Irene van der Spoel, 2018
Self-directed teams are gaining popularity in organisations (Glenn, Snyder, Dahnke & Kuether, 2016), and are often set up because it has been found that it is linked to, amongst other things, increased productivity, job-satisfaction, and organisational commitment (Cohen & Bailey, 1997; Sundstrom, McIntyre, Halfhil, & Richards, 2000). Self-directed teams are also known as self-managing teams, self-regulating teams, or autonomous teams. In this research, these are seen as synonyms, however, self-directed teams will be the used term to avoid confusion. The definition of self-directed teams for this research is groups of individuals with a diversity of skills and knowledge, who have the collective responsibility to plan, manage, and execute tasks independently to reach a common goal (Magpili & Pazos, 2018; De Jong, De Ruyter, & Lemmink, 2004).
To enable this, according to Caramanica, Ferris & Little (2001), all group members determine priorities, solve problems, divide workloads, and cross-train each other. The role of team leader may rotate, to generate shared responsibility. According to research, characteristics of self-directed teams are shared responsibility, autonomous decision-making and problem solving, and self-determined leadership (Orsburn, Moran, Musselwhite, Zenger, & Perrin, 1990). This is confirmed by two other studies, who claim that key in well-functioning self-directed teams are shared responsibility and considerable discretion for the conducted group work (Kirkman & Rosen, 1999; Batt, 2004). The main difference between other team structures and self-directed teams, is that self-directed teams tend to exert substantive influence on work-related decisions (Cotton, Vollrath, Froggatt, Lengnick-Hall, & Jennings, 1988; Levine & Tyson, 1990). The adoption of self-directed teams is often interpreted as a signal that the organisation values and appreciates their employees’ contributions (Allen, et al, 2003), which is frequently perceived by employees as an organisation’s commitment to them (Brown, Geddes, & Heywood, 2007). In the next paragraph, additional advantages and disadvantages of self-directed teams will be discussed.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Self-directed teams gained popularity in the 1950s. The first study on it was an evaluation of British coal-mining teams (Trist & Bamforth, 1951). When returning to specialised teams instead of self-directed teams, the productivity decreased, job satisfaction lowered, and absenteeism increased (Trist, 1981). Later studies found that self-directed teams had lowered violations of health and safety, generated positivity, decreased absenteeism, and increased productivity. This was due to a sense of autonomy concerning work methods, break periods, and work-related issues (Trist, Higgin, Murray, & Pollock, 1963). In addition, a longitudinal study by Cordery, Mueller, and Smith (1991) showed significantly higher scores of intrinsic motivation, work role autonomy, extrinsic satisfaction, and job commitment of employees working in self-directed teams, as opposed to employees working under traditional work structures.
The implementation of self-directed teams is often a result of innovation efforts, as well as ‘flattening’ organisations (Janz, 1999). It can counter the effects of vertical organisations, such as motivational dysfunction (Pearce, 2004; Pink, 2011), because promoting team autonomy helps enrich jobs and empowers team members (Kauffeld, 2006; Kirkman & Rosen, 2001). Apart from that, the increased flexibility in hierarchical structures within an organisation, is a promoting factor for undergoing organisational changes (Nonaka, 2007; Adler, 1993). Lastly, team members of a self-directed team tend to become more autonomous and, it tends to accelerate the members’ ability to respond to changes (Johnson, Hollenbeck, Scott DeRue, Barnes, & Jundt, 2013). An unintended negative effect of self-directed teams can be elevated levels of stress, due to increased responsibilities and peer pressure. This effect may be worsened if performance-based rewards are introduced (Roy, 2003; McCalman, 1998).
Promoting and impeding factorsThe implementation of self-directed teams concerns both promoting and impeding factors. These factors can be put into three categories: Factors concerning the organisation, the team, and the individual team member. First, the factors concerning organisation will be addressed.
In order to establish and develop self-directed teams, it is important to determine whether teams are ready to start this process (Caramanica, Ferris & Little, 2001). Before setting up the teams, the initiator of the self-directed team ought to present a framework as to why self-directed teams will benefit their work, and how this will be established. The latter should contain ground rules. Apart from that, the support from management needs to be addressed, as well as the professionalisation it will require from the team. Thirdly, it is also important to set short-term objectives, in order to book quick, and early successes. Lastly, there ought to be room for suggestions, questions, and input from the team (Caramanica, Ferris & Little, 2001). These factors can both impede and promote the commencement of self-directed teams, depending on how the aforementioned steps are carried out.
Before starting the implementation process of self-directed teams, an organisation must also consider whether the tasks carried out by the teams fit this organisational structure. Certain assignments are more suitable for self-directed team than others. Assignments that feature for instance high uncertainty (Cordery, et al., 2010), high task innovativeness (Patanakul, Chen, & Lynn, 2012), and low task routineness (De Jong, et al., 2004; Rousseau & Aubé, 2010), tend to be more appropriate for self-directed teams. Two other studies confirmed that the complexity of jobs and the uncertainty of assignments facilitates a self-directed team to perform (Powel & Pazos, 2017; Smith & Offodile, 2008).
In alignment with assignments, objectives need to fit the self-directed structures as well. A positive correlation has been found between clear organisational objectives and self-directed team performance (Wageman, 2001). Despite the responsibility to set its own goals, self-directed teams must adhere to the organisation and thus rely on feedback from the organisation to make sure their work is aligned (Kluger & DeNisi, 1996). By determining clear objectives beforehand, disappointments can be avoided and self-directed teams can increase in performance (Chen & Kanfer, 2006; Hu & Liden, 2011).
Apart from the type of assignments and clear objectives, the culture of an organisation can influence the performance of self-directed teams greatly (Park, 2012). Promoting factors that can be found in an organisation’s culture are accountability, constant learning, risk taking, and continuous change (Hawkins, 2013; Phakathi, 2002). Organisations where risk-taking and experimenting is seen as a merit, often benefit from self-directed teams most, as opposed to organisations who solely focus on consistent quality (Sethi & Sethi, 2009). Apart from that, a top-down organisation of self-directed teams will often scrutinise the positive effects, and prevent teams from self-organising (Hoda, et al., 2011). Another part of an organisation’s culture that can jeopardise the performance of self-directed teams, are corporate policies. Autonomy and creativity can disappear when limits are too tight, and flexibility is decreased (Cohen & Ledford, 1994; Rolfsen & Langeland, 2012). Research has shown that employees may avoid taking risks in fear of violating organisational norms (Phakathi, 2002; Tata & Prasad, 2004). This is also affected when managers or leaders are used to practising hierarchical organisational structures, and do not allow the self-directed teams to operate autonomously (Roufaiel & Meissner, 1995).
The role of managers and leaders in an organisation with self-directed teams does not disappear. Despite a self-directed team being fully autonomous, it often still requires an external leader or manager, who is not involved with daily tasks, but solely helps to manage team boundaries and provide direction when needed (Morgeson, 2005). The role of the external leader is to support the team and to adapt the approach to this support to the maturity of the team (Ayas, 1996; Powel & Pazos, 2017). Successful external leaders tend to monitor the self-directed team’s progress, and actively encourages the autonomous state of the team (Morgeson & DeRue, 2006). This is done by promoting self-reflection, self-criticism, and self-reinforcement to members (Mcnair, et al., 2011; Short, 1993).
In short, for organisations to successfully implement and support self-directed teams, a clear aim for the implementation must be available. Assignments, objectives, and the culture of an organisation must fit the self-directed teams, and should be made known to the employees who are going to be part of the team. This should be done by the initiators of the teams. Managers and leaders outside of the team must not interfere with daily tasks, but are solely responsible for facilitation and enabling. In the next paragraphs, the impeding and promoting factors for self-directed teams on team level will be addressed.
