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Supporting social shared strategic processing: pedagogical principles

How can learners be supported to engage effectively in socially shared strategic processing in classrooms and collaborative activities? In this section, we pull together pedagogical principles and practices from across literatures on social-emotional learning (SEL), SRL, and formative assessment (FA) (see Table 5.1).

Table 5.1 Principles and Practices for Supporting Socially Shared Strategic Processing



Create communities of learners that... (SEE, SRL)

  • • are respectful, welcoming, caring, safe, and inclusive
  • • foster positive interdependence
  • • engage teachers and students in rich forms of co-learning
  • • build from the diversity learners bring to classrooms
  • • create groups in ways that foster safety and mutual respect.

Establish ways of working that enable rich forms of collaboration and learning (SRL)

  • • create supportive norms, expectations, routines, and participation structures
  • • design activities to invite self- and social forms of regulation
  • • engage learners together in rich forms of academic talk
  • • make ways of working “visible” for all community members
  • • ensure all members know how to participate.

Weave supports for social forms of learning into classrooms and schools (SEE, SRL, FA)

  • • identify competencies and processes needed in contexts
  • • explicitly support learners’ development of those capacities
  • • empower learners to mobilize competencies within activities
  • • sustain focus on competencies and process goals over time
  • • bridge from guiding learning toward independence.

Support learners to engage in full cycles of strategic action (SRL/FA)

  • • support learners to negotiate a sense of “purpose”
  • • support learners to learn how to purposefully, adaptively, and flexibly engage in planning, reflecting, and adjusting
  • • engage learners in self- and peer-assessment.

Foster agency (SRL/FA)

  • • position students as owners of their learning and action
  • • engage learners in co-creating the life of the classroom
  • • give students influence (e.g., meaningful choices)
  • • nurture strategic action as a “way of working."

Social Emotional Learning

Earlier we argued that working with others strategically requires navigating cognition, motivation, emotion, behavior, and relationships in the service of learning (Butler et al., 2017). As a result, it is increasingly being recognized that students need to build social-emotional competencies as part of what they bring to contexts (see Figure 5.1). For example, social-emotional competencies, such as self- and social-awareness and relationship skills, are particularly important to negotiating meaning and learning processes in the midst of collaboration. Skills for understanding and managing one’s emotions are also necessary to navigate conflicts that invariably arise when negotiating meaning and action.

Fortunately, a burgeoning literature has identified how learners can be supported to develop social-emotional competencies (see CASEL, 2015; Schonert-Reichl & Weiss-berg, 2015). Two broad recommendations are common across that literature. The first, which converges with our earlier discussion, is to create communities of learners that are respectful, welcoming, caring, safe, and nurture positive interdependence (Hymel, McClure, Miller, Shumka, & Trach, 2014; Schonert-Reichl & Weissberg, 2015). The second is to teach social-emotional competencies explicitly, and also weave support for the development of competencies into classrooms and schools. To explicitly teach social-emotional competencies, SEL programs have been developed, and research has convincingly demonstrated their effectiveness in terms of advancing both social and emotional competence and achievement (CASEL, 2015; Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011). Still, the contemporary challenge for SEL practice and research is to find ways to help learners mobilize what they are learning through SEL programs into their work with others in classrooms (i.e., bring to bear relationship skills in the context of working collaboratively with peers). Doing so is essential to enabling students to take up effective forms of strategic processing in the context of activities.

Self-Regulated Learning

In this section we build on our prior discussion to specify further how SRL-promoting practices can also support socially shared strategic processing (e.g., Perry, 2013; see Table 5.1). For example, aligned with SEL research, and as we described earlier, SRL researchers are also stressing the importance of creating safe, non-threatening communities of learners if students are to be comfortable taking risks and pushing their learning forward together.

Earlier we identified how educators enable rich forms of learning and collaboration when they develop and surface norms, routines, and participation structures, ideally with students. In addition, SRL research has suggested that educators need to design activities that create rich opportunities for self-, co-, and socially shared regulation (e.g., Butler et al., 2017; Perry, 2013). Students cannot develop capacities for socially shared strategic processing if they do not have opportunities to collaborate with others. This recommendation is consistent with current calls to engage learners in the kinds of open-ended, authentic problem-solving activities they will face going into adulthood (e.g., project-based learning, design-based learning, collaborative inquiry), where peers and teachers engage together as co-constructors of meaning and tasks (e.g., Dumont, Istance, & Benavides, 2012; Hickey et al., 2002; Kim & Lim, 2018).

As in the SEL literature, SRL researchers have emphasized the importance of weaving support for students’ development of capacities into activities. Fostering adaptive forms of strategic processing requires dedicated support for students to both (a) negotiate an understanding of purposes and processes, and (b) mobilize those understandings adaptively and flexibly while engaged in academic work. Perry et al. (in press) suggested that teachers and students can scaffold or support each others engagement in strategic processing by using modeling, questioning, and feedback. Using these and other approaches (e.g., thinking tools or guides), teachers and peers can co-regulate each others learning within activities (Hadwin, Oshige, Gress, & Winne, 2010).

From an SRL point of view, it is particularly important for educators to move from guiding students’ engagement toward supporting students to learn how to engage in full cycles of strategic action intentionally and deliberately. For example, with that goal in mind, Butler, Schnellert, and Cartier (2013) investigated how secondary-level teachers were working together to nurture students’ effective engagement in self- and social forms of SRL when learning through reading (LTR) in subject area classrooms. Learners in their study achieved the greatest gains when educators (a) focused explicitly on thinking, reading, and learning processes; (b) integrated support for those processes into content area learning; (c) sustained attention to process goals over time; and (d) bridged from structuring students’ effective engagement (e.g., using an advance organizer or thinking tool) toward empowering them to take more ownership over how they were engaging in activities (e.g., by creating a personalized version of a planning tool, or by co-constructing criteria with peers). Butler et al. (2013) found that it was a combination of these approaches that most powerfully predicted gains in students’ self-regulated engagement in LTR.

A final principle emerging from the SRL literature is to foster agency in learners’ work alone and with others. To that end, Perry et al. (in press) recommended giving students influence by providing opportunities for them to make learning-related decisions and choices (e.g., about what and how they will learn). When students are engaged in making decisions over “matters of substance” (Schoenfeld, 2004, p. 251), like how learning in their classroom should work or what they want to investigate together, students take ownership of their learning. Also, when learners have to engage in dialogue about purposes or processes, they have to articulate their ideas and negotiate meaning with others in ways that foster metacognition, deeper forms of learning, and a sense of collective efficacy (Bandura, 2000).

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