An in-depth, naturalistic study of the regulation of learning in collaborative groups in upper secondary school classrooms

Harriott, Thomas 

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Regulation of learning has long been a significant area of research in education and beyond. More recently, attention has been focussed on social aspects of regulation. Regulation and the sharing of regulation of learning in social settings is seen as crucial in order to engage in effective collaboration and to make the most of social learning opportunities. A number of recent empirical studies have focussed on the nature of socially shared regulation, however, empirical studies of this phenomenon in naturalistic settings are scarce. This study is driven by the author’s position as a practitioner in secondary schools and so sought to investigate the phenomenon in ecologically valid secondary classroom settings, in contrast to the more common experimental or otherwise tightly controlled designs. The present study takes a mixed-methods interpretive approach, exploring the regulation of learning displayed by upper secondary students aged 16 to 17, curriculum year 12, during classroom-based collaborative group learning activities. Four episodes were video recorded, and both verbal and non-verbal behaviour was transcribed and coded to identify regulatory acts from both students and teachers. This data was visualised using directed graphs and combined with analysis of stimulated recall interviews conducted within 24 hours of the recording.

Students and teachers were observed engaging in regulation of learning to varying degrees. A number of key themes were identified from the findings of the study. Students identified pre-existing social relationships as a key factor in successful sharing of regulation. The nature of the regulation of learning itself was dynamic and adaptive, responding to the needs of the group as well as strengths and weaknesses of individuals involved. This questioned the classical conception of regulation as cyclical in nature. Patterns and tendencies varied significantly between groups, although the interplay between monitoring and controlling functions was a notable commonality. The use of directed graphs in particular provided insight into the processes undertaken. The symmetry or otherwise of regulatory acts during collaboration highlighted the themes of authority and responsibility in these settings. Some individuals were found to have inherent authority over aspects of regulation of learning with significant implications for the regulation of learning that took place under these conditions. The thesis concludes with implications for theory and practice as well as recommendations for future research.

Wilson, Elaine
Regulation of Learning, School-based Research, Collaborative Learning
Doctor of Education (EdD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge