom and
telecollaboration. The study aimed to identify problems they
face in each of the three phases of Zimmerman´s model of
self-regulated learning: forethought, performance and
self-reflection. The data was collected using an online
questionnaire, self-made screen recordings of students´ work on
tasks, snapshots of their use of Trello for work organization and
recordings of online Skype meetings. Several problems were
found in all the three phases of students´ SRL. The paper
presents these problems and discusses possible causes and
solutions that can help improve the course that is the context of
this study as well as similar technology-enhanced courses.
Index TermsAutonomous learning, flipped classroom
self-regulated learning, technology-enhanced learning,
telecollaboration.
I. INTRODUCTION
New technologies have brought many possibilities for
fostering autonomous learning both in and out of classroom.
As a result, nowadays, there is a proliferation of
technology-enhanced school courses that require students to
work more independently from teacher than before. For
example, many courses employ the flipped classroom model
in which course content is delivered to students online instead
of in the classroom, which means that in order to succeed in
the course students need to be able to do all the activities at a
required pace at home, without direct tutor supervision.
Such instruction models necessitate good self-regulatory
skills from students without which they can hardly
successfully complete those tasks that demand more
independent work from them. However, self-regulatory skills
are rarely taught in formal education settings and since many
students have not acquired them elsewhere in life they
consequently struggle in courses where their academic
success depends on their ability to self-regulate their learning.
In fact, the importance of self-regulated learning (SRL) goes
Manuscript received January 27, 2018; revised May 20, 2018. This work
was supported by the Konect project (www.konectproject.com) under Grant
EDU2013-43932-P funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry &
Competitivity.
Jelena Marjanovic is with the Autonomous University of Barcelona,
Bellaterra, Spain (e-mail: jelena.marjanovic@e-campus.uab.cat).
much beyond academic success. For many, SRL skills affect
their overall life satisfaction because lifelong learning,
nowadays more important than ever, often depends on one’s
ability to utilize available technological resources effectively
for their learning on their own initiative and without direct
instruction [1]. That is why it is important to develop methods
of encouraging students to improve their SRL in highly
demanding technologically-enhanced courses, but for that to
happen we first need to find out what problems prevent them
from self-regulating effectively in such courses.
II. SELF-REGULATION IN LEARNING
A. The Concept of Self-regulation in Learning
Self-regulation in learning is a complex construct
consisting of multiple dimensions such as student
metacognition, motivation and behavior [2]. Although they
are related, SRL should be distinguished from autonomous
learning. An autonomous learner takes full control of her or
his learning, thus deciding on what to learn, as well as how,
when and where to do it [3]-[6], whereas being able to
self-regulate one’s own learning is just one of the
prerequisites for successful autonomous learning. In other
words, SRL is a narrower concept than autonomous learning.
Learning can be highly self-regulated and yet not autonomous
(e.g. the learner has no control over the task or learning
content but needs to engage in SRL to complete it), whereas
autonomous learning cannot happen without self-regulation.
SRL “involves cognitive, affective, motivational and
behavioral components that provide the individual with the
capacity to adjust his or her actions and goals to achieve the
desired results in light of changing environmental conditions”
[7]. When executing tasks, highly self-regulated students set
appropriate goals, employ adequate learning strategies,
manage their time effectively, self-monitor and self-evaluate,
seek assistance from appropriate persons or sources and in
general organize and manage their learning processes [8].
B. Related Concepts
A number of concepts have been described as related to
SRL in the pertinent literature. Self-efficacy (SE) is one of
them. Students with high SE believe in their competence to
take all the necessary decisions and actions to complete tasks
successfully and achieve desired outcomes [9]. A positive
relationship between SE and SRL has been found in [10], [11]
in [7] it is argued that learners need to have high SE in order to
be able to self-regulate their learning.
Another concept that can be related to SRL is perceived
How Well do They Self-regulate? A Case Study of Two
Undergraduate Students’ Self-regulated Learning in a
Telecollaborative Flipped Classroom
Jelena Marjanovic
International Journal of Information and Education Technology, Vol. 8, No. 9, September 2018
653
doi: 10.18178/ijiet.2018.8.9.1117
academic control (PAC). PAC refers to learners’ subjective
perception of their influence over their academic outcomes.
In other words, learners with high PAC have a high sense of
control over their academic success. Central to PAC are
primary (PC) and secondary control (SC). In the academic
context, PC is learner ability to influence external factors that
are important for academic success, such as one’s
environment and other circumstances of one’s learning.
Therefore, a student who perceives her or his PC as high
believes that she or he is fully in control over her or his study
outcomes. The other related construct, SC, refers to
perception of one’s control over her or his internal states that
influence academic outcomes. A high SC generally indicates
learner’s ability to adapt their cognitive processes, emotional
states and strategical approaches to any circumstances in
order to attain the desired academic outcome [12]. The role of
perceived control over academic outcome in SRL has been
recognized as a significant factor that affects SRL [8], [13],
[14]. In [12] the positive relationship between PC, SC and
SRL was confirmed by finding that high perceived student
control leads to greater responsibility and therefore also to a
more proactive and self-directed approach to one´s learning
reflected in taking actions and initiating processes typical of
self-regulated learners.
C. SRL in Technology-Enhanced Interactive Learning
Environments
Technology-enhanced learning environments are seen as
holding great potential for fostering SRL [1], [15]-[17]. In
[17] students´ intrinsic motivation in computer-assisted
language learning (CALL) was investigated and it was found
that it was positively affected by students´ freedom to
regulate and organize their own learning, and therefore
personalize the learning content. In particular, interactivity of
an online learning environment has been identified as a
predictor of SRL [16], [18]-[20]. It was found that in a
blended computer programming course, student satisfaction
with the interactivity and usefulness of the online mode
positively affected their SRL [19]. In other studies, a
connection between telecollaboration and autonomy
development was drawn on emphasizing that student
interaction can be organized in a way that fosters autonomy
[21], [22]. The benefits that technology-enhanced interactive
environments have for developing autonomous learning
including self-regulation are also discussed in [23]. In [24],
group autonomy in telecollaborative learning of pre-service
teachers was explored and it was found that the group
performed exceptionally well in regulating the task execution,
e.g. making sure that it is completed before the deadline.
Another study found that students conducting researching in
collaboration with their peers and using digital tools resulted
in acquisition of new strategies. beneficial for learning
English such as exploring different learning resources [25].
However, researchers also stress that technology alone,
although undoubtedly having a significant role, is not
sufficient for fostering SRL and we should not rely on it to
increase SRL by default [15].
D. Zimmerman´s Model for Researching SRL
One of the most widely used models for research on SRL is
the one proposed by Zimmerman [26]. The cyclical model
focuses on the SRL processes that occur in the following three
phases:
1) Forethought: the preparation phase, i.e. task analysis that
students engage into before performing a task (e.g.
development of strategic approach, setting goals, etc.),
which is affected by self-motivational beliefs such as
self-efficacy, intrinsic interest in task, goal and outcome
expectations.
2) Performance: processes such as employing appropriate
learning strategies and keeping attention focused on the
task (strategy use processes) as well as metacognitive
and physical self-monitoring, which belong to
self-observation processes.
3) Self-reflection: processes such as evaluating learning
outcomes and attributing them to causes (self-judgement)
and consequent adaptive behaviour (self-reactions). The
latter refers to positive adaptation such as finding a better
strategy when the existing one fails but also negative
adaptation such as procrastination, feeling disengaged,
helpless, etc.
All the three phases of the described model are
interdependent and problems in one phase negatively affect
all the processes from the other two phases as well. To
illustrate, a learner might fail to develop an effective strategic
plan for a task execution because she or he feels incapable of
good work organization. On top of that, the learner might not
be intrinsically motivated to work on the task in the first place
(forethought phase). As a consequence, the learner might
struggle to keep her or his attention focused on the task or fail
to keep a record of her or his progress since in the forethought
phase she or he has not thought strategically about the desired
goals, steps that need to be taken and methods to be used.
