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Issues and limitations in the current field, and future directions

We are still facing a number of challenges with regard to the study of learners’ strategic development processes. Partly due to the rapidly changing society, there is to date no straightforward answer to the question of how strategic processing systematically changes over the course of a learner’s lifespan or academic career (Alexander, 2018). In fact, research into the development of strategic processing is currently still emerging. In line with Alexander (2018), we therefore recommend future studies to explicitly focus on this developmental trajectory. To this end, longitudinal studies on strategic processing, focusing on the transformations that unfold as learners move toward competence or expertise are required. These studies could unravel how learners at different developmental stages internalize the external support they receive, and at which point in time external support can be faded (Alexander, 2018; Chen & Siegler, 2000). Accordingly, a well-established understanding of learners’ strategic processing can help curriculum developers and educators in deciding what to emphasize in strategy development and when to teach it (Harris & Graham, 2016). Instead of merely making educated guesses, this enhanced understanding could serve as a sufficient evidence base for effective methods to optimally teach and support learners in all stages (Alexander,

2005). This should not, however, interfere with acknowledging the differences between learners’ individual developmental trajectories as indicated above. Given the individual nature of learners’ developmental paths, researchers are encouraged to take into account individual differences both between and within learners.

In order to study the development in learners’ strategy use over a longer period of time, the adoption of different measurement instruments is recommended (McCardle & Hadwin, 2015; Samuelstuen & Braten, 2007; Schellings, 2011; Veenman, 2011). To capture this development, both off-line measures, administered prospectively or retrospectively to performance on a task (e.g., self-report data, see also Chapter 16), and on-line measures, gathered concurrently during task performance (e.g., trace data, see also Chapter 17), should be used at different points in time, given their complementary particularities. These multiple instruments enable us to gauge both quality and quantity differences in learners’ strategic processing and give us insight into which strategies learners applied (retrospective), are applying (real time), or will apply (prospective) (McCardle & Hadwin, 2015; Schellings, 2011; Veenman, 2011). This implies that researchers need to determine the best way to capture and examine learners’ strategic processing at different stages and which measures are most adequate in their specific study. Accordingly, there is an urgent need for appropriate and valid measurement instruments to accurately capture and track learners’ strategy use and transfer throughout the developmental course. Currently, more technology-driven measures (e.g., physiological measures, eye tracking measures, keystroke logging tools, etc.) are incorporated into research (e.g., Haataja, Malmberg, & Jarvela, 2018; Leijten & Van Waes, 2013; Malmberg, Jarvela, & Kirschner, 2013). These measures can give insight into factors underlying learners’ strategic processing, and which factors provoke or hinder the application of certain strategies. Furthermore, the technological revolution and its associated increase in information sources places new demands on today’s learners. Educational researchers acknowledge that this evolving technology has transformed both learning and teaching and may hold both promises and pitfalls (Alexander & Fox, 2004). The growing presence of hypermedia centralizes the question about what it means to be a strategic learner in this digital era. Studies on strategic processing within hypermedia environments are, therefore, recommended.

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