In a classroom, the teacher and other students play an important role in regulating individual and group learning. However, the sudden shift to remote and online learning, as a result of social isolation during COVID-19, has created a social disconnect, making these immediate regulatory supports less accessible. A need was identified for strategies to support collaborative learning regulation when learning remotely and online.
Drawing on models of self-, co, and socially shared learning regulation, a series of resources were developed for students, teachers and parents to support effective online collaborative learning. These strategies embedded evidence-based principles of learning drawn from the learning sciences, including elaboration, retrieval, dual coding and concrete examples.
A set of ten student resources have been developed, accompanied by supporting information and strategies for teachers and families. These resources have been shared with schools across Australia.
These evidence-based strategies are valuable, as they are addressing an identified urgent community need. Based on the science of learning, these strategies are original in synthesising effective learning techniques with the three forms of learning regulation to encourage student connection and collaboration in online and remote learning.
MacMahon, S., Leggett, J. and Carroll, A. (2020), "Promoting individual and group regulation through social connection: strategies for remote learning", Information and Learning Sciences, Vol. 121 No. 5/6, pp. 353-363. https://doi.org/10.1108/ILS-04-2020-0101Download as .RIS
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Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited
Self-regulated learning (SRL) – the metacognitive awareness and control of an individual’s thoughts, behaviours, and motivations as they work towards identified learning goals – plays a fundamental role in promoting learning (Järvelä and Hadwin, 2013; Zimmerman, 2002). In a classroom environment, teachers and often other students play an important role in regulating individuals’ learning: motivating and supporting students to plan, monitor and evaluate their own learning. However, the sudden shift to remote and online learning as a result of social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic has created a social disconnect, making these immediate regulatory supports less accessible. Individual students and their families now have to take on greater responsibility to regulate learning from home, a task for which they may be under-prepared. If left unchecked, poor learning regulation may hinder student learning. Furthermore, the social disconnect may erode a students’ sense of belonging, an important motivator. This real and urgent dilemma is one that the Science of Learning Research Centre (SLRC) has responded to with the development of a range of resources to support the broader learning community.
The SLRC, based at The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, is a special research initiative of the Australian Research Council. Established in 2013, the SLRC brings together leading researchers in education, neuroscience and cognitive psychology from across Australia. Working in partnership with policymakers, education sectors, schools and teachers, the SLRC aims to contribute to the evidence base for learning. Part of the Centre’s mandate is to develop tools and strategies that support learning in formal and informal settings. The social isolation imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for practical tools to support effective remote learning and teaching, including tools to provide a means of social connection through online collaboration with peers. The result has been a set of integrated evidence-based resources for students, teachers, and families entitled “Learning Well […] Together”, designed to support SRL, co-shared and socially shared regulated learning in online collaborative environments. The resources consist of background information and strategies for teachers and families to support students learning online with peers, and a set of ten strategies for students. This paper will provide the background to these resources, commencing with a discussion of the three forms of learning regulation. It will then briefly outline the key learning principles embedded within the strategies, before providing a description of two student strategies.
Three forms of learning regulation
SRL involves individuals’ metacognitive control over their cognitive, affective, motivational, and behavioural states when planning for, monitoring, evaluating, and adapting learning (Hadwin et al., 2016; Zimmerman, 2002), whether working in an individual or collaborative context. This definition of SRL reflects a socio-cognitive perspective in which social interaction and observation interact with personal attributes to influence behaviour (Bandura, 1986). Zimmerman and Moylan’s (2009) cyclical phase model of SRL structures the cognitive, metacognitive, motivational and behavioural processes across three phases of a learning task: the forethought phase (planning), the performance phase (action) and the reflection phase. The strategies presented in this paper draw upon this three-phase model.
Being a self-regulated learner can enhance learning outcomes (Järvelä and Hadwin, 2013; Zimmerman, 2002), reduce learning-related stress, reduce school disengagement and drop out (Salmela-Aro et al., 2017) and promote adaptability in a rapidly evolving global learning and working landscape (Luckin, 2018). However, SRL can be challenging, with barriers emerging from external sources (e.g. the difficulty of the task), internal sources (e.g. individual self-efficacy, awareness and selection of appropriate strategies) and social or environmental sources (Järvenoja et al., 2013). The capacity for SRL can be developed through observing and emulating a proficient model – be that a teacher, parent, or peer (Zimmerman and Kitsantas, 2005). Whilst SRL has been established as an important individual skill for learning success, how learning is regulated in collaborative groups is an emerging line of inquiry (Hadwin and Oshige, 2011).
Social regulation in collaborative groups occurs in different ways: learning regulation can be led by an individual group member, known as Co-Regulated Learning (CoRL), or the group’s goals and strategies can be negotiated and shared by the group, known as Social Shared Regulation of Learning (SSRL) (Panadero and Jarvela, 2015). In collaborative groups, CoRL occurs between equal members of the group, during which an individual’s learning regulation is supported or managed by the other group members (Hadwin and Oshige, 2011; Malmberg et al., 2015; Volet et al., 2009). This may be particularly prominent during points of cognitive, motivational, or behavioural challenge when other members of the group may need to help to co-regulate the learning of the group members. In collaborative learning, group members share a collective responsibility for the task, therefore, individuals need to not only self-regulate, but also guide and support the regulation of others in the group, and regulate together as a collective system (Hadwin et al., 2016; Malmberg et al., 2015).
Negotiating and sharing cognitive and metacognitive processes, and emotional and motivational states, is known as Socially Shared Regulation of Learning (SSRL), and is evident in effective collaborations (Hadwin and Oshige, 2011). SSRL is different from CoRL in that it involves a negotiated shared understanding and experience that emerges from iterative interactions (Malmberg et al., 2017). Successful collaboration, therefore, involves multiple self-regulating individuals who have a responsibility to regulate their own emotions, motivation, cognition, and behaviour (SRL), monitor their peers (CoRL) and monitor the group (SSRL; Järvelä et al., 2019; Volet et al., 2009).
Collaborative group work is increasingly common in a range of contexts, from primary and secondary schools, to higher education and the workplace. Effective collaboration requires group members to work interdependently to complete a task or reach a learning goal. When this collaboration occurs in an online environment the need for learning regulation at the individual and group level – for SRL, CoRL and SSRL – remains (Järvelä and Hadwin, 2013). However, like all forms of learning and regulation, collaboration in online learning environments poses cognitive, motivational, social, and environmental challenges (Järvelä and Hadwin, 2013). In particular, the physical disconnection of online collaboration can make it difficult for individuals and groups to regulate their learning (Malmberg et al., 2015). Successful online collaborations, therefore, require opportunities for individuals to share and contribute in order to build a sense of trust, community and strong interpersonal relationships (Kreijns et al., 2003).
The shift to remote learning and its challenges to regulation
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many schools, universities, and workplaces into lockdown, shifting learning to remote and online contexts. This paper is focussed on online collaborative remote learning, but acknowledges that other forms of remote learning are practiced.
The shift to remote learning presents many challenges, particularly relating to student engagement, motivation, social connectedness, and feedback. For teachers, remote learning reduces their capacity to observe verbal and non-verbal behaviours and interactions of students: social behaviours that provide valuable insight into student understanding, engagement, affect, and motivation (Rodriguez and Solis, 2013; Yates and Hattie, 2013). This may reduce a teacher’s capacity to identify and support a learner who may be challenged by task and environmental difficulties, and limit opportunities to model regulation or support the co-regulation of student learning. Remote learning may, subsequently, increase parental responsibility to support or co-regulate their children’s learning, presenting challenges to parents unfamiliar with the strategies that can support learning regulation. Furthermore, this change in parental responsibility may increase strain on the parent-child relationship, particularly if the parent is supporting more than one child or working from home. For students, the increased independence of managing their remote learning may be challenging. Therefore, it could be speculated that with fewer immediate supports in place, learning challenges may be left unmet, and this may result in a reduced sense of competence. Students may also feel socially disconnected, isolated from their friends and peers who play an important role in building positive affect, engagement, motivation, and learning regulation (Bierman, 2011; Farmer et al., 2016). Student motivation is influenced by their sense of autonomy, competence, and belonging (Deci and Ryan, 1985, 2008); a reduced sense of control of their learning, a lowered sense of achievement and competence, and disconnection from the place and people of learning may negatively impact student motivation. Strategies that can promote these qualities in remote learning may therefore be especially valuable.
Evidence-based resources to support learning regulation in online groups
It is with this premise in mind that the SLRC developed evidence-based remote learning resources to support students, teachers, and families. Scaffolded tools and supportive environments can build the capacity for regulating learning (Hadwin et al., 2010). Remote learning involves teachers at school and students and family members at home; therefore, the resources have been built to support each of these roles and contexts in an integrated way. The SLRC “Learning Well […] Together” resources include accessible information for teachers and families on the evidence underpinning ten student strategies, and information on how to create online and home environments that support regulated learning (https://education.uq.edu.au/slrc). The ten student strategies are the focus of the remainder of the present paper. These strategies provide simple prompts for individual and group actions that can apply to a range of tasks and disciplines. They are all presented as succinct, practical infographics. Example infographics are shown in Figures 1 and 2. Fundamental to successful regulation is the capacity to select relevant strategies to complete a task (Bjork et al., 2013). Therefore, each student strategy has two key features. Firstly, each strategy is built upon key evidence-based principles of effective learning (Table 1). Second, each strategy encourages both individual and collective activity across the forethought, performance, and reflection phases of regulated learning. These features are discussed further in the following sections.