This lack of attention leaves her or him with no clear basis for
self-monitoring (performance phase). As a result, the learner
might experience a number of self-reactions, such as
attributing her or his poor SRL to a too difficult task or lack of
study skills. The learner might also experience some negative
feelings such as disengagement from the task or they might
react more positively by recognizing the need for a more
appropriate strategy and acting upon it (self-reflection phase).
These self-reactions and self-judgement might consequently
influence the forethought phase, e.g. the learner´s interest in
the task and self-motivation beliefs may drop even lower, or
increase, if the learner has reacted positively to the obstacles
in her or his SRL. This further affects the performance phase,
which then influences the self-reflection, and so on. In that
manner, a repetitive cycle is established.
III. THE PRESENT STUDY
A. The Context of the Study
The setting of the present study is a final-year
undergraduate teacher education course based on a model
combining flipped classroom and telecollaboration (online
interactive exchanges) between Spanish/Catalan and USA
students at Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) in
Spain. The course has been implemented every academic year
since 2003 [27]. It is highly intense and requires a lot of
independent work from the course students (future primary
International Journal of Information and Education Technology, Vol. 8, No. 9, September 2018
654
school teachers). Besides the heavy workload, the students
are also challenged by having to communicate in English, a
foreign language (whereas their native language is Spanish or
Catalan). However, what makes this context most peculiar is
the political turmoil that occurred in Catalonia at the time of
its implementation and considerably affected the face-to-face
component of the blended teacher education course. Namely,
the classes were supposed to be held once a week, but due to
the protests that coincidentally always happened on the same
day of the week, they had to be cancelled altogether on a few
occasions. In addition, the classes coincided with two public
holidays so in the end only 9 out of 15 planned classes were
held. Considering the classes were originally planned as very
long sessions (3.5 hours) in which a considerable amount of
activities would have been implemented, a lot of content
ended up not being addressed. This also meant many lost
opportunities for clarifying any concerns students might have
had about the telecollaboration project.
B. The Participants
Two female students (volunteers) were selected as
participants. The author opted for studying the two cases only
to acquire holistic and in-depth insights into each student´s
SRL. The students, Maria and Gemma (pseudonyms), are
Catalan and are 21 years old. They both show traits of highly
autonomous learners. For example, using Internet
technologies, they have created their own personal learning
environments for out-of-university study. Maria is learning
how to become a make-up artist by watching YouTube videos
and attending online courses, whereas Gemma uses a
combination of self-selected online resources and mobile
phone apps (e.g. Duolingo) to enhance her English
competence.
C. Data Collection and Analysis Process
The aim of the study was to analyze and identify the
problems that the two students experience with their SRL in
the highly demanding teacher education course. This topic
had emerged in a previous analysis of the students´
autonomous learning in the course. Namely, the students had
participated in a project in which their autonomous learning
was investigated. The preliminary results revealed that both
students have been successfully engaged in self-initiated and
self-directed out of classroom learning but they struggle to
self-regulate the independent learning required from them in
the teacher education course. That is where the interest in
exploring the problems they experience in SRL in this context
originated from. The research questions that guided the study
are: 1). Which phase (forethought, performance or
self-reflection) do the students experience most problems
with? 2). What are the most critical problems they face in
each phase?
The data was collected over a 4-month period using the
following instruments: an online questionnaire, self-made
screen recordings of student work on course tasks, snapshots
of students´ activity on Trello - a digital tool that they were
asked to use for planning their studying, and recorded online
interviews (conducted via Skype once a month on average).
The data collection consisted of 3 phases. In the first phase,
the students filled in an online questionnaire asking them to
identify the areas of their SRL they most needed and would
like to work on. Their answers were subsequently
triangulated and additional information obtained in two
online interviews, one with each student. In these online
meetings, besides elaborating on their questionnaire answers,
the students gave more insights into their self-regulation
processes by explaining their study habits, problems they
encounter, and giving their perceptions of their own SRL. In
the second phase of the project, the students were asked to
record their computer screens while working on the tasks
required in the teacher education course. The recordings were
watched first by the researcher and then in the second
interviews, which were stimulated recall (SR) interviews,
they were watched again with the students asking them to
describe what they were doing and why they took the
recorded actions. In the third phase, the students were
introduced to Trello, an app used to organize individual and
team project work and were then asked to use it to organize
their own work on the teacher education course tasks. The
students recorded their use of Trello and gave the researcher
full access to their Trello boards. The third online interview
was held with both students at the same time. In it, they
choose to discuss the studying habits and the education
course requirements that they perceived as problematic. The
meeting turned into a counselling session where the students
gave each other support in the problems they both seemed to
share.
