Desktop version

Home arrow Philosophy

  • Increase font
  • Decrease font

<<   CONTENTS   >>

The second generation of learning strategy instruments and the inclusion of metacognition

As noted above, the first generation of learning strategy inventories mainly contained scales on students’ cognitive processing strategies and their study motivation/affection. Around the mid-1980s the role of metacognition in student learning became more apparent. The work of Brown and colleagues in the United States (e.g. Brown, 1987) had shown the importance of strategies involved in the regulation and control of student learning processes (e.g. planning, monitoring, control, evaluation strategies). The work of Flavell and colleagues (e.g. Flavell, 1987) had illuminated the role of students’ knowledge and awareness of their own cognitive processes and structures (metacog-nitive knowledge) for their learning. Initially, the focus of metacognitive research was on young children, but later on the research moved to include adolescents and adults as well (e.g. Palinscar & Brown, 1984). Unconnected to the research on metacognition, researchers in Europe had started studying students’ conceptions of learning and were able to identify qualitatively different conceptions of what students understood by learning and related phenomena (e.g. Saljd, 1979; Van Rossum, Deijkers, & Hamer, 1985). Students’ conceptions of learning turned out to be related to their approaches to learning (e.g. Van Rossum & Schenk, 1984).

These developments gave rise to a second generation of student learning inventories that included metacognitive scales. Two well-known examples of these second generation inventories are the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ) developed by Pintrich and colleagues in the United States (e.g. Garcia & McKeachie, 2005; Pintrich, 2004; Zusho, 2017) and the Inventory of Learning patterns of Students (ILS) developed by Vermunt and colleagues in Europe (e.g. Vermunt & Donche, 2017; Vermunt & Vermetten, 2004).

The MSLQ was developed by Pintrich and colleagues (Garcia & McKeachie, 2005; Pintrich, 2004; Pintrich, Smith, Garcia, & McKeachie, 1993). It is based on a social-cognitive theoretical framework of motivation and cognition. Motivation and learning strategies are not viewed as traits of the learner, but rather as being dynamic and contextually bound, and learning strategies can be learned and brought under the control of the learner (Garcia & McKeachie, 2005). The final version of the MSLQ contains 81 items in 15 scales under two broad headings of motivation and learning strategies (see Table 16.4).

When completing the MSLQ, students are asked to think of a specific course. They score items on a seven-point Likert scale, varying from (1) not at all true of me to (7) very true of me. Pintrich (2004) reordered the MSLQ scales under a new framework of phases and areas for self-regulated learning. In this framework, he considered the MSLQ scales rehearsal, elaboration organization, critical thinking, and metacognition as referring to the Cognition area of his model. Intrinsic goals, extrinsic goals, task value, control beliefs, self-efficacy, and test anxiety he subsumed under the area of Motivation/ Affect. The MSLQ scales effort regulation, help seeking, and time/study environment belong to the area of Behavior in this new model, while peer learning and time/study environment he considered as relevant for the area of Context.

Table 16.4 Domains and Scales of the MSLQ (from Garcia & McKeachie, 2005)



Motivation scales

Intrinsic goal orientation

Extrinsic goal orientation

Task value

Control of learning beliefs

Self-efficacy for learning and performance

Test anxiety

Learning strategy scales




Critical thinking

Metacognitive self-regulation

Time and study environment management

Effort regulation

Peer learning

Help seeking

The ILS was developed by Vermunt and colleagues (Vermunt, 1996, 1998, 2005; Vermunt & Donche, 2017; Vermunt & Van Rijswijk, 1988; Vermunt & Vermetten, 2004). A learning pattern is conceptualized as a:

[c]oherent whole of learning activities that learners usually employ, their beliefs about learning and their learning motivation, a whole that is characteristic of them in a certain period of time. It is a coordinating concept, in which the interrelationships between cognitive, affective, and regulative learning activities, beliefs about learning, and learning motivations are united.

(Vermunt & Donche, 2017, p. 270)

The ILS covers four domains or learning components: cognitive processing strategies, metacognitive regulation strategies, conceptions of learning, and learning orientations or motivations. The items were derived from interviews with students about these four domains that were analyzed in a phenomenographic, qualitative way (Vermunt, 1996). If necessary, the student quotes were shortened or slightly reformulated. Starting with a pool of 241 items, the number of items was successively reduced through large-scale studies with university students from different universities and various subject areas (Vermunt, 1998).

The final full version of the ILS contains 120 items in 20 scales, five scales for each of the four domains. Part A on ‘study activities’ measures cognitive processing and metacognitive regulation strategies and contains 55 items in ten scales. Here students are asked to indicate on a five-point Likert scale the degree to which they use the described activity in their studies. Part B on ‘study views and motives’ contains 65 items: 40 on conceptions of learning and 25 on learning orientations/motivations. Here students are asked to indicate on a five-point Likert scale the degree to which they agree with the described view or motive. The shortened version of the ILS contains 100 items in 20 scales, 5 scales and 25 items in each domain. Table 16.5 shows the learning components and scales covered by the ILS.

Originally the ILS was named the Inventory of Learning Styles. However, it soon turned out that the term learning ‘style’ is often associated with unchangeability, a phenomenon deeply rooted in personality or even one’s biological makeup, a hard-to-change human trait. This was contrary to what we meant by learning style, which we see as the result of the interplay between person-bound and environmental influences. Moreover, the term learning style is used for a wide variety of individual differences between learners, so broad that it is almost impossible to define a common meaning of the term (e.g. Coffield, Moseley, Hall, & Ecclestone, 2004). For these reasons, around 2004 we stopped using the term learning ‘style’ and introduced the concept of learning ‘pattern’ as a more dynamic term to refer to this interrelated whole of students’ learning strategies, views, and motives (Vermunt, 2005; Vermunt & Vermetten, 2004). Initially the name of the ILS instrument was kept the same to avoid confusion. However, we now believe that renaming the ILS to Inventory of Learning Patterns of Students is more appropriate to avoid confusion with the learning style area.

Research with the ILS has repeatedly identified four qualitative different patterns in the way students in higher education learn: reproduction-directed learning,

Table 16.5 Learning Components and Scales of the ILS (from Vermunt & Vermetten, 2004)

Learning components

Scales of the ILS

Processing strategies

Deep processing

Relating and structuring

Critical processing

Stepwise processing

Memorizing and rehearsing


Concrete processing

Regulation strategies


Learning process and outcomes outcomes

Learning contents

External regulation

Learning process

Learning outcomes

Lack of regulation

Conceptions of learning

Construction of knowledge Intake of knowledge Use of knowledge Stimulating education Co-operative learning

Learning orientations

Personally interested Certificate oriented Self-test oriented Vocation oriented Ambivalent

meaning-directed learning, application-directed learning, and undirected learning (e.g. Lonka, Olkinuora, & Makinen, 2004; Richardson, 2000; Vermunt, 1998). For a review of recent research see Vermunt and Donche (2017).

<<   CONTENTS   >>

Related topics