Principles of effective learning
Effective learning strategies can be counter-intuitive, and therefore students often use techniques that are relatively ineffective or not appropriate for the particular learning task (Bjork et al., 2013). Furthermore, different strategies are effective at different phases of learning – whether for surface learning of basic knowledge and skill; for deep learning, when understanding is being consolidated; or for transfer of learning from one context to another (Hattie et al., 2018). Strategies for learning and for self-regulation need to be explicitly taught, modelled, and practiced in order for students to develop the skill not only to use a strategy, but also to decide when to use it.
The importance of two specific principles, attention and feedback, is immediately apparent. Attention is necessary for most explicit learning, and disruption of attention is particularly harmful when first encountering new material (Naveh-Benjamin et al., 2000). Feedback is also vital, having a role in the development of skills, but also being important in acquiring and refining knowledge (Metcalfe, 2017). In practice, feedback variables are among the most predictive of student outcomes (Hattie and Timperley, 2007). The other principles underpinning the “Learning Well […] Together” strategies, are briefly described below.
Dual coding refers to the use of both visual and verbal information when learning. Human working memory can cope with a greater total amount of information if some of it is presented visually, as images or animation, and some verbally, as speech or text (Baddeley and Hitch, 1974). Moreover, visual information is typically easier to retain in long-term memory (Paivio and Csapo, 1969, 1973). Practically, since most learning activities already involve verbal information, these facts mean that adding visualisations tends to improve learning. However, it is important that visualisations are designed to aid explanation; evidence suggests that dramatic pictures or animations without an explanatory purpose will tend to be distracting and in fact impair learning (Mayer, 2017).
When information is deliberately brought to mind by a learner, their memory for that information is reinforced (Rowland, 2014). Any activity that requires deliberate retrieval of information from memory seems to produce learning, including simple practice tests, whether in multiple-choice, short answer or other formats (Kang et al., 2007), as well as more complex activities such as drawing a concept map from memory (Blunt and Karpicke, 2014). The learning produced by retrieval activities is usually much greater than that produced by similar activities that do not involve retrieval, such as rereading of text, reading questions alongside their answers, or drawing a concept map from notes (Rowland, 2014; Karpicke and Blunt, 2011). Retrieval tends to be most effective when it is effortful (Pyc and Rawson, 2009), requiring some deliberate thought from the learner, and when corrective feedback is provided (Kornell, 2014; Metcalfe, 2017).
Elaboration involves the adding of information to a memory, such as the addition of detail to something already known (Bradshaw and Anderson, 1982, for a thorough discussion). It is believed to be valuable for effective learning as it connects new ideas to old, making new information more accessible and deepening understanding. Elaboration plays an important role in the development of deep learning, of thinking more deeply about a concept, idea or meaning. This process can be facilitated through elaborative interrogation – asking “how” or “why” questions about material being learned. This metacognitive strategy can prompt students to think more deeply and explore their understanding about a topic, or it can be a strategy utilised by a teacher, parent, or group member to model or prompt elaboration.
When concepts or ideas are abstract or challenging to grasp, concrete examples can make them easier to understand. However, to ensure that the underlying concept is understood, it is important to provide multiple concrete examples that illustrate the concept in different ways (Gick and Holyoak, 1983). The use of contrasting examples requires students to go beyond the surface level similarities in examples and to instead make deep connections based on the underlying concept. The authentic nature and visual imagery evoked by the concrete examples may also promote a stronger memory of the concept (Madan et al., 2010).
Structure and content of the 10 student strategies
The 10 student strategies follow a consistent format, which aligns with Zimmerman and Moylan’s (2009) cyclical phase model of SRL. Each strategy prompts the students to individually and/or collectively analyse the task ahead, set goals, select strategies and identify possible challenges – aligning with the Forethought Phase. Some of these planning activities are completed individually and others collectively. Prompts in the Performance Phase of the learning activity support students to attend to specific aspects of the task, to collectively and individually select and apply relevant strategies, share ideas and questions, justify positions, and monitor their own and others’ understanding of and engagement with the task. The Reflection Phase may involve group tasks, individual tasks, or both. In the Reflection Phase, students are prompted to evaluate their learning, identify areas for further consolidation or clarification, and articulate next steps. The strategies include prompts to encourage self-regulation, co-regulation and socially shared regulation of learning. Working with peers is designed to heighten motivation and engagement, as well as increase accountability. Within this framework of learning regulation, students have choice over the topic or task they wish to engage in, and the duration of online sessions. A description of two strategies (respecting the word limit of the paper) will illustrate how regulated learning and the learning principles are synthesised. The ten strategies are summarised in Table 1, with short descriptions and names of relevant underlying principles of learning (for full the infographics of all ten strategies please see: https://education.uq.edu.au/slrc).
Strategy 2 – remembering stuff!
Strategy 2 (Figure 1) is built on the principles of retrieval and elaboration. Whilst working individually, students are prompted to create quiz questions and answers on challenging aspects of a topic. Using an online quiz platform, each group member uploads their questions and answers, and then participates in the quiz. Whilst the retrieval of knowledge when completing the quiz is valuable, of greater value is the opportunity for students to explain and justify the answers they have provided. In doing so, students will be able to identify knowledge, and develop a shared understanding across the group. Furthermore, the reflective group questions for this strategy encourage discussion around the most frequently addressed and challenging concepts, and approaches to consolidate or clarify shared understanding. These discussion points provide opportunities for CoRL and SSRL as they shift from a potential imbalance in understanding to a shared understanding. Each individual is then prompted to reflect on their own understanding and identify what and how to address further points of clarity. Students are encouraged to continue developing quiz questions over the topic, allowing for retrieval of concepts over time.
Strategy 4 – developing deep understanding
Strategy 4 (Figure 2) draws on the principle of elaboration. Individually, students are prompted to be aware of their metacognitive processes and puzzles, and to note down unresolved musings. When collaborating online, students share their questions, and collectively the group explores the solutions or answers. They discuss strategies to resolve the identified challenges and build deeper understanding by connecting to prior knowledge. Options for expert support are considered and encouraged when questions are unresolved. This strategy is designed to make students more comfortable with uncertainty by actively seeking out what they do not understand. It also prompts group members to articulate their thinking around a puzzle and their strategies for resolving it. Strategy 4 provides the group with the opportunity to work towards shared understanding, strategic approach, and emotional states around the vulnerability of their individual and collective uncertainty. It concludes with individual reflections on the resolution of their puzzle, the depth of their new understanding, and prompts to consider ways to retain and extend this understanding in the future.
The shift to remote learning has created many new conversations around how to support effective regulated learning, particularly when the face-to-face support of teachers and peers is removed. Carefully designed online collaborative learning can be a meaningful way for students to connect with peers, but also a powerful way for them to regulate their own and others’ learning, and to develop the skills to regulate collectively as a group. It is proposed that the strategies will be evaluated qualitatively, gathering insight from teachers, students, and parents. This data could then be used to improve the efficacy and design of the resources.
The evidence based “Learning Well […] Together” resources developed by the SLRC in response to identified needs in the educational community during the COVID-19 pandemic include best practice strategies for promoting learning, recognising the important roles of teachers, individual students, peers, and families in the learning process. It is hoped that these resources will prove valuable for students, teachers, and families both during this time of remote learning and beyond, supporting students to develop effective strategies for successful lifelong learning.
Ten student strategies and the relevant principles of learning
|Strategy no.||Student Strategy Name||Brief Description of Strategy||Principles of Learning|
|1||Hush Up and Work!||Scheduling uninterrupted, goal-directed work||Attention|
|2||Remembering Stuff||Collaborating to write, run, and share feedback on a practice quiz||Retrieval|
|3||What do you think?||Performing for an audience, sharing feedback, and planning improvements||Feedback|
|4||Developing Deep Understanding||Identifying and discussing difficult concepts||Elaboration|
|5||Get to The Point||Preparing, presenting, and discussing explanations of key concepts||Elaboration|
|6||Justify That||Learning to ask deep elaborative questions about material||Elaboration|
|7||Puzzle Pieces||Dividing tasks within a group and later sharing progress||Elaboration|
|8||Making Connections||Creating and updating a shared concept map||Elaboration, Concrete Examples, Dual Coding|
|9||Represent that||Creating and revising visual representations of concepts||Concrete Examples, Dual Coding, Retrieval Practice|
|10||Make it Concrete||Using concrete examples to improve understanding||Elaboration, Dual Coding, Concrete Examples|
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This paper is part of the special issue, “A Response to Emergency Transitions to Remote Online Education in K-12 and Higher Education” which contains shorter, rapid-turnaround invited works, not subject to double blind peer review. The issue was called, managed and produced on short timeline in Summer 2020 towards pragmatic instructional application in the Fall 2020 semester.