Sustainable school improvement: Enhancing school middle leaders’ epistemic cognition for teaching about self-regulated learning

Author: Shyam Barr

  • Thesis download: available for open access on 17 Aug 2023.

Barr, Shyam, 2021 Sustainable school improvement: Enhancing school middle leaders’ epistemic cognition for teaching about self-regulated learning, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

Terms of Use: This electronic version is (or will be) made publicly available by Flinders University in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. You may use this material for uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material and/or you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact copyright@flinders.edu.au with the details.

Abstract

Background:

Schools are complex adaptive systems engaged in a dynamic process of continuous improvement. School improvement initiatives require a substantial investment (e.g., financial, human); yet, many fail to sustain beyond the initial implementation phase, raising concerns about knowledge translation from research laboratory to authentic classrooms. The present study investigated sustainability of school improvement initiatives from three perspectives: (1) School middle leaders (defined as fulfilling a dual role – leading and teaching) are uniquely positioned to support the sustainability of school improvement initiatives, (2) Epistemic cognition for teaching, and its sub-process epistemic reflexivity, have surfaced as complex processes underpinning teaching behaviours, namely, the uptake of school improvement initiatives, and (3) Self-regulated learning (SRL) is an essential life skill that can’t be left to chance – SRL needs explicit instruction.

Very little research has been uncovered that explicitly considers middle leaders’ epistemic cognition for teaching about SRL, nor how to promote high-quality epistemic cognition for teaching to support sustainability of school improvement initiatives about SRL.

Aims:

The aims of this thesis are to:

• Advance thinking about epistemic cognition for teaching, with a focus on the sub-process of epistemic reflexivity for teaching.

• Develop existing Professional Learning Community models of professional education to include explicit prompts for engagement in epistemic reflexivity (PLC-ER).

• Ascertain if and how a PLC ER changes middle leaders’ epistemic cognition and teaching practice about SRL over time.

• Determine whether changes in middle-leaders’ epistemic cognition for teaching about SRL and teaching practice about SRL have flow-on effects for regular classroom teachers’ beliefs about SRL, and for students’ SRL behaviours.

Design:

A microgenetic investigation.

Participants and Setting:

Sixteen school middle leaders, 22 regular classroom teachers and 305 students at an Independent K-12 School in Melbourne, Australia.

Methods:

Middle leaders participated in a 12 week PLC ER about SRL (Weeks 1-12). Data were collected at 7 time points, namely, before (Week 0), during (Weeks 2, 4, 6, 8) and after (Weeks 12 and 52) the PLC ER via questionnaires, think-alouds, lesson plans, classroom observations, learning protocols and researcher notes. Data were analysed using deductive and inductive coding approaches, and statistical procedures.

Results:

Data analyses showed that prior to the PLC ER about SRL, middle leaders’ epistemic cognition, as measured via the quality of their knowledge and beliefs about SRL, and their epistemic reflexivity about SRL, was impoverished. In addition, coding of middle leaders’ lesson observations indicated that they spent small amounts of time explicitly teaching SRL strategies. Statistically significant improvements were recorded immediately after the PLC ER about SRL in middle leaders’ epistemic cognition for teaching and their teaching practice about SRL. Flow on effects included variable changes in regular classroom teachers’ beliefs about SRL and substantial enhancement of students’ SRL behaviours over time.

Conclusions:

The state of middle leaders’ epistemic cognition and teaching practice about SRL, observed prior to the PLC ER about SRL, may explain the lack of explicit teaching of SRL strategies commonly reported in classroom observation studies. Results suggest that a PLC ER about SRL offers an avenue to support the sustainability of school improvement initiatives about SRL. Future research and educational implications are discussed.

Keywords: Complex Adaptive Systems, Sustainability, School middle leaders, Epistemic Cognition for teaching, Self Regulated Learning

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2021
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Helen Askell-Williams