To analyze the data, the recordings of all the meetings
were watched and annotated for evidence of students´ SRL.
These episodes were then transcribed. Next, the self-recorded
videos of students´ work were watched and episodes of
students´ SRL were identified with the help of the information
from the SR interviews. These episodes were turned into
detailed written accounts of the actions the students took and
the explanations and reasonings behind the actions elicited
from the SR interviews. The interview transcripts, the written
accounts of student work, the questionnaire answers and
Trello snapshots were subsequently coded using
Zimmerman´s model. For each case, the data bits were
categorized as forethought, performance or self-reflection
phase.
TABLE I: THE CODING SYSTEM USED IN THE STUDY
Each data bit illustrated one or mostly more than one SRL
processes described in Zimmerman´s model. They were
coded using the hierarchical coding system shown in Table I.
The coding process was not completely straightforward as
some identified processes could be coded with more than one
code. For example, student procrastination could be
sometimes interpreted both as an attention focusing issue and
International Journal of Information and Education Technology, Vol. 8, No. 9, September 2018
655
a negative adaptive inference (student´s reaction to her
unsatisfactory performance). When all the data had been
triangulated, categorized and coded, the two cases were
compared to identify problems that were repetitive and
common for both students.
IV. FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION
Overall, despite showing some traits of autonomous
learners, both students experience a number of problems in all
three phases of their SRL (forethought, performance and
self-reflection). The most critical ones will be presented in the
following paragraphs.
A. Forethought
On the forethought level, the most critical problems that
were found can be ascribed to students' self-efficacy, goal
setting and strategic planning processes. During the online
meetings, both students reiterated their dissatisfaction with
the role of ''experts'' given to them by their tutor in task
completion (e.g. when they needed to decide on an action plan
or select a definition to use). They do not believe themselves
capable of performing such ''expert'' self-regulatory actions
and are afraid of making wrong decisions, which indicates
low self-efficacy. As Gemma put it:
When someone tells me: ''Now you are an expert and you
will solve others’ problems.'', I think: ''Whatever.'' I don’t see
myself as an expert at all. Maybe it works with children
because they get all like: ''Yey I’m an expert!'', but it I’m not
a kid and I’m not fooled by that. I know what an expert is and
I am not one.
This finding is hardly surprising considering these students
have not often been required to engage in autonomous
learning in their formal education thus far and therefore might
incorrectly perceive high self-regulatory skills as an exclusive
prerogative of experts (not necessarily teachers). This finding
indicates that we should investigate more into the
misconceptions students have about self-regulation and to
work on eradicating them. For example, teachers can show
they also struggle with SRL by sharing their experience and
advice on how to overcome obstacles in SRL. If an on-going
discussion of SRL is established in classroom, it may help
eliminate the intimidation some students feel when faced with
SRL.
Gemma showed particularly low level of self-efficacy. For
example, for her a major obstacle to completing tasks such as
summarizing an article is her lack of confidence in her ability
to understand and to summarize texts efficiently. This
self-doubt becomes reinforced when she fails to effectively
plan her learning and set realistic goals. To illustrate, she
would bring all the assignments for a given week to the
library, planning to finish them all in one day, only to end up
feeling demotivated and unproductive upon realizing she has
not done much. As a diligent student, she does recognize the
importance of task execution planning and invests effort into
it but shows lack of strategic thinking. More specifically, she
identifies strategic planning with making a to-do list, which is
just one component of a strategic approach among many other
such as breaking down tasks into small manageable steps [9].