The most important factor, as it occurs in the definition of self-directed teams is team autonomy. Team autonomy is the ability of the team to complete tasks as a team, without requiring leaders outside the team to intervene or assist. It is a key component in any successful self-directed team (Lee & Xia, 2010; Powell & Pazos, 2017; Rolfsen & Langeland, 2012). Certain factors may influence the desired level of autonomy. These factors can be a lack of skills or experience within the team (Conchúir, et al., 2009), insufficient support from management (McCalman, 1998; Powell & Pazos, 2017), team members who do not want to take on the role of a leader (Pais, 2010), rigid organisational structures (Scribner, et al., 2007), and negative peer pressure (Rolfsen & Langeland, 2012). These factors will be addressed more elaborately later on.
At the start of self-directed teams, the assembly of teams can have an effect on the productivity, efficiency, and effectivity of a team, and thereby its autonomous qualities. Research by Wax, DeChurch and Contractor (2017), has found that deep-level homogeneity may lead to inferior performance, and that teams based on friendship are oftentimes more successful. The latter can be achieved in practice by enabling self-assembly of teams (Wax, DeChurch, & Contractor, 2017). However, according to Fraser, Gunawan, and Goh (2013), the assembly of teams benefits more from a mix of skills than of friendship. Apart from that, the work experience of team members is also an important factor (Magpili & Pazos, 2018). A lack of work experience often leads to decreased team-based autonomy, which threatens the existence of self-directed teams (Pais, 2010; Conchúir, Holmström, Ågerfalk & Fitzgerald, 2009). Consequently, when a team consists of a mix in terms of work experience, the members with the most experience tend to lead the team (Eseryel & Eseryel, 2013). However, this is not always most beneficial, as work experience may also inhibit the ability to change, and thereby be innovative (Hoda, et al., 2013).
Apart from the assembly of a team, communication, training, and teamwork are the most important human factors in increasing level of service, and elevating delivery performance (Roper & Phillips, 2007). The communication ought to be formalised, open, and clear. In terms of teamwork, it is important that the team members’ skills complement each other. Three areas of skills are technical or functional expertise, problem-solving and decision-making skills, and interpersonal skills. These skills should overlap within a team, without overrepresenting one of the three (Roper & Phillips, 2007). The final key factor, training, is critical to enhancing knowledge and skills, but should also focus on human skills of being an effective team player. Training must be viewed as an opportunity for personal, group, and organisational development, which requires departments to commit to lasting, and effective training (Fraser, Gunawan, & Goh, 2013; Andrès, et al., 2015; Levi & Slem, 1995).
Effective training also enables another factor of successful implementation and functioning of self-directed teams, namely job rotation. Job rotation has been linked to increased team responsiveness to an organisation’s needs (Bernstein et al., 2016), elevated trust, and improved negotiation within the team (Cook, Gerrish, & Clarke, 2001). A requirement for job rotation is overlapping skills within the team (Perry, et al,. 2013), as has been mentioned in requirements for team assembly.
Apart from promoting factors, there are also factors threatening a healthy team. Especially when it concerns self-directed teams, unnoticed self-organised dynamics can have a deteriorating effect on the autonomy of a team. Although autonomy and independent decision-making should be promoted, self-organisational patterns can negatively affect an organisation or team when it is based on deeply-held perception of itself (Henning, 2008). These patterns are often a reflection of the system’s collective memory (Cilliers,1998), and its beliefs about its identity (Maturana, & Varela, 1980). When team members only operate within one team, and do not calibrate thoughts and processes, self-organised dynamics may cause suffering from ignorance, decreased corporate growth, and lowered employee satisfaction. This can be forestalled by communication within and outside teams. Apart from that, it is also important that these patterns are noticed, monitored, and mentioned by team members and managers. Awareness of negative self-organisation within teams majorly decreases the chances of affecting the organisation (Connaughton, Shuffler, & Goodwin, 2011).
Aside from self-organisation as an impeding factor, stress may contribute as well. This can be caused by the increased responsibility of self-directed teams, combined with augmented roles, and may lead to performance losses (Magpili & Pazos, 2018). Augmented roles may lead to members losing focus or having trouble prioritising tasks (Bernstein, et al., 2016).
In short, teams must focus on team autonomy, and stray from individual autonomy or self-organisation. For the assembly of teams, work experience, skills, and friendship must be taken into account. Both before and during the process of self-directed teams, communication is very important. The same goes for training. An impeding factor can be elevated stress levels in employees. This must be monitored by all team members of the self-directed team. Apart from requirements for organisations and teams, the individual team member needs to fit the self-directed teams as well. The promoting and impeding factors for individuals will be reviewed below.
Factors impeding the start of self-directed teams in terms of attitudes of individuals, can often be allocated to resistance to change (Liebowitz & Holden, 1995; Strydom, 2002). Reported reasons for this are a preference for structure, lack of experience, fear of decreased job security, aversion to increased workload, and fear of the unknown (Kim & McNair, 2010; Mcnair, et al., 2011; Thursfield, 2015). To reduce this resistance, a clear explanation of what self-directed teams include and how they operate, has shown effective. Another successful strategy is to show dissenting employees an example of operating self-directing teams, so they can see and possibly experience the direct effect (Roufaiel & Meissner, 1995).
Being able to take the lead as a member of a self-directed team is an important factor (Magpili & Pazos, 2018). In this, it is important to realise that communication is key when it comes to leadership (Morgeson, DeRue, & Karam, 2010). To be more precise, it is a critical and defining aspect of leadership (Fairhurst, 2007), and contributes greatly to adaptive performance (Marks, Zaccaro, & Mathieu, 2000). Leadership behaviours within a self-directed team has been postulated a key factor for success in self-directed teams (Magpili & Pazos, 2018). High-performing self-directed teams tend to have individuals that display and exhibit more leadership behaviours than those in low-performing self-directed teams (Carte, Chidambaram, & Becker, 2006). In self-directed teams, the role of a leader is often rotated, to increase a feeling of shared responsibility (Caramanica, Ferris & Little, 2001). Shared leadership has also shown to have a positive effect on the performance of a self-directed team (McIntyre & Foti, 2013; Carte, et al., 2006), through increased awareness of fellow members’ roles and their significance to the team (Fausing, Jeppesen, Jønsson, Lewandowski, & Bligh, 2013).
Team members who take on the rotating role of team leader within the self-directed teams, must have certain skills and attitudes. Firstly, they ought to have expertise concerning the topic at hand (Banai et al., 2000; Eseryel & Eseryel, 2013), and they must be able to monitor performance quality (Pais, 2010). Apart from that, they are required to act as boundary spanners (Rolfsen & Langeland, 2012), a mentor (Hoda, et al., 2013), and a coach (Banai, et al., 2012). Helpful attitudes in successful leadership in self-directed teams, are delegating tasks when needed, and showing commitment to the team (Doorewaard, Geert, & Huys, 2002; Heffron & Rerick, 1997).
Leadership within a team is an important skill to acquire, but self-leadership can be even more important. Self-leadership is the team member’s ability to assign tasks, plan and schedule work, and to take initiative when problems arise (Noe, Hollenbeek, Gerhart, & Wright, 2007; Kirkman & Rosen, 1999). In order to function within, and contribute to, a self-directed team, team members require to possess certain skills. Self-directed team members who complete their own tasks as well as team tasks effectively, were great contributors to the team’s process (Houghton, Neck, & Manz, 2003; Manz & Sims, 1987, 2001; Neck & Manz, 2007). Self-directing is often driven by self-discipline over behaviour, intrinsic motivation (Druskat & Wheeler, 2003), and the ability to cope with frustrations and setbacks without letting it influence the process (Kanfer & Heggestad, 1997). These skills tend to develop inconsistently over time, when partaking in a self-directed team (Mathieu, Gilson, & Ruddy, 2006; Wageman, 2001).
In this process, it can be helpful to delineate external behaviour-focused rewards, and instead let the team members discover their internal drives and rewards. This can be done by introducing natural reward strategies (Neck & Houghton, 2006), to motivate themselves by noticing or embedding intrinsic rewards into their work. For instance, through determining the long-term effect of an action, or the short-term response of someone who is helped, even in mundane tasks (Gagné & Deci, 2005). Apart from that, employees can use positive self-talk, visual imagery of performance execution, and rational counterarguments for dysfunctional beliefs to increase self-regulation and self-efficacy (Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998). The combination of these three strategies, as displayed in Figure 1, lead to self-leadership; an important skill as a team member of a self-directed team (Millikin, Horn, & Manz, 2010).
