CHAPTER THREE THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
This chapter reviews literature on the theories that inform this study. In this case literature was reviewed to identify relationships between ideas and practices and to relate ideas and theory to applications (Hart, 1998, Cooper, 1988) cited by Joubish et al., (2011). Likewise, Randolph (2009: 3) postulates that literature reviews can be focused on practices or applications. He notes for example, that a review might concentrate on how a certain intervention has been applied or how a group of people tend to carry out a certain practice. In this case I reviewed literature vis-à-vis the current assessment practices at Solusi University. I wanted to use the theoretical frameworks as a lenses through which formative assessment would be seen to lead to self-regulated learning.
This review addresses the two critical research questions of this study. These partly sought to find out what the true worth or value of formative assessment was at Solusi University in the context of self-regulated learning. They also sought to find out how the self-regulated learning approach could add value to formative assessment practices in this university Self-regulated learning is constructivist in nature because of its emphasis on the active involvement of learners in the classroom (Kwan and Wong, 2014; Zeidan, 2014). In that regard the theories that underpin this study were being reviewed in relation to how they resonated with constructivist learning theory. The informed position of this review was based on the assumption that constructivism is a theory of learning and not a particular approach to instruction, (Barret and Long, 2012: 75). Hence I categorised the theories that underpin this study as approaches to teaching and learning using constructivism as the paradigm. They were thus classified because both the lecturers and students may use any one of them as an approach to teaching and learning respectively.
The three main theories are Self-Regulated Learning, The BEAR Assessment System and Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Objectives. The unifying idea in each of these approaches to teaching and learning is constructivism because their characteristics do manifest themselves through constructivist principles. Some approaches such as the deep and surface approaches to learning are examined in the context of constructivism. These are being compared to one another within a teaching and learning environment so as to ascertain how they could be appropriately applied. The theories were being studied particularly to see how they could be used to view the current assessment practices at Solusi University.
UNDERSTANDING CONSTRUCTIVIST LEARNING THEORY AS A PARADIGM
Constructivist learning theory provided the platform for the theories that underpin this study. Constructivist learning theory recognises that the learners construct meaning out of an interactive learning environment that includes lecturers, peers and learning materials (Keengwe, J., Onchwari, G. and Agamba, J., 2013). According to Taber (2011), the constructivist perspective on learning is based on how people make meaning of their interaction with the environment. Barret and Long (2012: 76) likewise argue that a learner in a constructivist environment must actively build content and new knowledge. These assertions presuppose a learning environment in which the learners end up owning the knowledge. As a result, formative assessment should also test the teacher’s ability to meaningfully engage the students in the learning process rather than just looking for simple recall of facts.
The crucial role of constructivist learning theory to the teaching and learning context cannot be overemphasised. Constructivism may be viewed as a form of pedagogy which refers to some types of instructional theories, such as collaborative learning, student-centred learning and authentic assessment (Kwan and Wong, 2014: 193). This implies that constructivist learning may become a reality through the application and implementation of various teaching approaches. One such approach is action learning. The term ‘action learning’ presupposes a constructivist approach to teaching and learning in which the learners are actively involved. It is defined as “development-oriented learning through collaborative engagement with real problems, based on questioning insight and critically reflective thinking,” (Rand, 2013: 232). Action learning is thus an approach that should lead to self-regulated learning.
Studies carried out by several scholars have noted the role of action learning in enhancing student critical thinking. In one such study Kim, K., Sharma, P., Land, S. M. and Furlong, K. P. (2012) designed and implemented active learning modules by incorporating group-based learning with authentic tasks, scaffolding, and individual reports. Active learning is herewith being likened to action learning. They adopted the definition of critical thinking as the ability to identify issues, analyse data and evidence, make judgments, critically and reflectively evaluate relevant elements, and draw conclusions, (Kim et al., 2012: 226).
One hundred and fifty-five undergraduate science students participated in the study whose context were two active learning instructional modules based on a topic about natural disasters. Each one of the modules (a) used current events and situations as contexts for the activities; (b) provided visible supports, or scaffolds, for student thinking; and (c) provided opportunities for students to engage in peer discussions and collaborative activities, (Kim et al., 2012: 227). At the end of in-class learning and vigorous group activities each student was asked to write a report to indicate their understanding in the following two areas:
Firstly, the report was supposed to give evidence of the student’s ability to understand the concepts and integrate prior knowledge. Secondly the students were expected to show their ability to deal with scientific phenomena by critically and reflectively evaluating relevant elements, and drawing conclusions, (Kim et al., 2012: 226). The findings indicated significant improvements in scores for critical thinking between individual reports for the first and second modules. The authors concluded that active learning does actually enhance critical thinking. This supports the notion that active learning/action learning like all other approaches to teaching and learning, is premised on constructivist learning theory.