This could be observed in the screen recordings and
snapshots of Gemma's work, as well - she dedicated
considerable time to creating elaborated to-do lists in Trello
but did not divide her tasks into small manageable steps that
would facilitate their execution. It can be concluded that the
potential of digital tools to foster student SRL that some
authors describe [17] has not been exploited by this student
due to her lack of strategic thinking, which is in line with
Bartolome and Steffens who argue that employing technology
per se does not guarantee success in promoting SRL.
Gemma's struggle with setting realistic goals and
strategically planning her learning can be connected to her
low SE. According to reference [10], low SE prevents
students from perceiving challenging tasks as opportunities
for learning. Students with low SE feel intimidated by more
demanding tasks or heavier workload and as a consequence
fail to set appropriate goals [20]. In other words, low
self-efficacy causes inability to set realistic goals. However,
we should also consider the opposite direction in which
setting unmanageable objectives affects student SE. In case of
Gemma, the realization that her study goals are unrealistic
undermines her self-confidence, which in turn impairs her
ability to see the task clearly and not as a threat, creating, in
her words, a ''vicious circle'' (which interestingly corresponds
to Zimmerman´s cyclical view of SRL processes). Therefore,
if we want to help students increase their SE, we should focus
on teaching them how to strategically plan their learning.
In the case of Maria, there is a mismatch between her
perception of her strategic planning abilities and her actual
planning. On various occasions, she has reported generally
having no issues with her work organization as she would
always set realistic goals and even add extra time for their
completion to account for unpredictable situations. She calls
herself ''radical'' - when she sets a deadline she does not allow
herself to exceed it. However, like Gemma, when describing
her planning she strictly refers to her ability to make a
realistic to-do list. In Trello, she planned her task execution
by creating a general overview of tasks to be done but did not
divide them into smaller steps nor assigned any deadlines.
When asked about this in the meetings Maria stated she was
satisfied with her planning system and that it worked well for
her, and that it was her ability to stick to her plans that she
saw as problematic. Similarly to Gemma's case, this indicates
a lack of awareness of what strategic planning means and
how it affects the other phases of studying, with the
difference that in Maria's case it resulted in overconfidence
and a mismatch between her SE beliefs and her actual
self-regulation. Iwamoto et al [28] found that the
undergraduate students fail to adapt to the university level
standard of SR despite their ambitions to succeed because
they continue to apply the study skills that worked for them in
the lower levels of education but are not sufficient for a more
challenging environment such as university. The students
were simply unaccustomed to thinking of SR skills as
indicators of academic success as they might, for example,
postpone studying to the moment before test and still score
well.
Similarly, Maria's lack of awareness of the processes that
strategic planning entails can be rooted in her belief
International Journal of Information and Education Technology, Vol. 8, No. 9, September 2018
656
(reiterated in the meetings) that what makes her a good
student are her good grades (as opposed to her study skills).
However, it is difficult to make this connection with certainty
because of the previously described peculiar setting of this
study. The facts that it is her final year of studies, the
language of instruction is a foreign language and the course
itself, already intense, could not be held regularly due to the
political turmoil are factors that make comparison to other
similar studies difficult. Having said that, a conclusion can be
drawn that if SRL skills were assessed in schools along with
knowledge, students might be more incentivized to work
hard on attaining them. Again, this stresses the need to coach
SRL skills, as to assess them, we need to teach them first.
There have been suggestions to include the subject of SRL in
official curricula [29] but until that happens (if it happens),
teachers can take the initiative to foster SRL through various
activities in their courses. In the context of this study, it does
not necessarily mean squeezing in SRL instruction into an
already packed program. Students can be encouraged to think
about SRL and find ways to improve it if they are referred to
online resources, encouraged to discuss it online in their
telecollaborative exchanges, required to participate in
microlearning activities aimed at promoting SRL or just
exposed to effective SRL strategy modelling in the classroom.
A good example of digital tools that teachers can use to foster
students SRL is given in [30].
