The Development of Executive Function and Self-Regulated Learning in Adolescent Males.

Gerard Effeney (2011). The Development of Executive Function and Self-Regulated Learning in Adolescent Males. PhD Thesis, School of Education, The University of Queensland.

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Author Gerard Effeney
Thesis Title The Development of Executive Function and Self-Regulated Learning in Adolescent Males.
School, Centre or Institute School of Education
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-05
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Associate Professor Annemaree Carroll
Professor Nan Bahr
Total pages 261
Total colour pages 10
Total black and white pages 251
Subjects 13 Education
Abstract/Summary As adolescents progress through school their academic workloads typically increase and they are required to manage increasingly specialized subject matter, increased levels of homework and more demanding assessment tasks. At the same time, they are expected to be more independent and self-sufficient inside and outside the classroom and to demonstrate increased levels of self-regulatory, adult-like behaviour. Self-regulatory abilities have been found to be attributes of successful learners and the degree to which students become self-regulators of their own learning influences academic success at school. The development of academic, self-regulatory skills has been long associated with social cognitive theories and typically couched in terms of self-regulated learning (SRL). In recent years neuroscientific studies of the developing brain have led to an emerging hypothesis that the development of self-regulatory skills during adolescence are related to the significant brain maturation that occurs during this period. These maturational changes are most prominent in the brain’s frontal lobes which have long been associated with executive function (EF), an umbrella term for a range of goal-orientated cognitive processes. For educators, the supporting evidence and the possible implications that the emerging neuroscientific theory of development has for the development of academic, self-regulatory skills in school aged adolescents is unclear. This thesis investigated the development of academic, self-regulatory skills in a cross-sectional sample of adolescent male school students aged 11 to 17 years. The relationships between EF and SRL were explored using two self-report instruments, the Behavioural Rating Instrument of Executive Function (BRIEF) and the Strategies for Self-Regulated Learning Survey (SSRLS) (N = 257). Evidence was found to suggest that SRL is a contextualized application of EF that is strongly metacognitive in nature. In addition, self-reported levels of EF were found to be a predictor of self-reported SRL with the metacognitive skills of executive planning and organization, and working memory capacity also playing a predictive role. This research then employed a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the age-related changes in frontal lobe maturation, executive function and self-regulated learning. Quantitative electroencephalography (EEG) recordings were used to assess frontal lobe activation during a test of set-shifting from the CANTAB’s bank of neuropsychological tests of executive function in addition to self-report measures of EF and SRL (N = 25). A significant age-related reduction in frontal lobe EEG voltage, indicative of maturational synaptic pruning, was found in conjunction with age-related gains in EF and SRL capabilities, suggesting that EF and SRL improves in parallel with the maturation of the brain’s frontal lobes. Age-related changes in self-reported measures of EF and SRL in a cross-sectional sample (N = 187) were investigated over a twelve month period by repeated administration of the BRIEF and SSRLS instruments. ANOVAs revealed age-related improvements in self-reported levels of task strategy while self-reported levels of goal setting and planning decreased in early high school. Self-motivation was found to decrease with age. Since motivation is a key precursor for self-regulation, these results lend some support to the hypothesis that early to mid adolescence is a period of vulnerability to problems with self-regulation. The development of self-regulation from a social cognitive perspective was explored using case studies of adolescent students who had been identified as being excellent self-regulated learners (N = 6). This research investigated the use of SRL strategies by these students and the contexts in which these strategies have developed. Structured interviews using the Self-regulated Learning Interview Schedule (SRLIS) revealed a preference for learning strategies that are associated with internalized processes such as self-evaluation, goal setting and planning. The contexts in which these students’ SRL habits developed were also explored through semi-structured interviews with the students and their parents. Teachers were identified as the dominant source of SRL strategies for the students but a very supportive home environment with an emphasis on the formation of routines in early childhood was also found to be an important common factor. The results of this thesis suggest that EF, and its metacognitively orientated relation SRL, develop during adolescence in parallel with the maturation of the brain’s frontal lobe. However, the development and deployment of EF and SRL appear to be closely linked with context and motivation. High levels of self-motivation appear to influence emotional and behavioural control, which are the precursors to effective cognitive control such as that required for SRL. Early to middle adolescence appears to be a time when either increasing or decreasing levels of motivation for learning can modulate self-regulated learning. Thus, the emerging neuroscientific theory of adolescent development, by itself, is not yet sufficient to fully explain the development of academic self-regulatory skills and for educators, social cognitive perspectives of development continue to hold their value.
Keyword Executive function
Self-regulated learning
Additional Notes Colour pages of PDF document: 32, 64, 69, 83, 84, 98, 99, 105, 106, 230. Landscape pages: 87, 105, 106.

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Created: Thu, 25 Aug 2011, 14:05:50 EST by Mr Gerard Effeney on behalf of Library - Information Access Service