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Despite immense technological advances, learners still prefer studying text from printed hardcopy rather than from computer screens. Subjective and objective differences between on-screen and on-paper learning were examined in terms of a set of cognitive and metacognitive components, comprising a Metacognitive Learning Regulation Profile (MLRP) for each study media. Participants studied expository texts of 1000-1200 words in one of the two media and for each text they provided metacognitive prediction-of-performance judgments with respect to a subsequent multiple-choice test. Under fixed study time (Experiment 1), test performance did not differ between the two media, but when study time was self-regulated (Experiment 2) worse performance was observed on screen than on paper. The results suggest that the primary differences between the two study media are not cognitive but rather metacognitive--less accurate prediction of performance and more erratic study-time regulation on screen than on paper. More generally, this study highlights the contribution of metacognitive regulatory processes to learning and demonstrates the potential of the MLRP methodology for revealing the source of subjective and objective differences in study performance among study conditions.
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Running head: METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 1
Reference:
Ackerman, R., & Goldsmith, M. (2011). Metacognitive regulation of text learning: On
screen versus on paper. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 17(1), 18-32.
Metacognitive Regulation of Text Learning:
On Screen versus on Paper
Rakefet Ackerman
Technion–Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel
and
Morris Goldsmith
University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
Author Note
Rakefet Ackerman, Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management,
Technion; Morris Goldsmith, Department of Psychology, University of Haifa
This research was supported by a grant from The Inter-University Center for
E-Learning (IUCEL - MEITAL). Facilities for conducting the research were provided
by the Institute of Information Processing and Decision Making, University of Haifa,
and by the Max Wertheimer Minerva Center for Cognitive Processes and Human
Performance. We thank Yoram Eshet-Alkalai for valuable discussions relating to the
study.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Rakefet
Ackerman, Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management, Technion, Technion
City, Haifa 32000, Israel. E-mail: ackerman@ie.technion.ac.il
A subset of the present data, based on fewer participants and including only a
subset of the present MLRP analyses, was previously reported in conference
proceedings (Ackerman & Goldsmith, 2008b).
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 2
Abstract
Despite immense technological advances, learners still prefer studying text from
printed hardcopy rather than from computer screens. Subjective and objective
differences between on-screen and on-paper learning were examined in terms of a set
of cognitive and metacognitive components, comprising a Metacognitive Learning
Regulation Profile (MLRP) for each study media. Participants studied expository
texts of 1000-1200 words in one of the two media, and for each text they provided
metacognitive prediction-of-performance judgments with respect to a subsequent
multiple-choice test. Under fixed study time (Experiment 1), test performance did not
differ between the two media, but when study time was self regulated (Experiment 2),
worse performance was observed on screen than on paper. The results suggest that the
primary differences between the two study media are not cognitive but rather
metacognitive—less accurate prediction of performance and more erratic study-time
regulation on screen than on paper. More generally, this study highlights the
contribution of metacognitive regulatory processes to learning, and demonstrates the
potential of the MLRP methodology for revealing the source of subjective and
objective differences in study performance among study conditions.
Keywords: Metacognition; Metacomprehension; Monitoring and control; Text
learning; Self-regulated learning; Computer-based learning
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 3
Metacognitive Regulation of Text Learning:
On Screen versus on Paper
Adult readers of today have been using computers extensively for many years.
Nevertheless, when one needs to study a text thoroughly, there is still a strong
preference to print out digital text rather than study it directly from the computer
screen (Buzzetto-More, Sweat-Guy, & Elobaid, 2007; Dilevko & Gottlieb, 2002;
Spencer, 2006). One might assume that this reluctance is a matter of experience.
However, even highly experienced computer users still prefer print, as Bill Buxton
(2008), principal researcher at Microsoft, admits: “I can’t stand reading stuff on my
computer” (p. 8).
Objective and subjective learning differences between paper and screen learning
have been examined and discussed for some time. Dillon, McKnight, and Richardson
(1988), for example, pointed to differences by which reading texts on screen is
slower, less accurate, more fatiguing, accompanied by reduced comprehension, and
subjectively less effective than reading from paper. Additional studies examined the
effects of factors such as technical characteristics of displays, annotation while
reading, navigation ease, and spatial layout on reader preferences and performance
(e.g., Dillon, Richardson, & McKnight, 1990; O’hara & Sellen, 1997; Richardson,
Dillon, & McKnight, 1989; see Dillon, 1992). Of course, technology has improved
dramatically in the twenty years or so since those results were obtained. Hence, one
might question whether such findings are still relevant. Recent findings, however,
indicate a dislike of on-screen reading even among young adults studying with current
state-of-the-art displays (e.g., Annand, 2008; Eshet-Alkalai & Geri, 2007; Rogers,
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 4
2006; Shaikh, 2004; Spencer, 2006). From the point of view of hardware engineers
and software designers, this persistent reluctance to read “serious” texts on screen
indicates that the large effort invested in improving reading from computer screens
(e.g., Dillon, 1994; Muter, 1996) has not yet achieved its goals (Dillon, 2002; Garland
& Noyes, 2004; Rogers, 2006; Sellen & Harper, 2002).
The general finding of both objective and subjective difficulties related to on-
screen learning makes this an ideal topic for examination from a metacognitive
perspective. A great deal of research on metacognition and learning has revealed the
crucial role that subjective experience plays in guiding and regulating the learning
process: in the choice of study strategy, in the allocation and prioritization of study
time, in deciding when one has sufficiently mastered the material, and so forth (Baker,
1985; Bielaczyc, Pirolli, & Brown, 1995; Bjork, 1994; Brown, Smiley, & Lawton,
1978; Hacker, 1998; Schunk & Zimmerman, 1994; Son, 2007). Adopting such a
perspective, the present study examined whether subjective differences between on-
screen learning (OSL) and on-paper learning (OPL) might in fact underlie, rather than
merely reflect, objective differences in learning performance.
Assessing Metacognitive Regulation of Text Learning
In general, metacognitive theories of learning address the interplay between
objective and subjective aspects of the learning process. Building on concepts and
measures from leading metacognitive theories of the control of study time, in the
present study objective (cognitive) and subjective (metacognitive) aspects of
expository text learning were assessed and compared using a new Metacognitive
Learning Regulation Profile (MLRP) methodology, which provides a multi-
componential assessment of learning processes under specific conditions. The
comparison between the MLRP’s of OSL and OPL allowed heretofore hidden
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 5
differences in underlying components of the learning process between the two media
to be revealed. Table 1 presents the MLRP components that were examined. These
will now be explained.
According to the highly influential discrepancy reduction model (Butler &
Winne, 1995; Dunlosky & Thiede, 1998; Nelson & Narens, 1990; for a graphic
depiction, see Winne & Hadwin, 1998), people begin their study activity by setting a
target level of learning (Le Ny, Denhiere, & Le Taillanter, 1972). Allocation of study
time is then guided by an ongoing subjective assessment of knowledge level and
comparison to the preset target level: When the subjective knowledge level is
satisfactory, that is, when the target level is reached for a particular item, the learner
terminates the study of that item and moves on to another. Hypothesized study curves
based on the model are depicted in Figure 1 and will be explained shortly.
Basic measures of study regulation that stem from the discrepancy reduction
model are: Prediction of performance (POP; Maki, 1998b), study time, and test
performance (components 2, 7, and 8 in Table 1). POP reflects learners’ ongoing
monitoring and final subjective assessment of their level of knowledge, tapped by
having them predict their future test performance after studying each text (Maki &
Serra, 1992; Rawson, Dunlosky, & McDonald, 2002)1. Study time is an objective
measure that is assumed to reflect the metacognitive control decision to continue or to
terminate study, based on the ongoing monitoring of knowledge level. Test
performance is, of course, the ultimate objective measure of the learner’s success. The
relationships among these three measures produce additional measures that are of
interest. Encoding efficiency can be examined in terms of the amount of information
stored (and retained) into memory during a fixed amount of study time, that is, when
learners have no control over study time (component 1 in Table 1). This measure
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 6
yields information about the “objective” efficiency of learning, controlling for
possible differences in the effectiveness of the subjective knowledge monitoring and
study-time control decisions that contribute to self-regulated study.
The MLRP components that reflect the accuracy of the metacognitive
monitoring are calibration bias and resolution (components 3 and 4 in Table 1).