B. Performance
In the performance phase, a number of problems pertaining
to self-control were found. Attention focusing seems to be the
most problematic area for both students, as they both reported
inability to stay focused on a task even after planning it
thoroughly. Both in the questionnaire and the online meetings
the students described procrastination and task completion
postponing as their biggest problems. However, no overt
procrastination could be seen in the screen recordings of their
work, which was expected as the fact they knew they were
being recorded made them more self-conscious. This was
confirmed in the online meetings as they said they did not
procrastinate because they knew the researcher would see the
video (even though they had been encouraged to show reality
so that they could be afterwards advised on how to improve
their study habits). This procrastination issue could be
interpreted as caused by the student workload, that is already
heavy as they are in their final year of studies and is further
burdened by the requirements and tasks of the highly intense
teacher education course. Both students reported
experiencing high levels of anxiety due to the intensity of
their courses and such affective factors were identified as
causes of procrastination in a few studies [31]-[33] as cited in
[28].
In the case of Maria, another problem is the lack of intrinsic
motivation. She perceives the tasks as not useful for her as a
teacher. On top of that, she is even considering choosing a
completely different career after university as she realizes she
enjoys learning about the make-up art much more. She shows
a high level of metacognition as she recognizes that she
struggles to assume responsibility for maintaining her own
interest and motivation, overcoming motivation obstacles in
her learning and generally enjoying learning independently
with technology. Her motivation in the teacher education
course is strictly to finish it, so she would employ effective
self-regulation strategies such as cheering herself to motivate
herself to work on tasks (''Come on Maria, only 9 months left
until the end”). The lack of motivation is also probably a
likely cause for her procrastination, besides the
aforementioned factors of course intensity and heavy
workload. She particularly struggles to see sense in
telecollaboration and how she as a teacher can benefit from
interacting with American students online. This contradicts
studies that found that highly interactive
technology-enhanced environments had a vital role in
increasing student perception of usefulness and were
conducive to SRL. [12], [17], [19]. Reference [22] suggests
that if telecollaboration is set up appropriately it can lead to
development of learner autonomy. In [20] a blended setting
similar to the one analyzed in this study was investigated and
the positive relationship between online learning
environment interactivity and student SRL was confirmed. In
[25], collaborative work was described as conducive to group
autonomy, in particular self-regulative activities. Others have
found a positive effect technology-enhanced learning
environments have on learner autonomy and self-regulation
[18], [24], [27]. It might seem that telecollaboration have not
had the same positive effect on Maria´s SRL and perception
of the course usefulness. This could entail that being able to
engage in social interaction alone is not sufficient to motivate
students to participate proactively in telecollaboration as they
need to also see clear relevance and usefulness to it. However,
it is difficult to identify this as a crucial factor that undermines
Maria´s motivation since she has already expressed little
interest in becoming a teacher.
C. Self-reflection
In the third phase of Zimmerman and s model, a
combination of negative attribution and defensive inference
was found to be impairing students SRL. On the one hand,
both students show high levels of responsibility for their own
learning which is best exemplified by their ongoing
out-of-classroom self-directed learning. They seem to
understand they can take a proactive approach to improve
their academic success and career prospects as they have both
created their own personalized learning environments. On the
other hand, in the context of the teacher education course,
they mostly attribute their problems with sticking to their
plans and schedules to uncontrollable variables, specifically,
in the amount of university work they have. This negative
attribution in form of defensive inferences could be observed
in both students: helplessness, cognitive disengagement, even
apathy.
On the self-judgement level, Maria shows awareness of
her responsibility for not always self-regulating successfully
but mostly attributes obstacles in her SRL to a lack of
motivation caused by external, uncontrollable factors. For
example, she ascribes instances of poor self-regulation to
insufficient tutor guidance, headache, ineffective task
structure and generally seeing no use in the course tasks.
