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Future Directions for Research

In my view, the field of research in the area of student learning strategies in higher education should move forward in the following directions. First, it should broaden its scope to incorporate cognitive, regulative, affective, motivational, social/collaborative, communicative, epistemological, and moral components. Second, research should be conducted that focuses on the relation between students’ learning and their learning outcomes or gains. Third, more research should be done on the design and effects of powerful learning environments intended to promote active, self-regulated, meaning-oriented, high-quality learning. The incorporation of learning strategy information in learning analytics data gathering to support personalized learning pathways could be an important element of such a research strand. Fourth, the multi-dimensional nature of learning strategies and patterns should be the focus of research more than is the case now. Fifth, more research should be done on the relation between processing and regulation strategies (cf. Dinsmore & Fryer, 2018). Or, to put it more generally, the relation between the various dimensions of the multi-dimensional model should be more in the focus of scientific research in this area (e.g. Fryer & Vermunt, 2018).

Research on strategies should broaden its scope to include different populations and contexts than the traditional focus on undergraduate students at university. One such important population and context is that of teachers’ professional learning and development in the context of their work. An important question in this regard is how teachers, or professionals in general, integrate knowledge gained from own experiences, from experienced colleagues, and from ‘theory’ into a professional theory of practice. We need tools to measure the various components of professional learning. Moreover, we need more knowledge about the impact of various pedagogical approaches to foster high-quality, meaning-oriented teacher learning and deliberate practice. Other important populations and contexts are professionals in other occupations (for example, medical doctors), and secondary and primary school students (Vermunt & Endedijk, 2011; Vermunt et al., 2017, 2019). The relation between student learning and teacher learning and the need for a common conceptual and measurement framework is another important direction for learning strategy research. Finally, we need more triangulation research in which learning strategies are measured by multiple research methods and the evidence is compared and evaluated (cf. Alexander, 2017).

Implications for Practice

To maximize the validity of retrospective self-report tools, the items should be phrased in the language that the target population uses to think about their learning. Grounding the items in interviews with students from the target population is the best way to achieve this. Items should be as concrete and specific as possible in view of the purpose of the measurement. Cherry-picking of individual items at face value from validated scales should be discouraged; instead intact scales with good reliabilities should be used. When inventories are used for different populations than they were developed for, often considerable revalidation is necessary.

Surveys and retrospective self-reports occupy an important place in the measurement of learning strategies. The choice for a measurement method depends on the purpose, context, available resources, and practical opportunities. As discussed above, learning strategy inventories can be used to gain scientific knowledge about dimensions and developments in students’ use of learning strategies, their motives, and their views and beliefs. They can also be used to help students reflect on their way of learning and to help students to develop the weaker sides of their approaches to learning and studying. A growing field of application of learning strategy inventories is to evaluate the effect of teaching-learning environments or specific courses on the quality of students’ learning strategies, motives, or views, with the aim of improving the quality of university teaching. Strategy inventories should in our view not be used for selection purposes of individual students or for accountability purposes of universities, courses, or lecturers.

 
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