Calibration bias, or absolute monitoring accuracy, is calculated as the mean signed
deviation between POP and test score (e.g., Metcalfe, 1998). Based on the
discrepancy reduction model, study should be terminated when POP reaches the target
level of mastery (see Figure 1, stopping points A and B). Hence, underconfidence, an
overly low subjective assessment of knowledge, will lengthen the study time
unnecessarily, wasting time that could perhaps be invested more effectively in other
materials. By contrast, overconfidence, which is the more common situation
(Metcalfe, 1998), will lead to premature study termination and a lower than desired
level of performance (e.g., Glenberg, Wilkinson, & Epstein, 1982; Pressley &
Ghatala, 1988). See Figure 1, stopping point A.
Resolution, or relative monitoring accuracy, indexes the extent to which POP
discriminates between learned and unlearned information (Glenberg, Sanocki,
Epstein, & Morris, 1987; Lundeberg, Fox, & Punćochaŕ, 1994; Maki & Serra, 1992;
Rawson, Dunlosky, & Thiede, 2000; Thiede, Anderson, & Therriault, 2003).
Resolution is maximized when all of the better learned texts are assigned a higher
predicted performance than all of the lesser learned texts. This discrimination can then
be used by learners to select the most appropriate material for extra study (Metcalfe &
Finn, 2008; Thiede & Dunlosky, 1999). Relatively low levels of monitoring resolution
have been found in text learning (see Maki, 1998b for a review), but resolution was
improved by some techniques such as by using immediate rather than delayed
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 7
prediction (Maki, 1998a) and by asking for predictions that relate to performance
across multiple test questions (Weaver, 1990).
Moving on to measures of metacognitive control, the discrepancy reduction
model entails two factors that relate to the efficiency of control over study time:
control criterion and control sensitivity (components 5 and 6 in Table 1). Control
criterion (“norm of study”; Le Ny et al., 1972) refers to the target level of knowledge
implicitly set by the learner to guide his or her study-time control decisions.
According to the discrepancy reduction model, the higher the criterion that is set for a
particular text, the better that text will be learned (cf. Nelson & Leonesio, 1988), but
this will generally require a greater investment of study time, which may leave less
time for other material. Thus, the setting of the control criterion should be strategic in
nature and influenced by motivational and situational factors (cf. similar ideas with
regard to controlling the information that is reported from memory; e.g., Ackerman &
Goldsmith, 2008a; Goldsmith & Koriat, 2008). Support for this idea comes from
studies showing that increasing the rewards for correct answers to particular items
increases the amount of time devoted to studying those items (Dunlosky & Thiede,
1998), as does emphasizing accuracy over speed of learning (Lockl & Schneider,
2004; Nelson & Leonesio, 1988), as does setting the “passing grade” for an upcoming
test at 90% rather than at 25% correct (LaPorte & Nath, 1976). With regard to
potential differences between OSL and OPL, if different target levels of learning are
being set for each media, perhaps because of different levels of motivation or
subjective comfort, one would then expect to find correspondingly different
subjective and objective levels of performance between the two media.
A final component of the MLRP is control sensitivity: the extent to which the
learner’s control decisions are in fact sensitive to his or her subjective monitoring.
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 8
Essentially, this factor refers to the tightness of the relationship between the control
operation and the monitoring judgment on which it is assumed to be based. In work
guided by their model of the strategic regulation of memory reporting, Koriat and
Goldsmith (1996; for a review, see Goldsmith & Koriat, 2008) defined control
sensitivity as the correlation between subjective confidence in the correctness of a
potential answer (the monitoring output) and the decision whether to report it or
respond “don’t know” (the control decision). This correlation was found to reach
near-ceiling levels with healthy undergraduate participants (Koriat & Goldsmith,
1996). In other studies with special populations, however, this very high level of
control sensitivity was reduced, offering insights into the nature of the cognitive and
metacognitive deficits ensuing from old age (Pansky, Koriat, Goldsmith, & Pearlman-
Avnion, 2009) and mental illness (Danion, Gokalsing, Robert, Massin-Krauss, &
Bacon, 2001; Koren et al., 2004).
In the context of study regulation, control sensitivity can be examined in terms
of the consistency of the relationship between POP (or JOL) and the control of study
time. In general, a strong relationship has been found between JOL and the allocation
of study time (e.g., Mazzoni, Cornoldi, & Marchitelli, 1990), indicating a high level
of control sensitivity. In this context too, however, differences in control sensitivity
may underlie population differences in the effectiveness of study regulation. For
example, Lockl and Schneider (2004) found that although children as young as 6
years old can state that pairs of related words are easier to learn than unrelated word
pairs (Dufresne & Kobasigawa, 1989), 9-year old children, but not 7-year old
children, allocated study time in accordance with item difficulty, suggesting lower
control sensitivity in the younger group (see also Koriat, Ackerman, Lockl, &
Schneider, 2009). Similarly, results from Dunlosky and Connor (1997) suggest that
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 9
older adults do not utilize on-line monitoring to allocate study time to the same degree
as younger adults do, and that these allocation differences contribute to age deficits in
recall.
An underlying assumption of the discrepancy reduction model is that control
sensitivity is high—learners continue studying as long as POP is below the criterion
(target) level, and stop studying as soon as the criterion is reached (see Figure 1,
stopping points A and B). Thus, the measure of control sensitivity implied by this
model is the strength of the relationship between the on-going POP level during the
study and the decision to continue or to stop studying.
A somewhat different conception of control sensitivity is implied by an
alternative model for control over study time, proposed by Metcalfe and Kornell
(2003, 2005). According to the region of proximal learning model, people base their
decision to stop studying on the perceived rate at which learning progresses, rather
than on a comparison of the absolute judgment level to a predefined control criterion.
When the learners perceive that they are gaining knowledge at a rapid rate, they
continue. When they feel that they are no longer taking in information, they stop
studying a particular item and switch to another. Thus, monitoring of knowledge
gaining rate is expected to be the basis for appropriate control decisions (Son &
Metcalfe, 2000). The region of proximal learning model was used mainly to explain
the finding that people allocate more study time to intermediate-difficulty material
than to the most difficult material, as would be predicted by the discrepancy reduction
model. By assuming a different stopping rule that participants should adhere to, this
model also implies an alternative measure of control sensitivity: the strength of the
relationship between the perceived rate of knowledge gain and the decision to
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 10
continue or to stop studying. Both ways of measuring control sensitivity were
examined in our research.
To sum up, a metacognitive analysis of the regulation of study time yields a
set of components—both cognitive and metacognitive—that potentially contribute to
variance in the effectiveness of text learning, and which may differ between
populations and learning conditions. In the following experiments, the MRLP
methodology, which provides an integrated assessment of these components, will be
used to identify and expose the possible sources of text learning differences between
OSL and OPL.
Overview of Experiments
The starting point for the experiments reported in this article is the widespread
preference of OPL over OSL, as discussed above. This preference was found before
over a large range of age and experience levels, including young undergraduates who
are used to computer use and reading texts on screen (Buzzetto-More et al., 2007)2.
On this background, we report two experiments in which we derived and compared
the MLRPs of OSL and OPL. In both experiments participants studied a set of
expository texts, either from a computer screen or from the printed page. Immediately
after studying each text, they predicted their test performance and were tested before
continuing to the next text. Because prior metacomprehension research pointed to
some ambiguity regarding the type of monitoring reflected in global POP, memory of
details or higher order comprehension (Maki, 1995; Pieschl, 2009; Rawson et al.,
2002; Thiede, Wiley, & Griffin, in press), we asked the participants to provide two
separate POPs, each targeted to one specific aspect (Kintsch, 1998).
The purpose of Experiment 1 was to examine encoding efficiency and the
accuracy of metacognitive monitoring under the two study conditions, OSL and OPL.
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 11
For this purpose, study time was limited to a fixed and equal amount of time per text
(see Figure 1, stopping point C). By taking control of study time away from the
participants, the cognitive and metacognitive components of OSL and OPL could be
compared without potential contamination from the effectiveness of control decisions.
In Experiment 2, the time limit for studying each individual text was removed
and the participants were free to decide how much time to allocate to each text (see
Figure 1, stopping points A and B). Because metacognitive differences in the
efficiency of study regulation could contribute to performance differences in
Experiment 2 but not in Experiment 1, this allowed the unique contribution of self
regulation to performance differences between the two study media to be revealed,
and the metacognitive components underlying those differences to be examined.