Figure 3: Strategies Leading to Self-leadership (Millikin, Horn & Manz, 2010).
However, there is a major difference between self-leadership and individual autonomy. Individual autonomy can actually impede successful implementation of self-directed teams. The combination of low self-autonomy and high team-autonomy showed to be most successful and sustainable in self-directed teams (Langred, 2004; 2005). This problem becomes most apparent when team members make decisions without consulting the rest of the team (Moe, Dingsøyr, & Dybå, 2010). Apart from that, it may also have a negative effect on self-directed teams, because stressing individual autonomy entices the focus on individual tasks, rather than group assignments, which can hinder skill acquisition, cross-training and job rotation (Thursfield, 2015; Barney, Moe, Dybå, Aurum & Winata, 2009).
Self-leadership is an important skill, just as assignment-related skills and knowledge. Individuals partaking in a self-directed team, must have a variety of skills that can contribute to the team’s tasks (Druskat & Pescosolido, 2002), because if they lack required skills, they tend to harbour low expectations (Nicholls, et al., 1999) and focus on defending their job and reputation, rather than improving themselves (Hoda, et al., 2013). Apart from that, absence of required skills can offset a decrease in exercising autonomy, which is a key characteristic of self-directed teams (Mcnair, et al., 2011). Individuals with multiple skills increase the flexibility of a team and improve collaborative processes (Powell & Pazos, 2017; Wageman, 1997), which reap the most benefits when some skills shared by multiple team members (Perry, et al, 2013). To achieve this, time and resources to develop necessary skills must be available (Banai, et al., 2000; Druskat & Pescosolido, 2002).
As in any team, aside from aforementioned assignment-related skills, teamwork skills are incredibly important in self-directed teams as well (Powell & Pazos, 2017; Weis,1992). Even when all other factors are in place, the absence of teamwork skills can put a team in malfunction (Fazzari & Mosca, 2009). Sub-skills concerned with teamwork that are important for self-directed teams, are the ability to lead, communicate, and conduct meetings effectively (Banai, et al., 2000; Hoda, et al. 2013).
In short, a team member of a self-directed team must possess certain knowledge, skills, and attitudes. This starts with being open to change. Apart from that, shared, as well as rotating leadership, tends to have a positive effect on team performance, as long as the leader possesses the right skills. Apart from that, self-leadership determines the success of self-directed teams as well. This is one of the skills a team member must possess, aside from skills concerning the tasks the team must perform, and teamwork skills in general.
Conclusion and Implications
In conclusion, self-directed teams are teams with a diversity of skills and knowledge, who are collectively responsible and accountable for planning, managing, and executing tasks to reach a common goal. The main advantages of self-directed teams are increased job satisfaction, elevated motivation, and stronger resilience to changes. These effects can be countered if employees experience peer pressure or responsibility-induced stress.
Promoting and impeding factors for self-directed teams can be categorised on a(n) organisation, team, and individual level. On the level of the organisation, the structure and culture is important. Before the start of the self-directed teams, support from management must be made apparent, and both the tasks and goals of the self-directed teams must be clear beforehand. The tasks should also be low task routine, and high task innovativeness, in order for a self-directed team to flourish. Management can support the self-directed teams by staying clear of rigid frameworks and short-term deadlines. Apart from that, a requirement of self-directed teams is that the culture of an organisation sees experimenting and risk-taking as a merit. This can be supported by management through encouraging self-reflection, self-reinforcement, and self-criticism.
For a team, it is important to determine beforehand if the team is ready for self-directed teams. If this is the case, short-term objectives must be formulated, and the initiator should present a framework and elaborate on the benefits of self-directed teams. After this, the teams must receive lasting and effective training on being team players within a self-directed team. During this process, there has to be room for input, suggestions, and questions from team members. This is also important during the assembly of teams, where mix of skills, mix of work experience, and friendship need to be taken into consideration. In the establishment of self-directed teams, it is important to address and include job rotation, as well as team autonomy. When the teams are effective, communication within, as well as outside the team must be valued.