Elwood and Murphy (2015: 184) locate educational activities within the constructivist paradigm. They postulate that education as an area of social policy and practice is constituted by activities such as teaching, learning and assessing. They further argue that these activities within schools and the practices associated with them are part of the broader cultural systems of relations, and social structure in which they have meaning. I thus found the constructivist learning theory to be significant in relation to the various approaches to teaching and learning. It fitted in perfectly as a paradigm for my theoretical framework. In view of this import I identified two constructivist learning theories in order to gain an appreciation of their characteristics vis-à-vis the theoretical framework.
AN OUTLINE OF VYGOTSKY’S AND BANDURA’S CONTSRUCTIVIST LEARNING THEORIES
There were two constructivist learning theories that were singled out for the purposes of relating them to the theoretical frameworks. The objective was to solidify the assertions about the constructivist nature of the theories that guide this study. The first one is Vygotsky’s social constructivist theory of development. The social nature of the theory implies that there is a strong emphasis on social interaction (collaboration and community in classroom activities) as hinted to by Devries (2008). Similarly, the constructivist nature of the theory suggests that it is premised by constructivist theory of learning which recognises that active, self-regulated learners can construct knowledge for themselves (Kwan and Wong, 2014). In Table 3.1 the prominent attributes of Vygotsky’s theory (Devries, 2008: 1-189) are compared with the major characteristics of constructivist theory of learning as suggested by Kwan and Wong (2014: 193). In the centre column I listed suggested overlapping features of the two sets of characteristics in order to show that Vygotsky’s theory is constructivist in nature.
A very important element in Vygotsky’s theory is the Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky, 1978: 86). He defines it as,
The distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers.
The Zone of Proximal Development considers effective learning to be a product of individual efforts combined with collaborative efforts between students and their peers as well as lecturers. This shows the essential characteristic of constructivist learning in which students are active participants of the learning process through inquiry and exchange of ideas.
The second constructivist theory of learning is Bandura’s social cognitive theory. The social aspect of the theory acknowledges the social origins of much human thought and action while the cognitive aspect recognizes the influential contribution of cognitive processes to human motivation, affect, and action (Bandura, 2012: 350). In the previous chapter in section 2: 11, I noted that social cognitive theory distinguishes between enactive and vicarious learning. Enactive learning is learning by doing and experiencing the consequences of your actions while vicarious learning is learning by observing others (Woolfolk et al., 2008). Enactive learning is a constructivist assumption that people are active learners who construct knowledge for themselves (Kwan and Wong, 2014; Schunk, 2008).
On the other hand, vicarious learning is also constructivist in nature because it emphasises the
socio-cultural context in knowledge construction, (Kwan and Wong, 2014). Hence Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory is a constructivist theory of learning. An empirical study was conducted by Khosa and Volet (2014) to find out the effects of collaborative learning on productive engagement in cognitive activity and metacognitive regulation. The aim was to examine the extent to which group differences in cognitive activity and metacognitive regulation during a collaborative learning activity could contribute to explaining differences in the group learning outcomes.
Two groups (Group A and Group B) of undergraduate students in Veterinary Medicine were given two science-learning tasks (Task 1 and Task 2) on an equal footing. They worked separately but somehow exhibited differing approaches to learning. In order to detect the outcomes, the authors instituted a coding scheme for analysing cognitive activity and metacognitive regulation. According to Khosa and Volet (2014: 301), the findings for Task 2 revealed some striking group differences, with Group B displaying high-levels for both cognitive activity and metacognitive regulation. Group A on the other hand engaged predominantly at low-level for cognitive activity and showed modest engagement for metacognitive regulation. Group B members were metacognitively self-regulated. This shows that collaborative learning which occurs in social environments falls in line with Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory.
Hence it became vital for this study to allow constructivism to illuminate the conceptual frameworks. This was to lay ground for the formative assessment system at Solusi University to be viewed through a constructivist lens. Therefore, Vygotsky’s social constructivist theory of development and Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory were being used in this research to house the theories that underpin the study.
SELF-REGULATED LEARNING THEORY AS A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
Self-Regulated Learning was used to form the nucleus of this study for two reasons: Firstly, this study sought to investigate how formative assessment was valued using the self-regulated learning lens. Secondly, the other two theories to be considered later served as building blocks towards a self-regulated learning environment. Thus the bigger picture in this study was self-regulated learning.
Self-regulated learning is a constructivist teaching and learning approach. In a self-regulated learning environment, the learners are intentional and actively get involved in the learning process as they construct knowledge through problem solving and other activities (Zeidan, 2014). Self-regulated learning strategies are a simulation of constructivist learning theory. Schunk and Usher (2013: 1-2) use the term self-regulated learning interchangeably with self-regulation. They go on to state that in self-regulation, learners will systematically organise and direct their thoughts, feelings and actions to attain their goals. This conceptualises a teaching approach which is systematised to enable students to become active participants in the learning process.
