Independent Learning And Reflective Thinking Of The Future Teachers

Abstract

The paper aims to achieving an exploratory and correlational study between independent learning and reflective thinking of the future teachers. For the substantiation of this study, analysis of the specialized literature were made. The independent learning involves a high level of self-awareness, the development of cognitive and metacognitive abilities and, in the same time, it involves the self-regulating personal effort to learn ( Ștefan, 2010 ). Reflective thinking, on the other hand, has benefits for learning as it assists in integrating theory with practice, promotes intellectual growth because it is cyclical rather than linear, develops skills that makes students more confident, more independent and fosters responsibility and accountability ( Kuiper and Pesut, 2004 ). Thus, basing on the theoretical data as mentioned above, the aim of this study is to identify the level of the development of independent learning and of the reflective thinking of students, as future teachers. Also, we identify existing correlations between independent learning and reflective thinking. The sample of subjects involved in this study is comprised of students in pre-service teacher education (N=212), which are studying the program for teacher training (I-st year). To measure independent learning we used the shortened version of the AILI questionnaire ( Elshout-Mohr, Van Daalen-Kapteijns, & Meijer, 2004 ). On the other hand, reflective thinking was measured by QRT questionnaire ( Questionnaire for reflective thinking, Kember et al., 2000 ). Data obtained were statistically descriptive analyzed by calculating means, and Pearson r correlation coefficient.

Keywords: Independent learningreflective thinkingself-awarenessfuture teacherscorrelational study

Introduction

Skills of lifelong learning became necessary because postmodern society is characterized by an

explosion informational and rapidly and uncertain changing realities, requiring learners to rethink

constantly strategies, to change directions, to apply the new knowledge to complex situations in their

daily activities. Instruction has therefore become concerned more with enabling students to learn how to

learn, independently face challenges and create new realities than with information delivery (Shawer,

2009). Then it is important to promote reflective thinking during learning to help students develop high-

level thinking skills, to link new knowledge to the foregoing, to apply specific strategies to new tasks and,

understand their own thinking.

In this context, higher education of teacher training aims to develop independent learning and

reflective thinking, which will provide preparing students for a high quality career. Independent academic

learning emphasizes personal development of students, responsibility and commitment which increases

steadily throughout the academic years. However, independent learning is a complex, continuous, and

leasting. This goal is the responsibility of the teacher, but also of each individual student, as a partner in

the instruction activity. Gradually, as the maturation and evolution of knowledge and practice, the

student assumes responsibility for learning, self-monitoring and self-route of their academic own way,

including the level of individual study.

Paper Theoretical Foundation and Related Literature

In recent years, the promotion of independent learning has become an important educational goal

in many educational systems. Came from the constructivist learning theory, the concept of independent

learning is not new, but is it one on which there is a surprising lack of consensus as to what it means

(Broad, 2006). There are a number of different terms used to describe independent learning, such as self-

regulated learning (Schunk & Zimmerman, 1994; Pintrich, 2000), self-directed learning (Korotov, 1992),

learning to learn (Black et al., 2006), student-centred learning (Black, 2007), self-learning (Mok &

Chen, 2001), self-access learning (Chia, 2005) etc. These themes and processes involve students having

an understanding of their learning, taking over responsibility for their learning and working with teachers

to structure their learning environment. This allows students to become active participants in their own

learning process. In short, confusion exists due to the number of terms and possible interpretation of those

terms (Broad, 2006).

The terms self-directed learning and learning how to learn are sometimes used interchangeably

with independent learning (Meyer et al, 2008). The most common descriptor of independent learning is

self-regulated learning . The literature consistently notes that independent learning is fostered by creating

opportunities and experiences that encourage learner motivation, curiosity, self-confidence and self-

reliance, and is based on the understanding by learners of their own interests and a valuing of learning for

its own sake (idem).

In this paper we use the term independent learning to designate a type of learning and studying

that is directed by metacognition. The literature in the area of metacognition identifies three distinct

aspects of independent learning directed by metacognition: metacognitive knowledge , metacognitive

regulation and metacognitive responsiveness. Metacognitive knowledge refers to the knowledge or

beliefs about what factors or variables interact and in what ways to affect the course and outcomes of

cognitive enterprises (Flavell, 1979). Metacognitive regulation refers to a set of cognitive approches that

help students control their learning. A component of metacognition that has received relatively little

attention concerns metacognitive experiences described as any conscious cognitive or affective

experience that accompanies and pertains to any intellectual enterprise(idem). The term metacognitive

responsiveness include students’ sensitivity to metacognitive experiences (idem); general awareness of

metacognition and the importance thereof; and curiosity to learn about metacognition by information and

feedback.

Developing students’ reflective thinking has been recognized as an essential goal for learning and

transformation in higher education. Students are expected to reflect as a part of their studies, but also to

reflect on their learning and development of skills. Reflective thinking can be seen as a fuzzy construct

because there has been no clear common definition, roles, or process of reflective thinking in students

learning making it is difficult to distinguish reflective thinking from other thinking skills such as

metacognition. Moon (1999) points out that reflective thinking has been initiated or guided differently or

used and applied for different purposes in a variety of fields of education. However, many researchers

from diverse traditions and perspectives argue that reflective thinking is an important skills or cognitive

behavior that should be developed in students (Dewey, 1933; Ertmer & Newby, 1996). Thus, Bourner

(2003) notes that developing students' capacity for reflective learning is part of developing their capacity

to learn how to learn. Dearnley and Matthew (2007) report that the awakening process, facilitated through

reflection, is crucial in moving students from a state where they begin to question received knowledge

and begin to think independently.Harrison et al. (2003) contend that reflection is an important human

activity and is an essential element of the learning process that allows students to evaluate their personal

strengths and weaknesses and runs parallel with metacognition. They go on to report that reflective

thinking is the essence of metacognition and claim that reflection promotes self-learning and self-reliance,

reinforces and consolidates learning, and promotes learner responsibility. Therefore, a constant concern

of teachers should be to stimulate students to reflect on their learning process so that they become aware

of their strengths, but also about their weaknesses, which they can compensate by personal ways to

explore the information through personal management of information and knowledge, and thus

effectively managing their knowledge (Peculea, L., 2015).

Mezirow’s (1991, 1998) theories regarding transformative education, has involved the theoretical

postulation of reflective thinking as being categorised into four separate phases, in their order of

complexity – habitual action, understanding, reflection, and critical thinking (Kember et al., 2000; Leung

& Kember, 2003; Phan, 2007). Habitual action is a mechanical and automatic activity that is performed

with little conscious thought. Understanding is learning and reading without relating to other situations.

Reflection concerns active, persistent, and careful consideration of any assumptions or beliefs grounded

in our consciousness. Critical thinking is considered as a higher level of reflective thinking that involves

us becoming more aware of why we perceive things, the way we feel, the way we act, and what we do.

The work of Leung and Kember (2003) has provided us with a clear understanding of critical

thinking and how it relates positively to other motivational variables, notably - learning styles, goal

orientations, self-efficacy beliefs, and effort. Leung and Kember’s confirmatory factor analysis (CFA)

study suggests that critical thinking along with reflection and understanding are associated positively to

deep study strategies, whereas habitual action is more in line with surface study strategies. It found from

structural equation modeling that habitual action is predicted by surface processing strategies, whereas

understanding is influenced by deep processing strategies. Critical thinking and reflection are also

influenced by deep processing strategies (Phan, 2006, 2007). Prior study results indicated the positive

impact of reflective thinking on learning achievement (Ersozlu & Arslan, 2009). The Phan (2007) study

empirically verified the causal effects of reflective thinking and self-efficacy on academic performance

and the necessity of encouraging students to think reflectively during learning processes.

Methodology

Participants

A number of N = 212 participants was involved in the research conducted.The sample of subjects

was comprised of students in pre-service teacher education which are studying the program for teacher training , Ist year, in the academic year 2015-2016, at Technical University of Cluj-Napoca.

Research Design

To explore the independent learning and the reflective thinking of the future teachers, it was

realized an exploratory and correlational study design which aimed to identify the level of the

development of this variables and also the correlation established between them. The research questions

of the study were the following: (1)What is the level of the development of the independent learning and

the reflective thinking of the future teachers involved in the research? (2) What is the correlation

established between the dimensions of the independent learning (metacognitive knowledge, metacognitive

regulation and metacognitive responsiveness) and the dimensions of the reflective thinking (habitual

action, understanding, reflection, critical reflection)?

Data obtained were statistically descriptive analyzed by calculating mean, standard deviation and

and Pearson correlation coefficient, using IBM SPSS™ software.

Measures

In order to measure the independent learning we used the shortened version of the AILI

questionnaire (Elshout-Mohr, Van Daalen-Kapteijns, & Meijer, 2004) which consists of 45 items which

measure three dimensions of the independent learning: metacognitive knowledge, metacognitive

regulation and metacognitive responsiveness. On the other hand, reflective thinking was measured by

QRT questionnaire (Questionnaire for reflective thinking, Kember et al., 2000), which consists of 16

items. This is a tool built on four scales measuring four constructs: habitual action, understanding,

reflection, critical reflection.

Procedure

In the research were involved only those students who participated in more than 75% of courses

and seminars and were excluded those who had a low attendance.

A paper and pencil version of the questionnaires, was distributed and completed by participants in

the faculty environment, without interfering with the formal didactic activities. To the participants were

explained that their participation in the study is voluntary, and their consent was completed in the

questionnaire.

Results

Aiming to identify the development level of the independent learning and of the reflective thinking

of the future teachers involved in the research, it was resorted to calculate the means for the each

dimension of these. The data obtained are shown in Table 1 and Table 2. Analysis at the level of observed

scores on subscales, for each variable followed, showed a medium development of the independent

learning but also of the reflective thinking. The only lowest mean was found at the level of metacognitive

responsiveness.

The development level of the independent learning

The development level of the reflective thinking

In order to identify possible correlations between the independent learning and reflective thinking,

our analysis has focused on the correlations between the scores for the each dimension of these. For this

analysis it was used the calculation of the Pearson correlation index r. We considered necessary to

emphasis the correlations between observed scores on each dimension because it can be more relevant

of the future teachers, that accompany and pertain to any intellectual enterprise. I this regard it becomes

important the transition from the cogntive dimension to its integration with the affective and the

behavioral one. Therefore, the goals pursued under the initial and continuous training of teachers

subsystems, must consider cyclical and spiral processuality implied by adequate attitudes formation

(Andronache et. al, 2014).

On a Likert scale with 5 points, it appears that the reflective thinking of future teachers have an

mean M = 3.47, which means an medium development. But, also for this variable, our analysis sought to

identify the scores for each dimension. Therefore, the results show an medium development of habitual

action (M = 3.03), understanding (M = 3.76), reflection (M = 3.80), critical reflection (M = 3.30). These

results suggest us that a medium development of the reflective thinking, of the future teachers, involve

skills to conduct automatic activity, wich is performed with little conscious thought. Also, the results lead

us to say that the future teachers could be active, persistent, and able for a careful consideration of any

assumptions or beliefs grounded in the consciousness. So, it is expected that the future teachers to reflect,

as a part of their studies, but also to reflect on their learning and their skills development.

Regarding the second research questions of the study: What is the correlation established between

the dimensions of the independent learning (metacognitive knowledge, metacognitive regulation and

metacognitive responsiveness) and the dimensions of the reflective thinking (habitual action,

understanding, reflection, critical reflection)?, the results presented in Table 3 show significant

correlations between understanding and metacognitive knowledge, metacognitive regulation and

metacognitive responsiveness (r = 0.873, p <0.001;r = 0.836, p <0.001; r = 0.596, p <0.001). Thus,

based on these data, we can say that a higher understanding of the future teachers involves a higher

metacognitive knowledge, metacognitive regulation and metacognitive responsiveness. The next highest

correlation are between reflection and metacognitive knowledge, metacognitive regulation and

metacognitive responsiveness (r = 0.624, p <0.001;r = 0.896, p <0.001; r = 0.769, p <0.001).

Therefore, the future teachers who have a higher development of the reflection have also a higher

development of metacognitive knowledge, metacognitive regulation and metacognitive responsiveness

and vice-versa. An other significant correlation was identified between critical reflection and

metacognitive knowledge, metacognitive regulation and metacognitive responsiveness (r = 0.798, p <0.001;r = 0.776, p <0.001; r = 0.685, p <0.001). These data led us to an other important conclusion,

thus we can say that the critical reflection of future teachers is significantly and positively associated with

metacognitive knowledge, metacognitive regulation and metacognitive responsiveness.

Lower and no significant correlations (r = 0.127, p >0.001;r = 0.071, p >0.001; r = 0.096, p

>0.001) were found between habitual action and metacognitive knowledge, metacognitive regulation and

metacognitive responsiveness. It can be a very important issue because the habitual action is more in line

with surface study strategies, which can not be associated with metacognitive knowledge, metacognitive

regulation or metacognitive responsiveness, which involves deep processing strategies. In fact, this

conclusion is supported by other similar studies, for example Leung and Kember (2003) found from

structural equation modeling studies, that habitual action is predicted by surface processing strategies.

Conclusions

The results obtained through this investigation suggest the necessity to assure:

the development of future teachers’s reflection in different academic contexts and, in the same

time, the premises of it, assuring that the future teachers could be active, persistent, and able for a

careful consideration of any assumptions or beliefs grounded in the consciousness;

the necessary associations between the critical reflection of future teachers and their

metacognitive knowledge, metacognitive regulation and metacognitive responsiveness;

didactical designs and the practical academic approches for all the psychopedagogical subject

matters, in order to promote these transversal skills – critical reflection, metacognitive

knowledge, metacognitive regulation and metacognitive responsiveness.

In conclusion, according to theoretical approaches and to statistical data obtained, it is worth

mentioning that the formation and manifestation of the independent learning and of the reflective thinking

of the future teachers is an systemic and an interactive process. Our paper tried to draw attention to the

fact that the independent learning and reflective thinking is an important issue in teachers training, and

their formation and development, can be produced by interaction, in a systemic way. Moreover, the

development of the all dimensions of independent learning and reflective thinking facilitates a deep

learning.

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Publisher

Future Academy

First Online

18.12.2019

Doi

10.15405/epsbs.2017.05.02.97

Online ISSN

2357-1330