During the previous decade the idea of self-regulated learning has attracted widespread interest amongst educators and researchers. This area has received new attention also by the recent globalisation and commercialization of universities as well as a continuing desire to improve the quality of teaching and student learning. This paper documents the outcomes in terms of student responses, participation and performance grades when the curriculum was progressively redesigned and pedagogical refinements were undertaken with the objective of enhancing student self-regulated learning. The study was undertaken across two under-graduate management courses in a commerce programme in an Australian university from 1991 to 1999, inclusive. The findings are discussed in terms of the parallels and contrasts of the assessed groups of cohorts and their responses to changing the teaching environments from teacher directed to contexts that encourage self-regulated learning.
Despite a considerable growth in the student-centered learning literature a well developed conceptual framework is yet to be developed. For instance, most of the studies were initially conducted in North American settings, and recently, the movement has spread to other 'Western' educational systems (Olaussen & Bråten, 1999). These contexts have been categorized as highly individualistic, yet nearly three quarters of the world's population is from collectivistic nations (Hofstede, 1980; The Chinese Culture Connection, 1987). Clearly, there is a need for further research on hybrid versions of self-regulated learning in diverse cultural contexts. One of the most serious limitations of the literature is that generally, it reports experiences of students or respondents of short duration ad hoc interventions or systematic investigations. Notwithstanding the contributions and enthusiasm that has been generated for developing innovative instructional methods to circumvent many of the problems of contemporary teaching forums (large class sizes, student diversity, structural arrangements for mass lectures) further assessments are required. This paper outlines the evaluation of the design of a second year management course from a traditional lecture and tutorial (chalk and talk) to a more interactive, less teacher-directed context which was aimed at not only developing student's knowledge, but also their communication and critical thinking skills as well as their autonomy. The research evidence of this paper suggests a significant diffusion of this new approach into other areas of teaching-learning experiences.
In spite of obtaining some assistance from a study and skills advisor throughout 1992 there were few improvements to student behaviours. Indeed, identifying students with relatively poor literacy skills with a diagnostic test in the second week of the semester resulted in few of these students seeking assistance from the advisor. Consequently, in the following year (1993) a long term collaborative programme was formed with another language and learning specialist. This collaborative programme involved both curriculum redesign of the OMD course, and a supplementary programme which developed skills and competencies that were associated with the learning needs of students enrolled in the course.
A prominent feature of the redesigned curriculum involved a diagnostic assessment of a student's reading and writing competencies. Two short paragraph writing tasks, which accounted for about five percent of the total course grade, were set in the second and third week of the semester. Those students who performed poorly on these two tasks were encouraged to enroll in the extra learning support programme (Pearson & Beasley, 1999). Although these support classes are no longed conducted by the author, variants of the diagnostic texts are still employed. For instance, the length of the essay has been increased, and now students are expected to demonstrate referencing and associated skills.
Modifications and refinements were made to the course curriculum, annually. Assessment tasks, for instance, were staged to integrate with the programme of the extra learning support sessions. Students were required to make classroom presentations to their tutorial colleagues. Small group experiential activities became the core of the problem solving tasks undertaken in the tutorials. To complete these assessments students found it necessary to spend considerable time in group efforts outside the classroom contexts. Noticeable outcomes were greater involvement of all students in the tutorials, which now recorded higher rates of attendance (Beasley & Pearson, 1999b). At the end of every semester students were encouraged to discuss their preferences (high and low) for the types of tutorial activities in which they had engaged. This information provided confidence to continually transform the tutorials to experiential self-regulation forums.
A clear effort of collaboration, course modifications and refinements to task assessments as well as the tutorial contexts continued until a major transition was undertaken in 1997. In 1997, experiential workshops were introduced in the OMD class by combining the lectures with some tutorial sessions, yet the university level budgetary regime was maintained by conducting workshops with about 30 students. This permitted the introduction for the first time of experiential learning activities such as simulations, complex case scenarios, and a variety of group exercises that needed larger rooms and a greater number of participants.
The activities of the learning support programme were designed to address two important criteria. The first focus was to provide instruction and guidance to students that would develop their literacy skills in the context of the OMD course. Second, it was contended that enhancing student's reading and writing skills would help them to acquire techniques vital for meeting academic expectations imposed by the Australian tertiary system in not only this management course, but generally in other courses. Indeed, the content of these supplementary classes included not only particular matters of academic writing and research, but how to develop strategies for exams, oral presentations and assignments in general, which are life long learning skills. Student reviews of the learning support programmes were obtained, the data were reported (Beasley & Pearson, 1998a; 1998b; Pearson & Beasley, 1996a; 1996b), and today the university provides a limited amount of support to assist students.
Commencement time, duration and content of the learning support classes were integrated with the OMD curriculum. For example, tasks for developing skills and competencies in the learning support classes were often undertaken before the submission date of course assessment tasks that involved those particular skills. In these learning support classes, student's self-regulation was fostered by the use of individual and group problem tasks that encouraged students to be responsible for the outcomes. Development of these states required classrooms to be equipped with small tables and chairs, and of a size that could accommodate up to 50 students. However, these classes were so popular and they attracted so many candidates that in some years the classes had to be duplicated each week. The classes were conducted for about six weeks during early to mid semester.