Therefore, self-regulated learning is systematic and involves order, planning and flexibility. Consequently, the self-regulation model is a cyclical process in which the factors do change during learning and therefore need to be monitored, (Schunk and Usher, 2013: 13). The model is hereby presented in the form of a table with the characteristics of each factor clearly shown in Table 3.2):
The three elements in this model are forethought, performance and self-reflection.
Forethought is the student’s action and reaction during the preparation for learning stage.
Performance is the student’s action and reaction during learning. Self-reflection portrays the student’s action and reaction after a learning experience. Knowledge of the characteristics of these phases should enable the lecturer to support the learners if the self-regulated learning approach is adopted.
In terms of constructivism Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory is reflected in this model. The cognitive aspect which recognizes the influential contribution of cognitive processes to human motivation, affect, and action (Bandura, 2012: 350) may feature in each of the three phases. The characteristics of each phase reflect this relationship. In the forethought phase we find motivational beliefs; in the performance phase we find metacognitive monitoring; in the self-reflection phase we find self-reflection.
Similarly, the social aspect of Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory is also reflected in the Self-Regulated learning model. The social aspect of the theory acknowledges the social origins of much human thought and action (Bandura, 2012: 350). This implies that one’s social background and environment have an impact in the way he/she prepares for learning (forethought), behaves during learning (performance) and after learning (afterthought).
In the forethought phase a student’s task orientation process may be influenced by one’s social environment. The student may have goal orientations or reasons for learning (Schunk and Usher, 2013: 14) which focus on getting a grade rather than learning a skill and this may be so because it is part of his/her forethought. In the performance phase the social aspect may entail focusing attention on certain role models such teachers and peers. In the self-reflection phase a student’s social origins or the social interactions with peers may affect self-reflection either to one’s benefit or failure. As such the Self-Regulated Learning approach should be systematic and not dogmatic so as to avoid stereotype teaching and learning.
Self-Regulated learning is characteristically metacognitive especially from the perspective that self-regulation is a strong component of metacognition (Lai, 2011; Papaleontiou-Louca, 2008). Research indicates that self-regulated learners have the skill and will to learn. They are positively disposed to transform their mental abilities into academic skills (Woolfolk, 2004; Murphy & Alexander, 2000; Zimmerman, 2002). Therefore, the study sought to use the Metacognitive Self-Regulated lens to investigate the quality and quantity of continuous assessment at Solusi University in the context of constructivist learning.
THE BEAR ASSESSMENT SYSTEM AS A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
The second theory that is being used alongside Self-Regulated learning is the Bear Assessment System. According to Wilson and Sloane (200: 182), the Bear assessment system is so named because it was developed at the Berkeley Evaluation and Assessment Research (BEAR) Centre. This is a comprehensive, integrated system for assessing, interpreting, monitoring, and responding to student performance. It provides a set of tools for instructors and students to:
Reliably assess performance on central concepts and skills in curriculum, Set standards of performance,
Validly track progress over the year on central concepts, and
Provide mechanisms for feedback and follow up. (Wilson and Scalise, 2006: 644).
In that regard the BEAR assessment system is also anchored on a constructivist theory of learning. According to Wilson and Carstensen (2007: 313), the BEAR Assessment System is based on four principles which are:
1. A developmental perspective
2. A match between instruction and assessment
3. The generating of high-quality evidence
4. Management by instructors to allow appropriate feedback, feed-forward, and follow-up.
The characteristics of these principles are outlined in Table 3.3 to show how they relate to constructivism. There are some notable overlaps between the BEAR assessment principles and constructivist theory of learning. The first principle is on developmental perspectives as the lecturer selects goals and decides what to assess and how to assess it. Wilson (2009: 68) believes that quizzes, tests, or assignments are meant to investigate and document student progress in the classroom rather than them being one-shot testing situations for grading purposes. It is recognised that as learning situations vary so their goals and philosophical underpinnings take different forms or structure, (Wilson and Carstensen, 2007: 314). This complies for example with the constructivist characteristics of providing real-world settings or case-based learning instead of following predetermined sequences of instruction (Zeidan, 2014).
The second principle which propounds a match between instruction and assessment is also constructivist in nature. This is the stage where the learning takes place and where quizzes or assignments are given and that these should be based on the content of instruction. This is done in line with the goals that were formulated during the developmental perspective stage. It characterises such constructivist principles as enabling context and content dependent knowledge construction as well as emphasising authentic tasks rather than abstract instruction (Wilson and Carstensen, 2007; Zeidan, 2014). This may for example counter the temptation to give or request for quizzes for the sake of recording marks even if the students do not build any contextual knowledge from the quizzes.