Experiment 1
Perhaps the most natural account of the preference for OPL over OSL, which
has been examined in research so far, is that display characteristics or presentation
format simply make reading and writing—and hence learning—more difficult when
studying text on a computer screen than when studying on paper. For example, it
might be that learning efficiency is affected by differences in reading speed or in the
ease of looking back and rereading text. By this account, the primary source of media
effects on learning would be perceptual-cognitive, rather than metacognitive. If so, we
would expect to find a learning advantage for OPL over OSL, in terms of increased
encoding efficiency, under conditions in which the allocation of study time is not
under the learner’s control. This issue was examined in Experiment 1. To shed
additional light on potential perceptual-cognitive factors, we examined whether media
differences in learning efficiency would be tied to differences in the frequency of
using markup and note-taking tools (see Piolat, Olive, & Kellogg, 2005; Spencer,
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 12
2006) and if there would be any differences in learning efficiency within the OSL
group between CRT and LCD displays. The display-type factor was included in the
design in light of studies finding differences between the two display types that could
potentially affect both objective and subjective aspects of text learning (Kong-King &
Chin-Chiuan, 2000; Marmaras, Nathanael, & Zarboutis, 2008; Menozzi, Lang,
Näpflin, Zeller, & Krueger, 2001; Sheedy, Subbaram, Zimmerman, & Hayes, 2005).
The texts were made long enough (2 – 4 pages) to create potential media differences
in paging-scrolling difficulty as well, though this factor was not systematically
manipulated or analyzed.
Experiment 1’s design and procedure allowed us to measure encoding
efficiency and the accuracy of prediction of performance, in terms of both calibration
bias and resolution (components 1, 2, 3, and 4 in Table 1). Those MLRP components
are best measured under conditions that reduce the effects of self regulation of study
time. For this purpose, a fixed amount of study time per text was chosen (on the basis
of pretesting), which allowed enough time to study the main ideas of the text, while
forcing most participants to terminate their study before reaching the point at which
they would naturally do so.
Method
Participants
Seventy native Hebrew-speaking undergraduate social sciences and
humanities students (21 men, 49 women, Mage = 24.3) at the University of Haifa
participated in the experiment either for payment ($15) or for course credit (11
participants). The participant recruitment notice specified that participants should not
have any type of learning disability, and students who reported having learning
disabilities on their personal data form were excluded from participating. The
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 13
participants were randomly assigned to OSL and OPL groups (N = 35 each). The OSL
group was further divided into CRT display (N = 17) and LCD display (N = 18)
conditions.
Materials
The learning materials were six expository texts dealing with various topics
(e.g., the advantages of coal-based power stations compared to other energy sources,
adult initiation ceremonies in various cultures, the importance of warming up before
doing strenuous athletic exercise). The texts were taken from web sites intended for
reading on screen. They contained 1000-1200 words and included graphical or
pictorial illustrations. When formatted and presented as Microsoft Word documents,
the texts were between two and four pages long. The format and number of pages for
each text were identical for on-screen and on-paper presentation. For each text, a test
was devised consisting of ten 4-alternative multiple-choice questions, 5 questions
requiring memory of details and 5 questions requiring higher order comprehension,
with both item types intermixed. An example of a question that requires memory of
details: In which decade did the “coal period” start in Israel? a) 1960’s; b) 1970’s; c)
1980’s; d) 1990’s. The answer (1980’s) was explicitly mentioned in the text. An
example of a higher order comprehension question: The electricity production process
involves a fast rotating rotor. What is the direct power source for this rotation? a) gas
exhaust generated by coal combustion; b) fast flowing water; c) steam; d) hot air. The
text explains that a high-temperature vapor is produced by coal combustion, which at
high pressure then pushes a turbine that rotates the rotor (answer c).
The selection of texts and test questions for each text was based on a pretest
(N = 14). Eight texts were used as the initial text pool. For each text, 30 questions
were prepared, out of which 10 questions were selected. A “good” question was
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 14
defined as one that without reading the text first, the success rate was lower at least by
40% than that achieved by answering the question with the text in hand. In addition,
the success rate for a text was required to be above 80% with the text in hand. This
way we ensured that the questions could be answered if based on the text, and that the
answers were not obvious without reading the text first. If more than five good
questions of the same type were found for a single text, we used the five questions
that discriminated the best between answering without reading the text and answering
after reading the text. The six texts with the best set of associated test questions were
chosen for inclusion in the experiment.
One shorter text, of 200 words, was selected by a similar procedure and used
as a practice text.
Apparatus
The computer displays were 17” CRT or LCD (MAG Technology Co. Ltd.,
models 786 FD and MS776K12, respectively), both operating at 70-Hz, at a
resolution of 1024×768. The OSL texts were presented using Microsoft Word 2003.
The font was black, 12-point, Times New Roman, at 100% scale. For the OPL
condition, the same texts were printed on A4-size paper (210mm x 297mm; the
commonly used paper size in Israel).
Procedure
The experiment was administered to groups of two to six participants at a
time, all OPL or all OSL, in a room with 6 computer work stations. Thus, the physical
room environment was the same, regardless of study media. All participants read the
general instructions from a printed booklet. The only substantive difference between
the sets of instructions pertained to the manner in which annotations might be made
during study: OSL participants were provided with guidance about how to use the
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 15
word-processing tools available in Microsoft Word, including margin comments,
highlighting, underlining, and bold emphasis. All of the participants indicated that
they were familiar with these basic markup tools beforehand. OPL participants were
provided with a pen and a yellow highlighter as markup tools. The experimenter was
present at all times.
Participants were told that they would be presented with a series of texts for
study. They would be given 7 minutes to read each text, during which they were
allowed to make notes or mark the text for emphasis, if they wished. They were told
that they would be given a multiple-choice test after each text, and that the test would
include questions requiring both memory of details and higher order comprehension.
Except for the general instructions, in the OSL condition the experiment was
administered entirely by computer. A master program presented the instructions at
each stage for each text: opening each text in Microsoft Word for study, collecting
POP judgments, presenting the multiple-choice test, and recording the answers. In the
OPL condition, the same master program was used to display the instructions on the
computer screen. However, instead of opening the text file for study on the computer,
a window opened up on the screen, indicating the title of the text to be studied next.
The participants would then take the printed text with that title from the top of the pile
of texts at their station and begin reading.
At the end of the allotted study time for each text, the OSL participants saved
their text file and closed Microsoft Word, whereas the OPL participants simply placed
the text face down on their finished text pile. The participants then went on to the
POP phase, in which separate POP judgments were elicited for memory of details and
for higher order comprehension. The POP phase was administered by computer for
both media conditions: POP judgments were made by dragging an arrow along a
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 16
continuous scale between 25%-100%. The question eliciting POP for memory of
details was phrased as follows: “What percentage of the questions that require
memory of details do you expect to answer correctly?” The same phrasing was used
for the higher order comprehension POP, except that “comprehension questions”
replaced the “questions that require memory of details.” The instructions emphasized
that the participants should evaluate their expected performance in light of the limited
study time given for each text.
Immediately following the POP phase, the multiple-choice test was
administered either on screen (for the OSL condition) or on paper (for the OPL
conditions). Five minutes were allotted for the test, which allowed participants to
answer the questions without time pressure.
The experiment began with participants reading the instruction booklet and a
practice run of the entire task (study, POP, test), using the shorter practice text. The
allotted study and test times for the practice run were 5 minutes and 3 minutes,
respectively. Its purpose was to familiarize the participants with the procedure and the
type of test questions that would characterize the texts to follow. The set of six texts
were then presented in one of two orders counterbalanced between participants. The
whole procedure, including instructions and practice text, took about 90 minutes.
Results and Discussion
The main aim of this experiment was to compare the OSL and OPL conditions
in terms of encoding efficiency (test performance without control of study time) and
monitoring accuracy, both calibration bias and resolution. Before doing so, however,
we checked whether the two potential control variables, display type (manipulated)
and use of markup and note-taking tools (measured), would need to be taken into
account.
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 17
Potential Control Variables
Display type. Test scores and POP judgments of the OSL group were
equivalent for the two display types. Mean test score (percent correct) was 62.9 for
CRT and 59.1 for LCD, t(33) = 1.09, p = .28, d = 0.38. Mean POP level was 69.8 for
CRT and 72.2 for LCD, t < 1. Thus, in the following analyses both display types were
combined into a single OSL condition.
