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Influencing academic resilience and self-regulation in students: An intervention in mathematics

Posted on 26 June 2018

Does the consistent integration of self-regulation strategies, resilience coaching and digital feedback loops measurably improve the academic results of students in mathematics?

by Alex Krzensk, Churchie Head of Mathematics Faculty Years 7 to 9, Harrop Family Teaching Fellowship recipient 2014, PhD candidate at the University of Oulu 

An individual’s level of resilience and ability to self-regulate their learning has long been correlated with success in both the short and long term; however, the development of these skill sets has generally been considered innate. In the modern high school setting, the ongoing development of these skills is continually impinged upon by the drive to complete more content. Evidently, the increased amount of curriculum is not having the positive impact on student results that was expected by educational administrators. Conversely, treating student self-regulation and academic resilience as a trainable skill set and has been shown consistently to positively influence student learning outcomes. Furthermore, this study shows that providing of regular and contextual opportunities to refine these skills has significantly impacted student results.

Effective student differentiation and individualisation have long been core goals of quality education, particularly over the last decade with the flexibility afforded by modern technology. In response, the development of effective digital learning tools over the same duration has grown exponentially, reaching the point where anything can be learned online. Education is currently amid a digital transformation; however, uptake and usage are still quite poor, and education lags behind other industries in terms of effective use of technology. The underpinning issue stems from a student’s ability, with respect to their use of resources, to effectively self-regulate. Ultimately, successful learning in the twenty-first century is limited only by an individual’s drive and their aptitude to effectively use the resources and feedback tools that are available to them at any given moment.

This study develops student academic resilience and self-regulated learning (SRL) skills by dedicating regular curriculum time in mathematics classes for entire cohorts in a single-sex private, independent Australian school. Over the course of a school year, students practise utilising the SRL cycle while addressing contextual and individual misconceptions. The SRL cycle engages students with their mathematical misconceptions by first planning their approach based on prior performance and then deriving goals, targeting and practise of the misconceptions as per their plan. Students then evaluate their progress in addressing the misconception.

The SRL process can be further enhanced using digital resources, which can provide instantaneous personalised feedback on student progress. The efficacy of using technology as part of SRL is directly determined by the skills that the students possess specific to these resources—not something that develops innately. This study will analyse students’ maths results from short response exams (four per year) to quantitatively assess if the ongoing development of self-regulation and resilience skills has a significant effect on student academic outcomes over time. All assessment items were conserved between each assessment juncture for each intervention year.

Key findings are seen in figures 1 to 3 and tables 1 and 2. Of note are the improving student results achieved over the course of the three interventions, the significant impact on students who achieved in quartile one and two, and the teacher survey results. Tables 1 and 2 show the assessment results found to be statistically significantly different, favouring the intervention both for the entire cohort and quartiles ones and two only (lower 50 per cent of the cohort). Cohorts were comparable as they were statistically similar, based on independent external aptitude testing.

Figure 1: Average KAPS percentage achieved for each cohort (2014 (control) to 2017) and each exam (Terms 1 to 4)

Figure 2: Spread of KAPS exam results for each exam (Terms 1 to 4) quartiles one and two only (2014 (control) to 2017), 2014 (control) being the leftmost box in each cluster of results progressing to 2017 being the rightmost box.

Figure 3: Teacher reflection on their implementation of the programme 2017


Table 1: Statistically significant difference in results compared to control (2014) (entire cohort)

Table 2: Statistically significant difference in results compared to control (2014) (quartiles one and two)

The results found that the integration into mathematics curriculum time of the SRL and resilience intervention had a statistically significant, positive impact on students’ maths results over the course of the school year. Furthermore, as the programme was refined by assimilating teacher feedback and incorporating suggested support strategies with each successive year, the positive impact increased. In addition, teachers noted that they were increasingly integrating SRL and resilience strategies into their standard teaching practice. The study concluded that the explicit integration of SRL opportunities into the mathematics curriculum had resulted in a statistically significant boost in the results achieved by the cohorts who were subject to the intervention.

Further reading

Connell, M. L., Campione, J. C. & Brown, A. L. (1988). Metacognition: On the importance of understanding what you are doing. Teaching and assessing mathematical problem-solving. s.l.: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 93-114.

De Corte, E., Verschaffel, L., Depaepe, F. & Mason, L. (2011). Self-Regulation of Mathematical Knowledge and Skills. Handbook of Self-regulation of learning and performance. New York: Routledge, 155-172.

Duckworth, A. & Gross, J. (2014). Self-control and grit: Related but separable determinants of success. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 319-325.

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House.

Greenhow, C., Robella, B. & Hughes, J. (2009). Learning, Teaching, and Scholarship in a Digital Age. Web 2.0 and Classroom Research: What Path Should We Take Now? Educational Researcher, 246-259.

Grothberg, E. (1995). The international resilience project: Research, Application & Policy. Birmingham: Civitan International.

Malmberg, J. (2014). Tracing the Process of Self-Regulated Learning - Students' strategic Activity in Study Learning Environments. Oulu: University of Oulu.

Yeager, D. & Dweck, C. (2012). Mindsets that promote resilience: When student believe that personal characteristics can be developed. Educational Psychologist, 302-314.

Zimmerman, B. J. (2002). Becoming a Self-Regulated Learner: An Overview. Theory into practice, 64-70.

Zimmerman, B. J. (2008). Investigating self-regulation and motivation: Historical background, methodological developments, and future prospects. American Educational Research Journal, 45, 166-183.