With the significant growth of online course delivery in post-secondary education where students do the preponderance of studying on their own, it is crucial to help them study effectively. Supporting their self-regulated learning may contribute to this end. Successful self-regulated learners (SRL) set goals before studying then return to these goals and adapt them as necessary, suggesting value in examining how we might support this process. Learning objectives are one instructional variable that may enhance elements of the self-regulation cycle, including setting goals, selecting appropriate tactics and strategies, and enabling learners to assess progress and decide whether to continue or create a new plan. The goal of this research was to investigate how learning objectives might support various facets of SRL when students studied and restudied material. Seventy-nine university students studied a 1247 word anthropological passage in nStudy, software designed to research and support self-regulated learning. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups: learning objectives and pre-seeded tags, learning objectives and pre-seeded notes, learning objectives and both pre-seeded notes and tags. In a fourth group, participants had neither learning objectives nor pre-seeded tags or notes. Participants returned after at least a 24-hour break to restudy using the same nStudy environment as their initial study session. Data on study behaviour were collected through an online-questionnaire. Study behaviours were logged by nStudy. Participants wrote an achievement-test after completing the second study session. Results suggest four significant findings. During study, three indicators of self-regulated learning – frequent note taking and views of learning objectives, and review of learning objectives in both study sessions – were associated with higher scores on the achievement test. Higher achievement was also evidenced by participants who stated the benefit of learning objectives prior to the initial study session, suggesting learners were prepared to regulate learning by metacognitively monitoring content during study and restudy. These results suggest we can better support learners to productively self-regulate learning by teaching the relevance of learning objectives. They also suggest it is possible to support self-regulated learning in online learning environments by encouraging frequent note-taking, and presenting learning objectives throughout study materials.
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Thesis advisor: Winne, Phil
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