Use of markup and note-taking tools. The great majority of participants (62
out of 70) either marked 5-6 texts (20 OSL participants and 20 OPL participants) or 0-
1 of their texts (12 OSL and 10 OPL participants). Among those who marked their
texts, OSL participants used color highlighting, bold text, underlining, inserted margin
comments and added summary notes to the text; OPL participants made handwritten
comments and used underlining and color-marker highlighting. The difference in the
number of marked texts between OSL (3.3) and OPL (3.9) was examined by a Mann-
Whitney U test, revealing no significant difference between them, U = 547.00, p =
.42. Most importantly for our present concerns, when this variable was entered into
the design, it did not interact with study media in any of the subsequent analyses.
Therefore, it was not included in the reported analyses.
MLRP Components
Encoding Efficiency. Encoding efficiency was defined earlier as the amount
of knowledge gain per time unit. Based on pretesting, the preliminary knowledge
level (before study) was assumed to be low and equivalent for the two groups of
participants. Thus, given a fixed and equal amount of study time per text in each
condition, test performance can be used as a comparable measure of encoding
efficiency between the two media. As seen in Figure 2A, the average overall test score
(memory of details and higher order comprehension questions combined) for the two
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 18
media was virtually identical (OSL: 61.0 %; OPL: 60.7%; t < 1), indicating equivalent
encoding efficiency.
Prediction of Performance. An overall POP measure was calculated as the
average of the POPs for memory of details and higher order comprehension provided
by each participant for each text, corresponding to the overall test scores just reported.
The effect of study media on these subjective POP judgments can be seen by
examining Figure 2A. Despite the equivalent level of test scores for the two study
media, the combined POP was higher for OSL (71.0%) than for OPL (65.6%), t(68) =
1.99, p = .05, d = 0.48. Thus, although objectively there was no observed difference in
encoding efficiency between the two media, the OSL participants nevertheless felt
subjectively that they had learned the material better than did their OPL counterparts.
Calibration bias. To examine more directly the degree of correspondence
between subjective and objective learning, calibration bias scores were calculated as
the difference between the mean overall POP and test score of each participant, with a
positive score indicating overconfidence and a negative score indicating
underconfidence. As reflected in Figure 2A, both of the groups exhibited
overconfidence. Taking into account the manner in which the POP judgments were
elicited from the participants, a two-way ANOVA, Study Media × Question Type
(memory of details vs. higher order comprehension) was performed on the bias
scores. The main effect of study media was significant, F(1, 68) = 2.50, MSE =
364.40, p < .05, ηp2 = .04, indicating greater overconfidence in the OSL condition
(10.1) than in the OPL condition (5.0). A main effect of question type was also found,
F(1, 68) = 43.59, MSE = 87.27, p < .0001, ηp2 = .39, reflecting greater overconfidence
for the questions concerning higher order comprehension (test score = 60.8, POP =
73.5, calibration bias = 12.7) than for the questions concerning memory of details
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 19
(test score = 60.8, POP = 63.1, calibration bias = 2.3, not significantly different from
zero). There was no interaction (F < 1), indicating that the greater overconfidence for
OSL than for OPL was not limited to a particular question type.
Resolution. As explained earlier, whereas calibration bias reflects absolute
monitoring accuracy, monitoring resolution reflects relative monitoring accuracy—the
extent to which one’s subjective judgments discriminate between higher and lower
levels of actual performance. A common index of monitoring resolution in item-based
(list-learning) memory research is the Goodman–Kruskal Gamma correlation between
the metacognitive judgment and the correctness of each individual item, calculated
within individuals (Nelson, 1984). This index has sometimes been extended to
examine the monitoring of text comprehension, by treating each individual text as an
item (e.g., Thiede et al., 2003). We did this separately for the memory of details and
higher order comprehension questions and found very low correlations, with no
significant difference between the two media for either memory of details (OPL = .07;
OSL = .10; t < 1) or higher order comprehension (OPL = .11; OSL = .18; t < 1).
Gamma correlations become quite unstable when the number of items is small,
particularly when there are “ties” on one or both variables, which further reduce the
number of items that are actually included in the calculation (for other recent
criticisms of gamma, see Benjamin & Diaz, 2008; Masson & Rotello, 2009). The
small number of texts also precludes the use of other standard measures, such as da or
d’ (Masson & Rotello, 2009). For these reasons, we conducted an additional check by
calculating the within-participant Spearman correlation between POP and actual
performance on each text. Again we found very low correlations, with no significant
difference between the two media for either memory of details (OPL = .08; OSL =
.14; t < 1) or higher order comprehension (OPL = .09; OSL = .18; t < 1). We suspect
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 20
that the low values observed for both Gamma and Spearman correlations reflect
insufficient within-participant variance to meaningfully assess monitoring resolution
in this experiment.3
To sum up: First, if the effects of technology-related factors such as display
properties, mark up tools and ease of scrolling-paging, on encoding efficiency are the
main source of differences between the two study media, we would expect to find a
difference in test performance between OSL and OPL when study time is fixed and
equated. The fact that no such difference was found counts against this possibility—a
conclusion that is reinforced by the lack of effect of display type (CRT vs. LCD). Of
course, these results do not rule out the possibility that display and software properties
could affect learning efficiency in other contexts (cf. Kong-King & Chin-Chiuan,
2000; Menozzi et al., 2001; Sheedy et al., 2005). Second, the observed difference in
calibration bias—greater overconfidence under OSL than OPL—suggests that there
may be metacognitive differences between the two study media, whose effects on test
performance might emerge when study time is self regulated.
Experiment 2
As explained earlier, Experiment 2 used essentially the same materials and
procedure as Experiment 1, but with one important difference: Here, the participants
could decide for themselves how much time to spend on each text within a loose,
global time frame. The main question was whether a difference between OSL and
OPL in test performance would now emerge, due to differences in the effectiveness of
study-time regulation between the two study media.
The combined data from the two experimental procedures (fixed study time in
Experiment 1; self-regulated study time in Experiment 2) provided information
regarding the MLRP components of encoding efficiency, prediction of performance,
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 21
calibration bias, resolution, self-regulated performance, and self-regulated study time.
In addition, to allow a more fine-grained examination of the quality of metacognitive
control, information regarding on-going changes in subjective knowledge level during
study was also collected: Half the participants in Experiment 2 provided “online” POP
judgments during study in addition to their final POP judgments. The POP judgments
elicited before and after the decision to stop studying were used to estimate the
control criterion adopted by each participant, and to examine control sensitivity in
terms of the strength of relationship between online POP and the decision to stop
studying.
Method
Participants
Seventy-four native Hebrew-speaking undergraduates without learning
disabilities (mean age = 24.6; 24 males and 50 females) participated in the
experiment, either for payment or for course credit. Half were randomly assigned to
the OPL condition and half to the OSL condition. Nineteen participants in each
condition received the terminal-POP procedure, whereas the remaining 18 received
the online-POP procedure.
Materials and Apparatus
The same software and materials used in Experiment 1 were used again in this
experiment. Because Experiment 1 yielded no effect of computer display type, only
LCD displays (same as in Experiment 1) were used in this experiment.
Procedure
The procedure was similar to the one used in Experiment 1, with study media
again manipulated as a between-participant variable. The participants studied each
text, predicted their performance for memory of details and for higher order
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 22
comprehension, and were then tested by multiple-choice questions. For the terminal-
POP group, the only difference from Experiment 1 was that in this experiment
participants managed their study-time allocation freely within a 90-minute global time
frame for studying all six texts. It was explained to the participants that this meant
about 15 minutes per text, including text study, POP elicitation, and test. In the few
cases (two OSL and three OPL participants) in which participants were still studying
the fifth text after 70 minutes had gone by, they were asked to finish studying the text
they were working on without time pressure, and the last (sixth) text was waived.
The online-POP group went through the same procedure, but in addition they
were required to pause their studying every three minutes to provide a current POP
judgment, for both memory of details and higher order comprehension, in addition to
the terminal POP judgments provided after study was completed. The instructions
emphasized that the online POPs at each point in time should take into account how
much of the text had been studied so far, and how much still remained to be learned.
Study interruptions for online POP were expected to prolong the overall study time,
so although the same global 90-minute time limit was presented in the instructions,
for the online-POP group it was not enforced.
Results and Discussion
A comparison between the two methods of POP elicitation, online and
terminal POP, revealed no differences in any of the dependent measures reported
below. In particular, there was no interaction between POP elicitation method and
study media on test scores or terminal POPs (all Fs < 1). Thus, until reaching the
analyses of control criterion and control sensitivity, unless specified otherwise, the
data analyses were collapsed across the groups.
Use of Markup and Note-taking Tools
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 23
As in Experiment 1, most of the participants (65 out of 74) either marked 5-6
of their texts (31 OSL and 19 OPL participants) or 0-1 texts (4 OSL and 11 OPL
participants). Analysis of the number of marked texts per study media by a Mann-
Whitney U test indicated that in this experiment there was a greater tendency for OSL
participants (4.7) to mark their texts than for OPL participants (3.5), U = 418.00, p <
.01. This finding is somewhat surprising, because people, including our survey
participants, usually report that one of the reasons for their reluctance to study on
screen is that the markup and note-taking tools are harder to use. Importantly, when
frequency of markup was included as an additional factor, it did not interact with
study media in any of the subsequent analyses.
MLRP Components
Study time. Study time was a meaningful measure only for the terminal-POP
group (N = 38).4 The global time limit for studying all of the texts was 90 min. The
actual total study time, excluding the participants whose 6th text was waived,
averaged 76.6 min., suggesting that studying was finished smoothly without any
pressure. In order to verify that the global time-frame had not caused these
participants to rush at the end of the session, a one-way ANOVA was performed to
examine the effect of Serial Position (6) on study time per text. This analysis revealed
a marginal effect F(5, 150) = 2.05, MSE = 2.35, p < .08, ηp2 = .06. A post-hoc LSD
test indicated that the only significant differences were between the first text, which
was studied for the longest amount of time (10.1 min), and the rest of the texts (9.2
min each).
Comparison of study time per text between the two media showed that less
study time was invested by OSL participants (9.1 min.) than by OPL participants
(10.0 min.), though the difference only approached significance, t(36) = 1.81, p < .08,
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 24
d = 0.63. This trend accords with the results for calibration bias reported below,
perhaps reflecting the control consequence of overconfidence in monitoring. Note
also that the participants studied each text for an average of 9.6 minutes, significantly
longer than the seven minutes allowed in Experiment 1, t(37) = 10.63, p < .0001, d =
1.72. This reinforces our earlier assumption that the participants in Experiment 1
would generally not have reached their natural study-termination point in the fixed
allotted time (see Figure 1, stopping point C).
Performance. Test scores in this experiment, under self-paced study, were
lower for OSL (63.2%) than for OPL (72.3%), t(72) = 3.34, p = .001, d = 0.79 (see
Figure 2B). To compare the pattern under self-regulated learning (Experiment 2) and
fixed study time (Experiment 1), a two-way ANOVA, Experiment × Study Media,
was performed on the test scores. There was a main effect of experiment, F(1, 140) =
12.68, MSE = 137.66, p = .001, ηp2 = 0.08, a main effect of study media, F(1, 140) =
5.12, MSE = 137.66, p < .05, ηp2 = 0.04, and a significant interaction F(1, 140) = 5.80,
MSE = 137.66, p < .05, ηp2 = 0.04. The significant interaction indicates that the
advantage of OPL over OSL observed under self-regulated learning in Experiment 2
does in fact differ from the null effect under fixed study time in Experiment 1.
Prediction of Performance. Figure 2B shows that despite the performance
difference observed in this experiment, overall terminal POP did not differ between
the two study media, t < 1. For the OPL participants, however, POP was higher in
Experiment 2 than in Experiment 1, t(70) = 3.28, p < .01, d = 0.78, reflecting the
increase in actual test performance in that condition. There was no difference in POP
between experiments for the OSL participants, t < 1, corresponding to the lack of
difference in test performance in that condition. This pattern suggests that POP is
sensitive to differences (or lack of difference) in learning level.
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 25
Examination of online POPs provided by half of the participants (N = 18 in
each media) allowed us to compare the subjective learning curves between OSL and
OPL. Figure 3 plots the mean online POP at each elicitation point separately for each
study media. The overall shape of the plots fits the theoretical learning curve
presented in Figure 1. For both media, there was marked subjective progress in the
initial learning stages, with decelerated progress as study continued. A two-way
ANOVA, POP Elicitation Point (4) × Study Media was performed on points 1 – 4 in
which all of the participants had data. It revealed a main effect of elicitation point,
F(3, 102) = 116.12, MSE = 47.26, p < .0001, ηp2 = .77, and a significant interaction
with the media, F(3, 102) = 8.19, MSE = 47.26, p < .0001, ηp2 = .19. A comparison
between the two study media at each elicitation point revealed a significant difference
only at the first elicitation point, t(34) = 2.54, p < .05, d = 0.87, and nonsignificant
differences at all subsequent points. OSL participants predicted their performance
after 3 minutes to be at 48%, while OPL participants were more moderate in their
judgments (36%). This unfounded inflation of predictions for OSL after a short fixed
amount of study time accords with the POP difference observed under fixed study
time in Experiment 1.
Calibration bias. As in Experiment 1, we compared calibration bias between
the two study media including question type as an additional factor. The two-way
ANOVA revealed again a main effect of study media, F(1, 72) = 6.78, MSE = 357.87,
p = .01, ηp2 = .09, with larger calibration bias for OSL (10.4) than for OPL (2.3; not
significantly different from zero). A main effect of question type was again observed,
F(1, 72) = 31.34, MSE = 75.69, p < .0001, ηp2 = .30, reflecting greater overconfidence
for higher order comprehension (test score = 67.8; POP = 78.2; calibration bias =
10.3) than for memory of details (test score = 67.7; POP = 70.1; calibration bias =
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 26
2.3, not significantly different from zero). Finally, as in Experiment 1, there was again
no interaction between the effects of study media and question type (F < 1), indicating
that the greater overconfidence for OSL than for OPL was not limited to a particular
question type.
Resolution. As in Experiment 1, Gamma correlations were very low, yielding
no difference between the study media for either question type (memory of details:
OPL = .10, OSL = .21; t < 1; higher order comprehension: OPL = .12, OSL = .03; t <
1). A similar pattern was found using Spearman correlations (memory of details: OPL
= .08, OSL = .21; t[72] = 1.18, p = .24, d = 0.27; higher order comprehension: OPL =
.07, OSL = .03; t < 1). Thus, as in Experiment 1, there is no evidence of media
differences in monitoring resolution, though once again we suspect that the low
correlations stem from low within-participant variance in POP and in actual
performance between texts.
Control Criterion. The equivalent levels of terminal POP between the two
study media reported earlier, suggest that the same target level of knowledge may
have been adopted as a control criterion. The data from the online-POP group was
used to examine this possibility more stringently. According to the discrepancy
reduction model, the terminal POP level for each studied text should be located just at
or above the control criterion, whereas the preceding online POP, provided just before
study termination, should be located below the criterion. Thus, adapting the
computational procedure used by Koriat and Goldsmith (1996) to estimate the control
criterion in memory reporting, we identified for each participant the POP level
(average of memory of details and higher order comprehension questions) that would
be below all (most) of the terminal POPs and above all (most) of the immediately
preceding POPs provided for the set of texts studied by that subject. The chosen
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 27
criterion estimate was the candidate POP level that maximized the “fit rate” (cf.
Koriat & Goldsmith, 1996), defined as the percentage of all POPs (2 times the number
of studied texts) which were in fact above or below the candidate criterion level in
accordance with the discrepancy reduction model. If a range of potential criteria
yielded an equivalent fit rate, the midpoint of the range was used as the best point
estimate.
Using this procedure, the mean estimated control criterion for participants in
the OSL condition (M = 68.5) did not differ from that in the OPL condition (M =
69.5), t < 1. The criterion fit rates were also equivalent for the two study media (77%
for OPL and 80% for OSL), t < 1. This finding reinforces the conclusion implied by
the equivalent terminal-POP levels that the same target level of knowledge was
strived for, regardless of the study media.
Control Sensitivity. The online-POP procedure also allowed control
sensitivity to be compared between the two study media. According to the
discrepancy reduction model, all POPs provided during the study process should be
lower than the one produced after the decision to stop studying. Thus, we calculated
for each participant the percentage of texts for which the highest POP (average of
memory of details and higher order comprehension questions) was accompanied by
the decision to stop studying. The percentage for OSL (M = 79.4%) was significantly
lower than for OPL (M = 98.2%) t(34) = 2.45, p < .05, d = 0.85. By this analysis, the
decision to stop studying was less consistently related to the subjective monitoring in
OSL than in OPL. In fact, whereas control sensitivity was virtually at ceiling and with
very little variance under OPL (16 of 18 participants yielding a sensitivity score of
100%; range: 83 - 100%), there was a much larger degree of inter-individual
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 28
variability in control sensitivity under OSL (10 of 18 participants yielding a
sensitivity score of 100%; range: 0 - 100%).
We also analyzed control sensitivity with respect to the region of proximal
learning model, which holds that change in POP, rather than the absolute level of
POP, is the basis for study termination. To do so, we identified for each studied text
of each participant, the minimum difference between two consecutive POPs (again
using the average of memory of details and higher order comprehension questions).
For each minimum difference, the learner’s decision at that point, whether to continue
or to stop studying, was tabulated. The percentage of minimum differences that were
accompanied by a decision to stop studying (i.e., for which the second of the two
consecutive POPs was a terminal POP) was significantly lower for OSL (M = 36.3%)
than for OPL (M = 59.8%) t(34) = 2.77, p < .01, d = 0.95. Thus, the application of the
region of proximal learning model provides a result that converges with the result
based on the discrepancy reduction model. By both analyses, the decision to stop
studying was more “erratic”—less related to the monitoring output—for OSL than for
OPL.
In sum, the main finding of this experiment was that in contrast to the
equivalent test performance under fixed study time, performance under self-paced
study was lower for OSL than for OPL. Moreover, the lower test performance of OSL
was accompanied by significant overconfidence with regard to predicted performance,
whereas OPL participants monitored their performance more accurately. This
overconfidence difference was consistent with other differences that would be
expected under the discrepancy reduction model: The somewhat shorter study time
and the ensuing lower level of actual learning for OSL relative to OPL. The control
criterion (norm of study) was found to be equivalent for the two study media. This
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 29
suggests that the participants intended to achieve the same level of knowledge,
regardless of the study media, leading us to reject a goal-setting explanation for the
performance difference between OSL and OPL. Control sensitivity, on the other hand,
was weaker for OSL than for OPL, implicating this factor as an additional potential
source of lower OSL performance under conditions of self-regulated study.
General Discussion
The technological advances of the last few decades have led investigators to
examine the potential benefits of novel methods of instruction (e.g., Chou & Liu,
2005; Chumley-Jones, Dobbie, & Alford, 2002; Macedo-Rouet, Rouet, Epstein, &
Fayard, 2003; Mayer, 2003; Metcalfe, Kornell, & Son, 2007), as well as the
preconditions for taking advantage of these new methodologies (Coiro, Knobel,
Lankshear, & Leu, 2008; Eshet-Alkalai, 2004). However, citing a list of studies of
self-regulated learning with hypermedia, Azevedo and Cromley (2004) concluded that
“students have difficulties benefiting from hypermedia environments because they fail
to engage in key mechanisms related to regulating their learning” (p. 523). In the
present study we took a step back from the more novel aspects of the new learning
technologies, examining the impact of on-screen text presentation on the more basic
processes of text learning. This simplification allowed us to examine whether
metacognitive learning regulation difficulties are found even in simpler computerized
environments, without the extra challenges presented to the learner by advanced study
techniques. We assume that the basic processes of reading and remembering
expository texts on screen are essential building blocks of the more complex learning
and regulatory processes that operate in more technologically sophisticated learning
environments (Shapiro & Niederhauser, 2004). Thus, regardless of whatever other
types of media differences in learning processes there might be, the basic differences
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 30
found here should contribute to differences in almost all computer-learning
environments.
In addition to shedding light on potential differences in the processes underlying
text learning on screen versus on paper, an additional and independent aim of the
present article was to put forward the metacognitive framework in general, and the
MLRP methodology in particular, as a useful approach to the examination and
analysis of objective and subjective differences in learning processes. In what follows,
we first discuss how the MLRP methodology was used in the present study to uncover
such differences in the underlying learning processes between the two study media,
and then move on to focus on the findings themselves and their implications for the
learning of texts in computerized environments.
The MLRP Methodology
The MLRP is proposed as a general methodology for analyzing study regulation
in terms of its cognitive and metacognitive components, enabling the concurrent
examination of the potential contributions of these components—contributions that
might not be considered otherwise. The methodology is essentially a synthesis of
methods based on two theoretical models of study time regulation, the discrepancy
reduction model and the region of proximal learning model, and on methods
developed to examine the strategic regulation of memory retrieval and reporting. All
of these emphasize the causal relationships between metacognitive monitoring and
control operations, and the impact that these operations have on actual performance
(e.g., Benjamin, Bjork, & Schwartz, 1998; Goldsmith & Koriat, 2008; Kornell &
Metcalfe, 2006; Metcalfe & Finn, 2008; Nelson & Dunlosky, 1991; Thiede et al.
2003). We now discuss each MLRP component in turn (see Table 1), and consider the
information that is gained by its assessment.
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 31
Encoding efficiency. In Experiment 2, under self regulated study, test
performance was lower for OSL than for OPL. However, this finding alone does not
indicate the reason for the difference between the two study media. To examine
potential differences in encoding efficiency, it is necessary to take away an important
“degree of freedom” that learners usually have—control over the allocation of study
time. This was done in Experiment 1. In that experiment, under a short and fixed
study time, OSL and OPL performance was equivalent. This finding may imply
equivalent learning processes in the two media, but it could also reflect the offsetting
effects of differential reading speed, attention, fatigue, and many other uncontrolled
factors. Whatever the underlying reasons for the equivalent encoding efficiency, the
important implication is that although people are reluctant to study on screen, they can
potentially do so as efficiently as on paper. This finding provides an important insight
into the potential source of differences under more natural study conditions, in which
learners control the amount of time allocated to each text, pointing to the role of self-
regulated control of study time and the contribution of such control to learning
performance.
Monitoring. In metacomprehension studies, participants are typically asked to
provide POP only at the end of text learning. Under self-regulated study, however,
such POPs may tap a combination of subjective encoding efficiency and study-time
regulation efficiency. According to the discrepancy reduction model, learners can
compensate for low assessed knowledge by investing more study time, and this is
expected to bring them, at least subjectively, to a similar level of performance (their
control criterion) for all texts. Indeed, the variability of terminal POPs in Experiment
1 was larger than that of the terminal POPs in Experiment 2 (Experiment 1: Mean SD
= 10.1; Experiment 2: Mean SD = 8.5, t[142] = 2.05, p < .05, d = 0.35). The MLRP
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 32
methodology taps the monitoring process before compensation by study-time
allocation can take place, either by terminating the study early after a fixed amount of
time (terminal POP; Experiment 1), or by eliciting POP early during self-regulated
study (online-POP; Experiment 2). In the present study, both methods revealed a
difference that was otherwise hidden: Although there was no difference between
study media in terminal metacognitive predictions under self-regulated study, OSL
predictions were higher than OPL predictions when elicited in the early stage of
study, before study-time regulation could take place.
As in the general metacomprehension literature, monitoring accuracy is
examined within the MLRP methodology in both absolute (calibration bias) and
relative (resolution) terms. The results pertaining to calibration bias were quite
consistent between the two experiments: OSL was accompanied by a greater degree
of overconfidence than OPL. Based on the discrepancy reduction model, this
difference in overconfidence should have a causal effect on the allocation of study
time (see Figure 1, earlier).
With regard to relative monitoring accuracy, the examination of POP resolution
tends to be problematic in the context of text learning research, because of the
relatively small number of judgments that can be collected and included in the
calculation of the measures. In the present research, we assessed POP resolution using
the Goodman-Kruskal gamma and the Spearman correlations. Both measures
indicated very low levels of resolution, probably because of the small number of texts
and their similar levels of difficulty.
One change from the common metacomprehension procedure, relevant to the
measurement of both relative and absolute monitoring accuracy, was the elicitation of
separate POP judgments for the two question types, memory of details and higher
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 33
order comprehension. The separation of these POP judgments was expected to focus
participants’ attention on the unique aspects of each knowledge type, thereby
improving monitoring accuracy. We cannot know whether the separate elicitation had
any effect on POP accuracy. However, we can point to the fact that POPs for higher
order comprehension were characterized by greater overconfidence than POPs for
memory of details. One possible basis for such differences is that higher order
comprehension judgments might reflect an evaluation of general ability (Zhao &
Linderholm, 2008), whereas judgments regarding memory of details might be related
more to the specific material (cf. theory-based vs. experience-based cues; Koriat,
1997). In this case, we would expect low within-participant variability in POPs for
higher order comprehension relative to POPs for memory of details across the six
texts studied by each participant. To examine this idea, we compared the mean
within-participant standard deviation for the two question types (see Baker &
Dunlosky, 2006). We found that the variability in POPs for memory of details was
indeed larger than in POPs for higher order comprehension, though the difference
between them was small (Experiment 1: Memory detail POP M = 11.61, SE = 0.59;
higher order comprehension POP M = 10.07, SE = 0.50; t[69] = 3.49, p = .001, d =
0.42. Experiment 2: Memory detail POP M = 10.12, SE = 0.57; higher order
comprehension POP M = 8.33, SE = 0.60; t[73] = 4.53, p < .0001, d = 0.53).
Control. Turning now to the control components, the MLRP methodology
allows the level of the control criterion (norm of study under the discrepancy
reduction model) to be inferred either from the terminal level of POP under the
uninterrupted self-regulated study procedure, or by identifying the POP level that best
differentiates the terminal level of POP from the preceding POP levels, under the
online-POP procedure. No differences were found between the two study media in the
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 34
level of terminal POP per se, or in the criterion estimates based on the online POP
procedure.
A second aspect of control that was examined is control sensitivity. As
explained above, it is assumed by both theoretical models that study termination is
tightly related to subjective monitoring, although by different stopping rules. By both
models, control sensitivity was weaker for OSL than for OPL. As mentioned in the
introduction, in the context of memory reporting, control sensitivity of healthy young
adults is generally at ceiling (e.g., Koriat & Goldsmith, 1996), whereas lower control
sensitivity may be diagnostic of impairment associated with schizophrenia,
psychoactive drugs, and normal aging processes (see review in Pansky et al., 2009).
The present finding of reduced control sensitivity under OSL in normal young adults
demonstrates the potential value of this measure for exposing situational control
impairments as well.
The investigation of media differences in study regulation is highly relevant for
many applications. However, we also believe that the examination of these
differences provides a good “case study” to highlight the general potential utility of
the MLRP methodology, because it generates an intriguing situation in which
equivalent groups of participants study the same set of materials but have different
qualities of subjective experience. From a metacognitive perspective, this difference
in subjective experience should have consequences for study regulation, which in turn
should have consequences for the ultimate level of learning as measured by test
performance. Thus, the comparison of the MLRPs between OSL and OPL illustrates a
general approach to analyzing and examining differences in text learning processes,
beyond the common focus on student characteristics and aspects of the study
materials.
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 35
Metacognitive Learning Regulation on Screen vs. on Paper
After focusing on the potential contribution of the MLRP methodology to the
analysis of study regulation in general, we turn now to discuss the more specific
insights that can be gained by comparing the MLRPs of OSL and OPL (see Table 1,
column 3). Interestingly, the common preference of OPL over OSL appears to be
justified, since test performance was indeed lower for OSL under natural, self-
regulated study conditions (Experiment 2). Such differences were implied in previous
studies and explained in terms of display factors (e.g., Garland & Noyes, 2004) or
difficulties with the use of markup and note-taking tools on screen relative to on paper
(O’hara & Sellen, 1997). However, our results discount this as the main difference
between the two media: First, markup and note-taking tools were used to a similar
extent in both media in Experiment 1 and even more for OSL than for OPL in
Experiment 2. Second, characteristics of the computer screen and software did not
prevent participants from achieving equivalent performance levels on screen and on
paper in Experiment 1 (see also Annand, 2008). The findings of no difference in
encoding efficiency between OSL and OPL and the emergence of a performance
difference only under self-regulated study time, suggest that the efficiency of study
regulation is the critical factor underlying the observed performance difference. Of
course, as mentioned earlier, the generality of this conclusion will need to be
examined further in future research.
Conceivably, test performance differences between OSL and OPL could also
reflect differences in test media rather than in study media. However, the finding of
equivalent test performance in Experiment 1 counts against the possibility that media
effects on test processes are responsible for the observed performance differences in
Experiment 2, whose test conditions were identical to those in Experiment 1.
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 36
Nevertheless, it is worth considering the possibility that differences in test media
might also affect metacognitive processes involved in the retrieval and reporting of
one’s answers (cf. Goldsmith & Koriat, 2008; Higham, 2007), a possibility that
deserves further examination.
Turning to possible regulatory differences between the study media, one
potential difference might be that participants have an initial reluctance toward
studying on screen and therefore do not intend to achieve the same performance level
as when studying on paper. This possibility was discounted, however, by the finding
of equivalent estimated control criteria for the two media, indicating that the
participants in both conditions intended to achieve similar levels of learning.
Metacognitive processes were found to differ between the two study media in
two aspects. First, overconfidence was consistently greater for OSL than for OPL. A
possible explanation for this difference is that the learners who studied on screen
faced a more difficult learning situation. Studying difficult materials is known to
increase overconfidence relative to easier materials (“hard-easy effect,” Lichtenstein,
Fischhoff, & Phillips, 1982). However, the hard-easy effect should reflect a pattern in
which there is a large difference in performance between OSL and OPL, with a
smaller difference in the subjective estimation of knowledge. In contrast, our results
yielded equivalent performance, with higher POP for OSL than for OPL (in
Experiment 1), indicating that OSL was not objectively harder than OPL. Thus, we
conclude that the OSL overconfidence was not related to objective task difficulty.
Greater overconfidence for OSL than for OPL is especially puzzling in light of
the common reluctance to study on screen (see Introduction). In fact, such reluctance
might be expected to be expressed in relative underconfidence. Thus, there seems to
be incongruity between the overall attitude toward OSL versus OPL and the
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 37
metacognitive judgments that are made with respect to specific studied texts. This
incongruity may perhaps be resolved in terms of the difference between
metacognitive (first-order) and meta-metacognitive (second-order) judgments. In the
context of list-learning memory tasks, for example, Dunlosky, Serra, Matvey, and
Rawson (2005) asked participants to make second-order metacognitive judgments
(called SOJs) which expressed their confidence in the accuracy of their first-order
metacognitive judgments (JOLs). The second-order confidence judgments were found
to be higher for extreme JOLs than for intermediate-level JOLs, and for delayed JOLs
compared to those made immediately after study. In both cases, the second-order
judgments were in fact sensitive to differences in the accuracy of the first-order (JOL)
judgments. In a similar vein, it may be that one’s overall subjective feeling toward
OSL represents a general meta-metacognitive judgment at a more global level—in
this case reflecting the perceived overall quality of one’s own metacognitive
monitoring and control processes when studying on screen as opposed to on paper. If
learners do monitor the reliability of their own metacognitive processes and perceive
these processes as generally less reliable on screen than on paper (as indicated in the
present results), then this meta-metacognitive judgment could lead to a reluctance to
study on screen, and would in fact appear to reflect the observed performance
differences between the two media better than the first-order memory and
comprehension monitoring.
The perceived unreliability of one’s own monitoring during on-screen learning
might also explain the second component that was found to differ between the
media—control sensitivity. If one’s monitoring is perceived as less reliable, one might
tend less to base one’s study-time control decisions on that monitoring. Following up
on these ideas, the decision to print digitally presented material before study might be
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 38
viewed as a meta-metacognitive control decision that transfers the study materials to
the more subjectively reliable context of paper learning. This interpretation, though
highly speculative, suggests the need to consider factors that affect more global
(second order) self-evaluations of one’s metacognitive abilities in particular contexts,
which in turn may influence more specific (first order) metacognitive monitoring and
control behaviors.
Why are some metacognitive processes less effective on screen? This too
might perhaps be due in part to higher order metacognitive beliefs. Consider a related
idea from the literature on age-related study deficits: It has been suggested that such
deficits are related to self-referent beliefs about one’s ability to effectively mobilize
cognitive resources (e.g., Bandura, 1989). Older adults believe that they are less able
than younger adults to recruit the needed resources when faced with a cognitive task,
and so may be less likely to do so (e.g., Berry, West, & Dennehey, 1989; Miller &
Lachman, 1999; Stine-Morrow, Shake, Miles, & Noh, 2006). Similarly, people appear
to perceive the printed-paper medium as best suited for effortful learning, whereas the
electronic medium is better suited for fast and shallow reading of short texts such as
news, e-mails, and forum notes (Shaikh, 2004; Spencer, 2006; Tewksbury & Althaus,
2000). The common perception of screen presentation as an information source
intended for shallow messages may reduce the mobilization of cognitive resources
that is needed for effective self regulation.
Research on metacomprehension has found that as people engage in more
effortful processing, both performance and relative monitoring accuracy benefit
(Rawson et al., 2000; Thiede et al., 2003; Thiede, Dunlosky, Griffin, & Wiley, 2005).
It may be that overcoming overconfidence bias is also facilitated by cognitive effort
and deep processing, by leading to a reliance on more appropriate monitoring cues
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 39
(Koriat, Lichtenstein, & Fischhoff, 1980 ; Sniezek, Paese, & Switzer III, 1990;
Thiede, Griffin, Wiley, & Anderson, 2010).
To sum up, the results of this study point to specific metacognitive deficits in
on-screen learning that do not appear to reflect difficulties in information encoding
per se. In its attempt to break new ground in applying a metacognitive framework to
uncover and explain differences in learning from paper and computer screen, the
present research perhaps raises more questions than it answers. Nevertheless, several
potentially important implications of the findings can be specified: First, they call into
question the common assumption that as long as no new technological skills are
explicitly required, learners can adapt seamlessly into computerized learning
environments by applying skills proven to be effective on paper (see also Garland &
Noyes, 2004). Second, they raise new considerations in the development of
computerized learning and testing environments, particularly when reading
comprehension is involved. As just one example, when a test requires students to read
a text and then answer questions, the test score is likely to reflect the effectiveness of
metacognitive processes, such as time allocation and knowledge monitoring, in
addition to the specific object-level knowledge or cognitive ability that is being
targeted (see, e.g., Budescu & Bar-Hillel, 1993; Higham, 2007; Koriat & Goldsmith,
1998). If so, test scores may differ when the test is administered on screen versus on
paper, and individual differences in the influence of test media on metacognitive
effectiveness may add unwanted variance to the test scores. Third, because
computerized learning environments are already ubiquitous, ways should be devised
to improve the metacognitive skills of screen learners (cf. Kramarsky & Dudai, 2009;
Roll, Aleven, McLaren, & Koedinger, 2007). Our approach calls for a special focus of
these attempts on the effectiveness of “online” metacognitive monitoring and control.
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 40
Fourth, researchers who investigate study processes in general and
metacomprehension in particular, should pay attention to the study (or test) media as a
potential intervening variable, and avoid the mixing of tasks on screen and on paper
as if these tasks are completely interchangeable.
Finally, in the present study we examined continuous text learning. It should be
interesting to compare the effectiveness of metacognitive learning processes with
hypertext and/or multimedia technologies to those of continuous text learning using
the MLRP methodology. Perhaps a more active or sophisticated learning environment
will enhance the effectiveness of study regulation, or on the contrary, perhaps the
increased complexity and cognitive load will reduce its effectiveness. In addition, one
might examine different types of learning tasks beyond continuous text learning, such
as information collection and integration from multiple sources on the World Wide
Web (see Britt & Gabrys, 2002; Le Bigot & Rouet, 2007; Stadler & Bromme, 2007).
More generally, this study highlights the potential utility of the metacognitive
approach and MLRP methodology in identifying and revealing the source of
subjective and objective differences in learning performance between different study
tasks and conditions, learning materials, and learner characteristics.
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 41
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METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 54
Footnotes
1 In the metacognitive literature relating to the memorization of word lists, this
prediction is commonly termed Judgment of Learning (JOL). Because in the present
article our specific focus is on the study of texts, we adopt the term POP to indicate
the more complex, multi-level nature of metacognitive assessments relating to the
mastery of textual material.
2 To reinforce the motivation for the study, we conducted a study-media
preference survey (N = 126; 17 – 61 years of age). The primary target question was:
“Assume that you need to read an article for serious study (such as preparing for an
exam, or for a lecture you are going to give), and that the article was sent to you via
the computer or that you found it on the Internet. What would you usually do? (a)
print out the paper or (b) read the paper on screen.” Overall, 80% of the participants
reported that they would print the paper rather than read it on screen, attributing this
preference to ergonomic factors such as screen glare or eyestrain, poor spatial layout,
and clumsy markup and note-taking tools. Interestingly, there were no significant
differences in the reported preferences of three different age groups (17 – 20, 21 – 30,
and 31 – 61).
3 Calculating gamma and Spearman correlations using the overall POP and
test scores (mean of memory of details and higher order comprehension questions)
yielded a similar picture: Gamma correlations averaged .16 for OSL and .05 for OPL,
with no significant difference between the two study media, t(68) = 1.04. Spearman
correlations averaged .19 for OSL and .06 for OPL, with no significant difference
between the two study media, t(68) = 1.28, p = .21, d = 0.30.
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 55
4 Note that participants in the online-POP condition had to interrupt their study
of each text up to four times to provide the online POP judgments. This added about 2
minutes to the average study time per text (M = 11.4 min. for online-POP vs. 9.5 min.
for terminal-POP) as well as a substantial amount of additional variance (SD = 1.96
min. for online-POP vs. 1.48 min. for terminal-POP). Moreover, the time lost in
making and switching to/from the POP judgments could not be separated from the
time spent in actual study of the text. For these reasons, only the terminal-POP group
was used in the analysis of self-regulated study time as a dependent measure.
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 56
Table 1.
Summary Comparison of Metacognitive Learning Regulation Profiles (MLRP) for
On-Screen Learning (OSL) Versus On-Paper Learning (OPL), Across the
Experiments
MLRP Component Component
Source
Qualitative Comparison
Result
Cognitive (encoding/storage)
1. Encoding efficiency Experiment 1 OSL
=
OPL
Metacognitive Monitoring
2. Prediction of Performance
(POP)
Experiment 1
Experiment 2
1st online-POP
OSL
> OPL
Experiment 2
terminal POP
OSL
=
OPL
3. Calibration bias Experiment 1
Experiment 2 OSL
>
OPL
4. Resolution Experiment 1
Experiment 2 OSL
=
OPL
Metacognitive Control
5. Control criterion Experiment 2
online-POP
OSL
=
OPL
6. Control sensitivity Experiment 2
online-POP
OSL
<
OPL
Performance
7. Self-regulated study time Experiment 2
terminal POP
OSL
<
OPL
8. Self-regulated test
performance
Experiment 2 OSL
<
OPL
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 57
Figure 1. Illustrative objective and subjective hypothetical learning curves, based on
the discrepancy reduction model, comparing conditions of perfect calibration and
overconfidence. Differences in knowledge level at three different study termination
points are also indicated: A – termination with overconfidence, B – termination with
perfect calibration, and C – termination after a short, fixed study time (as in
Experiment 1, here).
Actual knowledge progress
POP progress with perfect calibration
POP progress with overconfidence
Study Time
Knowledge /
POP
C
A
B
Control
Criterion
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 58
A. Fixed Study Time
(Experiment 1)
40
50
60
70
80
Screen Paper
POP Test Score
B. Self-Regulated Study Time
(Experiment 2)
40
50
60
70
80
Screen Paper
POP Test Score
Figure 2. Mean combined prediction of performance (POP) and test scores in
Experiment 1 under fixed study time (Panel A) and in Experiment 2 under self-
regulated study time (Panel B). Error bars represent standard error of the mean.
METACOGNITIVE REGULATION OF TEXT LEARNING 59
30
40
50
60
70
80
1 2 3 4 5
POP Elicitation Point
POP
Screen Paper
Figure 3. Mean overall prediction of performance (POP) per elicitation point for OPL
vs. OSL in the online-POP condition of Experiment 2. Number of participants
contributing to each data point was N = 18, except for the fifth data point for which N
= 12 for OSL, and N = 13 for OPL. Error bars represent standard error of the mean.
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