There have been two significant outcomes from the adoption of these alternative learning designs. First, these courses continue to attract large numbers of students relative to other second and third year courses delivered in the school. Paradoxically, students prefer this mode, yet they continually contend these management courses to be the most challenging and require them to invest a great deal of study time out of class. Second, the failure rate has decreased substantially. Marking to curves is not practiced in these courses, yet it is a policy within the university.
|Course||Variable / Year||1991||1992||1993||1994||1995||1996||1997||1998||1999|
|Difference||n.s.||n.s.||n.s.||w > mb||w > m||n.s.||w > m|
|Failure rate (%)||12.0e||19.1e||7.5e||8.8e||1.7||1.7||1.05|
|Difference||n.s.f||n.s.||n.s.||w > m||w > m||w > ma||n.s.||w > m|
|Failure rate (%)||13.0||12.4||5.7||2.6||2.9||4.9||1.7||1.7|
|Overseas students (%)||41||46.5||47.7||48.7||51.8||61.5||56.9||51.3|
Table 1 shows the annual average grades for OTB and OMD, the gender grades and relevant participant descriptors. For instance, participant course number are shown as superscripts of the respective average scores. For the OTB course interactive tutorials were introduced in 1997, and thereafter experiential workshops were employed. The data show class sizes have remained relatively large, there have always been more women students who have achieved higher grades than the men's average grades. In addition, the women's average grades were significantly higher in 1997 and 1999. The OMD results show that in 1993 when interactive tutorials were introduced the women's average grade was higher than the men's average grade and the differences were significant from 1994 to 1996 inclusive; and in 1998. It is also shown that the self-regulated contexts of the tutorials and workshops (after 1992) were associated with larger participation rates. An important dimension of Table 1 is the substantial reduction in the annual course failure rate, and now these nominal rates are a feature of both courses. A further component of the two courses is the high percentage of international students. Indeed, student nationality has become more diversified with the favourable exchange rates (Australia with North America and Western Europe). Nevertheless, there has been a considerable reduction in the number of international students from South East Asia since the financial crises of 1997. Frequently, students enroll in both the OMD and OTB courses on successive years, and high participation rates have been recorded in the self-regulated forums after 1997 for the OMD, OTB and MRH courses (over 90%).
Investigations about what students value in their educational and learning contexts has attracted a great deal of attention (Akerlind & Jenkins, 1998; McInnis & James, 1995; Marginson, 1996). Recently, the OTB course features that were valued by students were identified by quantitative and qualitative processes (Pearson & Beasley, 1999). The results showed that there were four main categories of student values. Of first importance was practical and vocational relevance (about 40%), second was interest and enjoyment (about 25%), the third preferred educational value was for perceived assessment and learning quality (about 16%), and the fourth value preference was for perceived workload and difficulty (about 14%). Some miscellaneous items attracted about five percent of the responses. The most interesting aspect of these results is that the first two valued properties that were identified by the OTB students (i.e. learning work related things, and interest aspects) are the two values that have been consistently reported in contemporary studies with Asian business managers (Chatterjee & Pearson, 2000; Pearson & Chatterjee, 1999a; 1999b). A need to design teaching-learning pedagogies and curriculum that are both relevant and intrinsically rewarding should be of paramount importance to providers and deliverers of post modern educational courses.
Maintenance of self-regulated learning contexts also demands a reasonable level of resources. In addition to carefully planning the curriculum and types of problem solving tasks, which require materials (glues, papers, scissors, rulers, and so forth) structural considerations in terms of room features need to be acknowledged. For instance, rooms of sufficient size for allowing movement of people for non-static activities, carpeted floors to acoustically soften noise is desirable, and moveable small tables with chairs are essential as traditional furniture arrangements are seldom employed. A variety of different learning tasks are crucial. Some programmes of study rely on case studies, but more effective self-regulation learning settings enjoy group and individual tasks, simulations, complex scenarios, oral presentation sessions with novelty and interest as well as formal schemes. Above all time is vital. With less than two hours the learning period is insufficient to allow for complex issues to be addressed and reflective learning time that promotes independence, and metacognitive processes such as self monitoring and understanding to be enhanced.
With the increasing reach of technology and the richness of the peer-group experience bank, the approach narrated in this paper can be significantly sharpened and extended. Especially highlighted is the search for a format relevant to the international student. Clearly, the findings suggest a much wider applicability of these self-directed learning methods. Some of the efforts, provided in the 'supplementary classes' over the previous years could be incorporated into new technological formats of web based resources. The teaching-learning format needs to be relevant to the e-generation and the global context and only a new breed of committed academics can lead this transition from the traditional model to the student oriented approaches.
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|Authors: Dr Cecil A.L. Pearson, Murdoch University|
Telephone (08) 9360 6022 Fax (08) 9360 5004 Email C.Pearson@murdoch.edu.au
Dr Samir R. Chatterjee, Curtin University of Technology