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Why do students deploy strategies during multiple text use?

The identification of metacognitive-regulatory strategies in Cho et al.’s (2018) strategy framework is, in part, an effort to consider why particular strategies may be engaged by learners. In particular, Cho et al. (2018) conceptualized strategy use as the result of learners’ metacognitive monitoring and regulation. In the broader literature on multiple text use, two general categories of mechanisms to elicit strategy use have been identified. These are initiating mechanisms that are internal (e.g., resulting from metacognitive monitoring) or external to the learner, prompted by extrinsic features in the task environment. Indeed, these strategic triggering mechanisms may be said to operate throughout multiple text use, including prior to, during, and following task completion.

Prior to a multiple text task being initiated, students’ intentions for strategy use may be elicited by the task assignment (i.e., an external factor, Hagen et al., 2014;

Marton & Saljo, 1976; McCrudden & Schraw, 2007) as well as by students’ interpretations of task demands and their cognitive representation via a task model (List, Du, Wang, & Lee, 2019; Rouet & Britt, 2011). Indeed, among the most robust findings in the field of multiple text use is the role that task assignment plays in students’ learning from texts (McCrudden & Schraw, 2007; Wiley & Voss, 1999). Nevertheless, most commonly the strategy-driven link between task assignment and actual performance has only been implied rather than directly investigated. This is largely the case for studies determining the facilitative role of argument tasks for multiple text integration, as compared to other multiple text tasks (Braten & Stromso, 2011), with Wiley and Voss (1999) attributing this to a difference between argument tasks prompting students to engage in knowledge-transforming vis-a-vis knowledge-telling.

Informing this literature is a study by Cerdan and Vidal-Abarca (2008) that directly examined students’ processing when responding to two different types of tasks, requiring either intra-textual or inter-textual integration. Among differences in processing identified, Cerdan and Vidal-Abarca found that writing an essay to demonstrate global understanding (i.e., an inter-textual task) resulted in students reading relevant information more slowly than irrelevant information. This reflected more strategic processing and stood in contrast to students in the intra-textual task condition, who read both relevant and irrelevant information at the same rate. Moreover, students in the inter-textual task condition engaged in more integrative processing (i.e., defined as the consecutive reading of separate relevant paragraphs in text, one after the other) than students belonging to the intra-textual task condition, and produced more think-aloud utterances when processing relevant segments of text. These processing variables, particularly those related to integration, were later found to be associated with performance on a transfer task, corresponding to deep-level learning, even though no differences in superficial learning emerged, as assessed via performance on a statement verification task. Within the context of learning from multimedia documents, Schwonke et al. (2009) found many students to be ignorant regarding the functions and purpose of multiple representations. They, therefore, found that simply instructing students as to the functions of representations in multimedia environments served to improve learning, particularly for students with low prior knowledge.

Beyond task instructions, during the course of multiple text use, strategy use may be initiated both by students’ metacognitive monitoring (Cho et al., 2018) and by features of the task environment, including the texts themselves and their presentation. Introducing a framework of conflict-driven validation, Richter and Maier (2017) argued that students constantly monitor text consistency both with their prior beliefs and in relation to other texts, throughout the course of processing, with the detection of conflict considered to potentially spur elaborative strategy use. Such monitoring may be considered to be an internal, learner factor triggering strategy use and can be contrasted with more external mechanisms examined in prior work. These include the arrangement of search results either as a list or as an ontologically organized, graphical overview resulting in differences in text selection (Kammerer & Gerjets, 2012; Salmeron, Gil, Braten, & Stromso, 2010) and the presentation of conflicting, rather than consistent, information across texts spurring attendance to document information (Braasch et al., 2012; Kammerer, Kalbfell, & Gerjets, 2016; Stang Lund, Braten, Brante, & Stromso, 2017). More intensively prompting students’ strategic processing has been work that explicitly designed multiple text interfaces to cue sourcing, source evaluation, or metacognition (Britt & Aglinskas, 2002; Stadtler & Bromme, 2007, 2008).

Within the context of learning from multimedia representations, Renkl and Scheiter (2017) reviewed the material-oriented (e.g., dynamic versus static representations; realistic versus schematic pictures) and learner-oriented (e.g., inference training) factors that may be used to trigger strategic processing and to improve students’ learning from visual displays. One external trigger used by Seufert (2003) to stimulate text and visual integration was to provide students with directive help by explicitly identifying relevant points of connection across representations. Seufert (2003) found such directive help to be particularly useful for students with moderate prior knowledge, while have a slight deleterious effect for low knowledge learners. Such mixed results point to the need to further determine not only whether external triggers do, indeed, elicit certain types of processing but also to ascertain whether externally eliciting certain strategies results in the same benefits for learning as does such strategic processing when it is internally triggered. This latter point is demonstrated by Gerjets, Kammerer, and Werners (2011) examination of spontaneous versus cued source evaluation during web search. Specifically, while Gerjets et al. (2011) did find that explicitly instructing students to evaluate texts increased the number of evaluation-related think-aloud utterances students reported, the instructed evaluation condition did not result in students’ improved justifications for choice of diet (i.e., the topic of the task).

Following task completion, feedback (i.e., an external factor, Llorens, Cerdân, & Vidal-Abarca, 2014; Maier & Richter, 2014; Moreno, 2004) as well as students’ selfassessments of task performance (i.e., an internal factor, List & Alexander, 2015; Rouet & Britt, 2011, Wang & List, 2019) can be mechanisms that prompt learners’ revisiting of multiple texts and strategy re-engagement. Although these post-task aspects of strategy use have received perhaps the least attention in the literature, these do constitute strategy triggers likely to occur in real-world task contexts. More generally, given the research reviewed up to this point in the chapter, the pertinent question with regard to strategy triggers ought not be what these are, but rather which triggers may be beneficial for whom (i.e., which learners) and when during task completion. In other words, within the context of learning from multiple texts and multiple, multimedia representations it remains essential to ask under what conditions strategies ought to be externally triggered vis-à-vis under what conditions internal, metacognitive triggering is sufficient.

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