In the third principle, the management of assessment information by the lecturer must be done in relation to the instructional goals. At this stage it is expected that quizzes, tests or assignments are being marked by the lecturer. The motive is to gauge how far the goals of instruction have been achieved as opposed to simply awarding marks. Management of assessment information lays ground for effective feedback to take place. This emphasises the constructivist principles like supporting collaborative construction of knowledge through social negotiation between the lecturer, students and peers.
The last principle talks about providing high quality evidence. This is the stage for providing feedback. It calls upon the lecturer to establish procedures in order to ensure comparability of results across time and context, (Wilson and Carstensen, 2007: 313). Such endeavours recognise that students should be active participants in learning as they meaningfully interact with assessment feedback. Hence this supports the collaborative construction of knowledge through social negotiation. Assessment is for learning and this is evident in these principles.
BLOOM’S TAXONOMY OF LEARNING OBJECTIVES AS A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
The third theory underpinning the focus of this study is Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Objectives. One of the basic principles of an assessment process is specifying the intended learning goals before selecting the assessment procedures to use, (Linn and Miller, 2005).
This is fully addressed by this taxonomy. The original form of Bloom’s taxonomy has six stages namely knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation (Bloom, 1984).
Bloom’s taxonomy has been used by many scholars to underpin their studies. Up to this day, Bloom’s taxonomy is arguably among the most recognized frameworks that guide learning and assessment (Hawk and Shah, 2014). Since its inception Bloom’s original taxonomy has been used again and again in the field of education. Eventually educationists have made certain observations. One of the major areas of concern has been in the application of the categories and sub-categories to analyse test items. It has been observed that a heavy emphasis is placed on objectives that fall in the Knowledge category which require only recognition or recall of information (Krathwohl, 2002: 213). Because of this, Bloom’s taxonomy has been revised to give it a more practical approach. According to Anderson and Krathwohl (2001), the cognitive domain in the learning taxonomy may be revisited to reflect a more active form of thinking. This is shown in Table 3.4 where the old cognitive domain is matched against the new one to indicate the changes.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER ONE SETTING THE SCENE
1.2. BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
1.3. THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
1.4. PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
1.5. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
1.6. DELIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
1.7. LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
1.8. DEFINITION OF KEY TERMS
1.9. DESCRIPTION OF CHAPTERS
CHAPTER TWO LITERATURE REVIEW
2.2. ASSESSMENT AND ITS INFLUENCE ON TEACHING AND LEARNING
2.3. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FORMATIVE, SUMMATIVE AND CONTINUOUS ASSESSMENTS
2.4. CHARACTERISTICS OF SUMMATIVE AND FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT
2.5. THE GOAL OF ASSESSMENT
2.6. SELF-REGULATION AS THE MAIN GOAL OF ASSESSMENT
2.7. PRINCIPLES AND GUIDELINES FOR THE ASSESSMENT PROCESS
2.8. THE ROLE OF FEEDBACK IN SELF-REGULATED LEARNING
2.9. THE ROLE OF METACOGNITION IN LEARNING
2.10. RESEARCH ON METACOGNITION AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR SELF-REGULATED LEARNING
2.11. SELECTED THEORIES OF LEARNING
2.12. SELECTED THEORIES OF INTELLIGENCE
2.13. QUALITY ASSURANCE IN EDUCATION
CHAPTER THREE THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
3.2. UNDERSTANDING CONSTRUCTIVIST LEARNING THEORY AS A PARADIGM
3.3. AN OUTLINE OF VYGOTSKY’S AND BANDURA’S CONTSRUCTIVIST LEARNING THEORIES
3.4. SELF-REGULATED LEARNING THEORY AS A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
3.5. THE BEAR ASSESSMENT SYSTEM AS A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
3.6. BLOOM’S TAXONOMY OF LEARNING OBJECTIVES AS A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
3.6. SURFACE AND DEEP LEARNING APPROACHES WITHIN THE THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
3.7. HOW THE THEORIES GUIDING THIS STUDY BLEND TO FORM THE THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
CHAPTER FOUR RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
4.2. THE RESEARCH PARADIGM
4.3. RESEARCH DESIGN
4.4. PARTICIPANT SELECTION AND SAMPLING
4.5. DATA GENERATION INSTRUMENTS
4.6. DATA GENERATION PROCEDURES
4.7. DATA ANALYSIS
4.9. ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
CHAPTER FIVE DATA PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION
5.2. CHARACTERISING ASSESSMENT PRACTICES IN THE UNIVERSITY
5.3. A DISCUSSION OF THE MAJOR ISSUES
5.4. A COMPARISON OF THE MAJOR ISSUES
CHAPTER SIX USING THE SELF-REGULATED LEARNING APPROACH TO ENHANCE FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT PRACTICES
6.2. A SUMMARY OF THE RESEARCH JOURNEY
6.3. LEARNING FROM THE FINDINGS
6.5. CONCLUDING REMARKS
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT