It is critical to develop self-regulated learning (SRL) among students from an early age to enable success in and beyond school. The most effective learners self-regulate their learning processes resulting in enhanced academic achievement, and positive developmental outcomes. This thesis is grounded in an exploratory investigation of how teachers foster SRL among primary school students. SRL refers to the metacognitive, motivated, and strategic actions of the learners to achieve the learning goals (Zimmerman, 1990). However, it is not referred to as an individualized form of learning because social interactions and contexts form an essential part of this learning process. The research was undertaken in schools located within a range of socio-economic areas in Queensland, Australia.
The process of SRL is generally viewed in terms of students’ abilities. There is little evidence available from the teachers’ perspectives, highlighting their beliefs, practices, ways of working, and problems involved in supporting SRL in regular classrooms. This study attempts to fill this gap, by providing a voice for the teachers to be heard in the literature on SRL. It also explores students’ perspectives about, and engagement in, SRL at various levels of primary school including lower (Prep/Year 1), middle (Year 4), and higher (Year 7) levels.
An exploratory qualitative research design (Hesse-Biber & Leavy, 2011) is adopted for this study. A blend of similar theoretical approaches is employed to examine how teachers support and develop SRL in the classrooms. It includes social constructionism (Gergen, 1995), cognitive constructivism (Paris, Byrnes, & Paris, 2001; Piaget, 1932), social constructivism (Vygotsky, 1962, 1978), and social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986; Schunk & Zimmerman, 1996). The study involved multiple or collective case studies (Stake, 2008). Six case studies of exemplary teachers were developed to explore what teachers believe SRL is, how they attempt to support students’ development of SRL in a social microcosm like the classroom, and what difficulties do they encounter in accomplishing this goal. The term exemplary, as employed in this study, refers to a teacher who “serves as an example” (Harper, 2001), in contrast to exceptional or expert teachers. Case studies were developed from classroom observations, teachers’ and students’ semi-structured interviews and informal conversations, students’ work samples, and document analysis.
The study was completed in two stages: the pilot and the main study. The pilot study involved two teachers Nina and Tom (all names are pseudonyms) teaching Year 4, while the ii main study involved four teachers Katie, Anna, Janet, and Emma teaching Prep/Year 1, and Year 7. While the case studies were conducted at different year levels (Prep/Year 1, lower; Year 4, middle; and Year 7, higher) of primary schools, each case was replicated with another at the same level but in a different context. The data analysis and the case study reports for the pilot study were completed before the commencement of the main study.
Data were analysed using a combination of deductive and inductive approaches. Initially, an atomistic approach (Willis, 2007) towards data analysis was adopted. This involved breaking down the data into chunks, developing codes and categories, and examining relationships to generate core themes permeating teaching that supports SRL through the case studies of Nina, Tom, and Katie. Later, a holistic understanding of the process was established, by constructing meaning through contextualized reading of the data, and adopting narratives as a way of representation (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000) for the case studies of Anna, Janet, and Emma. A deep and reflective understanding of the process is developed by fixing these stories into an aesthetic whole (Van Manen, 1997), and proposing a model for students’ development of, and engagement in, SRL from the teachers’ perspectives based on the system-ecological perspective (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). The data from the 68 students’ interviews, from the classrooms of six teachers, were analysed to present their perspectives and trends regarding SRL in a synthesized and enumerative way by using visual presentations such as matrix displays, charts, and enumerative tables (Miles & Huberman, 1994).
The thesis concludes with assertions that create options for teachers who are motivated to support students’ SRL. While these assertions are contextualized and co-constructed with the participants of the study, they are open to varying interpretations, to allow readers to discern the extent and the way they may transfer the lessons learned from this study to their own contexts. The philosophical, theoretical, and methodological frameworks guiding the study are evaluated, and the suggestions for educational settings and future research are provided.