Similarly, Gemma takes responsibility for her SRL and
analyzes it metacognitively. However, although she is able to
identify what prevents her from performing to her
International Journal of Information and Education Technology, Vol. 8, No. 9, September 2018
657
satisfaction, she finds it difficult to change as it is a part of her
“nature”. She calls herself a perfectionist and experiences
despair as she does not see a solution to that problem. This
“perfectionism” prevents her from sticking to her study plans
and schedules and interferes with her time management. An
interesting account given by Gemma illustrates this problem
well. Namely, her father, having noticed her negative feelings
caused by struggling with completing the tasks on time,
proposed a solution: they would come up with a deadline for
each task and she would have to stop working regardless of
whether she had finished the task. The father would monitor
her to make sure she had indeed stopped working at the
agreed time. Gemma apparently accepted that arrangement
but felt so anxious upon realizing she would not have enough
time to do the task “perfectly” that she resorted to deliberately
not reporting all the tasks to her father so that she could
distribute the limited time to fewer tasks and thus have more
time to do them thoroughly. Needless to say, the results did
not change much there were still many unfinished tasks and
uncompleted to-do lists. Several instances observed in the
screen recordings of Gemma´s work could be interpreted as
this “perfectionism” issue. For example, one such episode
shows her reviewing a document produced in collaboration
with her group. During the whole episode that lasted 5
minutes she wrote, deleted and rewrote around 5 versions of a
comment just a few lines long that expressed her agreement
with an idea proposed in the file. She explained that she feels
great responsibility for her part in the group project and hence
tries to give “perfect” feedback.
Besides her nature, Gemma also attributes her problems in
SRL to the heavy workload the students need to cope with in
the teacher education course and in their final university year
in general, as well as the educational system that does not
encourage autonomous learning (“I don’t think I can
summarize or get the most important ideas from texts, I
haven´t been taught to do that.”). In [9] the authors argue that
attributing one´s own failure to attain learning goals to factors
that are outside of one´s control or are perceived as
unchangeable is an indicator of poor self-regulation. These
findings also align with [13] where the influences of primary
and secondary student control (PC and SC) was studied and it
was found that both predicted student SRL. In other words,
those students who believed they had control over their
learning process and outcomes also felt more responsible for
their own success or failure to achieve learning goals and
therefore were more able to act on this responsibility and
self-regulate better. In this study, both students feel
responsible for their SRL but do not feel able to change the
problems they experience in it. Moreover, they also focus on
external variables that are out of their control. The question
that arises from these findings is how to help students avoid
perceiving the factors such as a particular school system,
course, teacher, etc. for their unsatisfactory academic
outcomes without discouraging them from being
constructively critical towards the same factors. Students
need to know where the responsibility of the school ends and
theirs begin so that neither can be underplayed.
This becomes especially important in the contexts such as
the one studied here, where unforeseen and uncontrollable
circumstances, such as political instability in a country, put
additional stress on already stressed students and thus require
them to self-regulate their learning more than it can be
reasonably expected. Admittedly, assessing students´ SRL in
such a context is complicated. This study therefore entails that
research on SRL should be accompanied with an in-depth
analysis of the context in which it is done to account for all
controllable and uncontrollable variables that affect student
SRL.
V. LIMITATIONS AND FUTURE STUDIES
The focus of this study is on providing an in-depth insight
into SRL of students in a telecollaborative blended
teacher-education course at a Spanish university which means
that the context is highly situated and the extent to which this
the findings can be generalized is limited, especially if one
considers the political turmoil that severely affected the
course organization at that moment. If repeated in more
regular circumstances, some results might differ to a certain
extent. Next, only two cases were analyzed, but some future
studies might look into multiple cases from the same or
different courses or even universities and make comparisons
between them. Also, a more varied participant profile could
be chosen in future research as this study focused on two
female participants who can both be described as autonomous
and academically successful. Finally, this study could be
complemented with a quantitative insight into SRL of a much
higher number of students.
VI. CONCLUSION
This study investigated the problems that two
undergraduate students experience in their SRL in a highly
demanding technology-enhanced teacher education course.
All the three phases of SRL processes were explored:
forethought, performance and self-reflection [9], [26]. In
each phase, several problems that impede the students´ SRL
were found. In the forethought phase, both students
experience problems with their self-efficacy, as well as
strategic task execution planning. They do not consider
themselves “experts” enough to engage in autonomous
learning and have shown some misconceptions about SRL
that probably stem from lack of experience with autonomous
learning in their formal education. Despite their low
confidence in their ability to learn autonomously, both
students show many traits of autonomous learners since they
regularly engage in informal learning activities in order to
achieve personal academic and career goals. Although the
students show awareness of the importance of the
forethought in SRL, in practice their use of strategy for task
planning is limited. For example, neither student would break
their tasks into small manageable steps when planning it.
Employing technology (Trello app) did not lead to a better
strategic approach to task planning. When it comes to
self-motivational beliefs, it seems that the telecollaboration
with the US students did not have the expected positive effect
on student intrinsic motivation in completing the tasks and
therefore on their SRL but this might, to some degree, be
attributed to the peculiar circumstances in which it was
International Journal of Information and Education Technology, Vol. 8, No. 9, September 2018
658
conducted (irregular classes, high level of stress due to
political turmoil, heavy workload and approaching end of
final university year).
On the performance level, both students struggle with
procrastination which can be linked to two factors: the anxiety
(caused by the heavy workload, course intensity and
approaching end of the final university year) and the lack of
intrinsic motivation in Maria´s case. Maria is questioning her
decision to become a primary school teacher and is more
inclined to consider a completely different career path.
Therefore, she does not see the course as useful and relevant
and she recognizes it is probably preventing her from
focusing her attention on completing the tasks on time.
When it comes to self-reflection, the students feel partially
responsible for their problems with SRL. Gemma expressed
guilt for not having “learnt to be more autonomous by her
final university year” and for always spending too much time
on tasks trying to do them “perfectly”, whereas Maria
admitted she should be more disciplined when completing
tasks and know how to resist the urge to watch movies and do
other activities that distract her from work. However, they do
not recognize how they could change them and thus improve
their SRL. On top of that, the students ascribe their problems
in SRL to fixed variables such as the heavy workload and the
educational system that does not traditionally encourage
autonomous learning. However, it is hard to say whether the
same negative attribution would have been found if the course
had been held regularly. i.e. if there had not been the political
turmoil that significantly affected the course.
In conclusion, the whole self-regulation cycle that
Zimmerman described in his model was observed in these two
student cases. The study focused only on the problems they
experience in SRL, hence a “vicious cycle” (in words of one
Gemma) is described. In it, the low SE and lack of intrinsic
motivation from the forethought cause problems in the
performance phase, such as procrastination and spending too
much time on a task, which are then in the self-reflection
phase attributed to uncontrollable factors of lack of study
skills or unsatisfactory educational system. This causes
negative feelings such as helplessness, apathy and despair
which further negatively impact the students´ SE and
motivation on the forethought level and so the cycle
continues. The way to break the cycle in this specific case is to
raise students´ awareness of self-regulation processes and
coach them on concrete strategies that facilitate SRL. In
highly intense and demanding courses such as the one studied
here, it is unlikely that including self-regulation skills into the
curriculum is realistically possible. However, in such
situations teachers can have a crucial role as they can model
effective SRL, share their personal experience and strategies
and thus trigger an on-going discussion of SRL in the
classroom.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT
The author would like to thank Gemma and Maria, the two
student participants of the study for taking part in this study
despite their hectic schedules. The author feels especially
obliged to Dr Melinda Dooly, her PhD supervisor, for
providing invaluable feedback on this paper and support
during the project.
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Jelena Marjanovic was born in Belgrade in 1989. She is currently a PhD
candidate at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (Universitat
Autonoma de Barcelona), Barcelona, Spain. The field of her studies is
technology-enhanced education and her thesis focuses on autonomous
technology-enhanced learning.
She holds an MPhil in Education (specializing in second language
education) from the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK (2013). Her
BA is in English language and literature (specializing in teaching
methodology) from the University of Belgrade, Belgrade, Serbia (2012).
She is also currently working as a freelance eLearning Developer and
Instructional Designer. Previously, she held the position of eLearning
Developer at eFront and English Teacher at the Institute for Foreign
Languages in Belgrade, Serbia.
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... It seems that during the TDP course, the participants develop their management and monitoring skills, their ability to engage in forethought planning, setting their goals, developing their motivation, as well as reflective and retrospective thinking. These findings are consistent with a previous study (e.g., Marjanovic, 2018), which demonstrated that technology-enhanced learning environments have the potential to foster SRL. Namely, students' intrinsic motivation in computerassisted learning positively affected their abilities to regulate, organize and personalize the learning process. ...
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