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Negotiating meaning and engagement: socially shared strategic processing

It has long been recognized that collaboration fosters richer forms of learning and innovation than any individual can achieve on their own (e.g., Gillies, 2016). But, given contemporary demands of citizens in the 21 st-century’s information society, calls to foster learners’ collaborative capacities are intensifying in both research and professional literatures. As just one example, Lee, Huh, and Reigeluth, (2015) suggested that, “developing networking skills, maintaining collaborative relationships with people, and making decisions as a team are considered essential skills to be successful in the new era” (p. 562). Correspondingly, researchers and educators alike are currently seeking ways to support learners’ developing capacities as collaborative learners.

Unfortunately, research has consistently identified how individuals do not know how to learn with others effectively (e.g., Gillies, 2016; Treff, 2006). For example, students may not know how to engage in the life of a classroom, including the forms of academic discourse required to learn with others (Fisher, Frey, & Pumpian, 2012; Gillies, 2016; Michaels, O’Connor, & Resnick, 2008). Even adults need support to know how to learn and work productively with others in classrooms or workplaces (e.g., Miller, & Hadwin, 2015; Treff, 2006). These findings underline the urgency of finding ways to support students to learn and engage socially.

In this chapter, we contribute by describing how socially shared forms of strategic processing are necessary to, and can be supported within, collaborative activity. To that end, we draw from diverse strands in the literature that have (a) studied collaborative learning processes (e.g., Hadwin, Jarvela, & Miller, 2018; Jarvenoja et al., 2015; Miller

& Hadwin, 2015; Volet, Vauras, & Salonen, 2009); (b) surfaced the kinds of norms, expectations, and academic discourse that students need to navigate when learning collaboratively (e.g., Gillies, 2016; Jurkowski & Hanze, 2015; Treff, 2006); (c) identified pedagogical practices that support socially shared forms of strategic processing (e.g., Butler, Schnellert, & Perry, 2017; Perry, Mazabel, & Yee, in press; Schonert-Reichl & Weissberg, 2015); and (d) examined collaborative learning processes in various pedagogical frameworks, such as cooperative learning (e.g., Gillies, 2016; Johnson & Johnson, 2009), computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) (e.g., Miller & Hadwin, 2015; Winne, 2015); collaborative problem- or project-based learning (e.g., Kim & Lim, 2018; Lee et al., 2015); and collaborative inquiry (e.g., Hickey et al., 2002; Torre, Van Der Vlueten, & Dolmans, 2016).

To help in identifying convergences and unique contributions across these lines of inquiry, we start by introducing an integrative framework that helped us to pull together ideas relevant to understanding socially shared strategic processing and how to support it. We then build from that framework to identify principles and practices with promise to nurture social forms of strategic processing, including in the kinds of collaborative activities becoming so prevalent in todays schools. We conclude with recommendations for practice and research.

A framework for studying strategic processing as socially and culturally situated

In this section we introduce a framework that we have used previously to characterize individual and social forms of strategic processing from a self-regulated learning (SRL) point of view (Butler, 2015; Butler & Cartier, 2018; Butler & Schnellert, 2015; Butler et al., 2017; Cartier & Butler, 2016). We draw on this framework to (a) conceptualize socially shared strategic processing, and (b) identify individual and social influences that need to be considered when supporting students’ capacities as strategic learners (see Figure 5.1).

Situating Strategic Processing in a Model of SRL

As early as the 1980s researchers recognized the power of teaching strategies to students as a means of promoting academic learning (e.g., Brown, Campione, & Day, 1981; Palincsar & Brown, 1988). Findings were consistently that making learning processes visible enabled students to learn how to engage more successfully. Still, the challenge at that time was that, while students were learning to use taught strategies capably when cued to do so, they were not taking up those strategies independently, flexibly, or adaptively in other tasks or contexts (Butler, 2002). Thus, researchers set out to solve this transfer problem (e.g., Borkowski & Muthukrishna, 1992; Harris & Graham, 1996; Pressley et al., 1992; Wong, 1994).

At that time, researchers realized that focusing on strategy use per se was not enough to encompass all of the processes involved in the kind of adaptive, situated, and flexible performance required of students across contexts and tasks (e.g., Pressley et al., 1992). To give a fuller picture of strategic processing, models of self-regulation emerged that located strategy use in a cycle of strategic action which requires first generating a clear

Strategic Processing as Socially and Culturally Situated (adapted from Butler et al., 2017; Butler & Cartier, 2018; Cartier & Butler, 2016)

Figure 5.1 Strategic Processing as Socially and Culturally Situated (adapted from Butler et al., 2017; Butler & Cartier, 2018; Cartier & Butler, 2016)

sense of purpose, then choosing strategies best able to achieve goals in a particular situation (e.g., Harris & Graham, 1996; Zimmerman, 1989). Alongside others, Butler (1998, 2002) demonstrated the value of this broader view of strategic processing. For example, Butlers (1998) research with struggling learners found that, while many students lacked knowledge about effective strategies, challenges in “task interpretation” were even more detrimental (Butler & Cartier, 2004). Students who held misconceptions about assigned tasks were derailed in their strategic processing before they even began to work.

Where, then, does strategic processing fit within a model of SRL? Our framework characterizes strategic processing as involving flexible, adaptive, and iterative cycles of strategic action (Butler & Cartier, 2018; Butler et al., 2017; Cartier & Butler, 2016). Strategic action requires being alert to environmental demands and building from one’s knowledge and experience in order to interpret expectations, establish a clear sense of purpose, choose strategies well matched to task demands, monitor how things are progressing, and flexibly and adaptively shift goals or approaches as needed. In other words, to be successful, students need to know how to select, adapt, or even invent personalized strategies that enable them to navigate the demands of learning in any given context adaptively and flexibly.

Over time, models of SRL have also evolved to highlight how engaging strategically is not just a cognitive endeavor. Contemporary models of self-regulation define how students’ strategic attention needs to focus simultaneously on cognitive, motivational, emotional, behavioral, and social processes (e.g., Boekaerts, 2011; Butler et al., 2017; Zimmerman, 2011). For example, Zimmerman (2008) argued that self-regulating learners know how to control their thoughts, feelings, and actions to achieve personal goals and respond to environmental demands. Butler et al. (2017) suggested that, as part of socially shared strategic processing, students need to orchestrate not just cognitive processes but also their emotions, motivation, and relationships in the service of learning. Correspondingly, supporting collaborative forms of strategic processing requires that pedagogical practices support active, reflective, adaptive, and strategic processing along these multiple dimensions.

Finally, it is key to note that the term “self” in self-regulation is not intended to signify independent learning divorced from social contexts or interaction. Instead, the self in self-regulation provides an important reminder of how individuals exercise individual and/or collective agency in how they interpret and respond to the socially and culturally rooted contexts (Bandura, 2000). Over time, work on SRL has been informed by varying socially grounded theoretical perspectives, including socio-cultural, socio-constructivist, and situated points of view (Butler et al., 2017; Hadwin & Oshige, 2011; Zimmerman, 1989, 2008). Our discussion in this chapter is informed by SRL research that has investigated the interplay between individual and social forms of strategic processing (e.g., Anyichie & Butler, 2018; Hadwin et al., 2018; Kaplan, Lichtinger, & Margulis, 2010; Kim & Lim, 2018; McCaslin & Burrows, 2010; McInerney & King, 2018; Perry, Yee, Mazabel-Ortega, Lisaingo, & Maatta, 2017; Volet et al., 2009; Winne, 2015).

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