On an individual level, the employee must know beforehand what self-directed teams are and how they operate. Secondly, employees must possess or develop team player, leadership, and self-leadership skills. The professionalisation it requires from the individual, should be made known beforehand. Apart from that, the employee must be made aware of the fact that team autonomy is more important than individual autonomy.
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This theoretical research focuses on the acquisition and learning of the English language in a self-regulatory manner. Self-regulated learning is the student’s ability to direct, monitor, and assess their own learning process (Kester & Merriënboer, 2013). According to Zimmerman, self-regulated learning comes in three phases: preparation, effectuation, and reflection (2000, 2006).
Acquisition of a language is the “gradual development of ability in a language by using it naturally in communicative situations with others who know the language" (Yule, 2011, p. 187), as opposed to learning a language, which is a “more conscious process of accumulating knowledge of the features, such as vocabulary and grammar, of a language, typically in an institutional setting" (Yule, 2011, p.187). Often, acquisition leads to proficiency, and learning helps to gather knowledge. The combination of acquisition and learning has proven to be very efficient in English Second Language Learners (Yule, 2011). In ESLL teaching methodology, this is known as the post-communicative approach. The aim of this approach is to focus on fluency rather than accuracy, but accuracy is used to support proficiency (Ur, 2012).
Nowadays, schools strive to educate their students to become contributors to a better, richer 21st century (Meester, Bergsen & Kirschner, 2017). Competencies such as collaborative problem-solving, self-regulated learning, creativity, and global awareness are a few of the most significant skills; and students’ learning environments can have an important role in developing them (Groff, 2013; Groff & Mouza, 2008; Yelland, 2007; Hannafin & Land, 1997; Riel, 1994). Research has shown that students who apply self-regulated learning effectively, tend to be more active, resourceful, and effective at academic task performance (Zimmerman & Schunk, 2011). This may even have a positive effect on procrastination (Pintrich, 1999). Many studies have confirmed that self-regulated learning has a positive effect on students’ performance (Azevedo & Cromley, 2004; Masui & de Corte, 2005; Pintrich, 2002; Pressley & Ghatala, 1990). In this paper/study, second language acquisition as well as learning will be discussed at first. Subsequently, the essence of self-regulated learning will be addressed. Lastly, these two areas of knowledge will be combined, to explore self-regulated learning for ESLL.
Language Acquisition and Learning
Second language acquisition has been researched extensively. Unfortunately, there has not been a clear conclusion as to how language is acquired (Juffs, 2011). There is also no consensus on the origin of languages (Yule, 2014).
Second language learning and acquisition consists of four main skills, and two sub-skills. The main skills are reading, listening, speaking, and writing. The first two are the receptive skills. Speaking and writing are productive skills. The two sub-skills are vocabulary and grammar (Staatsen & Heebing, 2015; Ur, 2012).
The main skills, also known as the communicative skills, focus on acquisition, as the main goal is proficiency (Yule, 2011). According to Byram, Second Language Acquisition should be used to stimulate communication and build cultural competence. This can be done by using authentic material in the target language (2013), which is also part of the post-communicative approach, mentioned by Ur (2012). Apart from that, the learning activities should be communicative, in which students use the target language in a meaningful manner (Staatsen & Heebing, 2015; Ur, 2012).
Exposure to comprehensible input (i.e. texts and audio on an appropriate level of proficiency) in the target language is crucial for language acquisition and the development of receptive skills (Krashen, 1981, 1982, 1985, 1998), and has a positive effect on the acquisition of the productive skills (Krashen, 1982, 1985; Anceaux, 1989; Doughty & Long, 2003). As opposed to first language acquisition, second language acquisition relies heavily on the ability to consciously reflect and receive feedback on the produced language (Abrahamsson & Hyltenstam, 2008; DeKeyser, 2000). When providing feedback, variation in self-assessment, peer feedback, and expert feedback is important (Spada, 2013). The feedback should be relevant to the phase of development the student is in, and it should be considerably positive, in order for the student to find the motivation to improve their language skills (Hattie, 2012; Hattie & Yates, 2014). It is important to find a balance between correcting mistakes that do not impede communication, and praising fluency and production of language in order to to avoid loss of motivation (Heebing & Staatsen, 2015; Simons & Decoo, 2009). Motivation is an important factor in successful language acquisition (Csizér, Dörnyei, & Mod Lang, 2005; Gardner, 1985), because positive motivation tends to increase engagement with the target culture, which enables deeper processing of the target language (Heilman, Juffs, & Eskenazi, 2007).
In language learning acquiring common vocabulary, as opposed to irrelevant words, is important (Schmitt, 2012). Deciding on common vocabulary can be done by language experts, but also by learners of the language. Words that a student frequently encounters because of interest in a certain topic, can also be seen as common vocabulary (Bogaards & Laufer-Dvorkin, 2004; Ur, 2012). Vocabulary should always be offered in context, and should be defined or translated by the ESL-learners themselves (Schmitt, 2012). The testing of vocabulary, should also be done in context, however, translation is not necessarily a bad way to test understanding (Hughes, 2013).
Grammar, similar to vocabulary, can be selected on frequency of use, on distinct differences in grammar compared to the learner’s first language, or it can be based on the learner’s errors (Davis & Rimmer, 2010; Ur, 2012). The latter, according to Thornbury (2005, p. 32), is most effective, and creates a less teacher-focused classroom setting. Thornbury also claims that emerging grammar, rather than form-focused learning, is more motivating and efficient (2005).
In conclusion, language acquisition consists of reading, listening, writing, and speaking. These skills are most easily acquired, when they are used for meaningful communication. The receptive skills require a lot of comprehensible input and exposure. The productive skills require feedback, and are dependent on the development of the receptive skills. To support the main skills, the sub-skills vocabulary and grammar should be trained as well. Vocabulary and grammar should be offered on context. The choice of vocabulary lists or grammatical structures that need to be learnt, can be made based on the language a student encounters and produces. Self-regulated learning is a student-centred, where feedback and meaningful situations play an important role. This will be discussed in the next paragraphs.
According to Zimmerman, self-regulated learning comes in three phases: preparation, effectuation, and reflection (2000, 2006). In the preparation phase, the student sets objectives and gathers information, and decides on strategies to reach these goals. In the effectuation, the student monitors the strategies and adjusts if necessary, and the student keeps track of their process. The teacher functions particularly in this phase as a coach. The evaluation phase observes the learning process in retrospective, and collects implications for future learning processes (Ertmer & Newby, 1996; Fowler, 2008; Kester & Merriënboer, 2013).
Six dimensions are entral to self-regulated learning,: why, how, when, where, with whom, and what (Dembo, et al., 2006). The dimensions will be addressed in more detail in Self-Regulated Learning in ESLL.
ICT can facilitate the aforementioned three-step process of self-regulated learning, for instance through an online portfolio, which helps students keep an overview of their learning process. The responsibility for this portfolio can be the students’, the teacher’s, or a shared responsibility, depending on the students’ self-regulatory skills (Kester & Merriënboer, 2013).
Working online is mostly beneficial, because it is time and cost-saving, however, the structure and didactical concepts of the lesson, determine the effectiveness and learning efficiency (Clark & Feldon, 2005). Online learning is difficult when the objective is a language, as language acquisition requires opportunities for output (Swain, 1995), and exposure to comprehensible input (Krashen, 1985). Furthermore, to receive feedback, communication is vital, and this communication includes the ability to apply compensating strategies, and to recognize the need to alter language in order to convey the correct message (Long, 1996). However, students who apply self-monitoring skills, tend to be actively involved, and are more likely to successfully acquire a language using online resources only (Hurd, 2001). To cater to all needs, self-regulatory learning for ESLL should be offered both online and offline.
According to Kester and Merriënboer, digital learning activities should fit the manner in which information is processed in our memory (2013), which is confirmed by Ambrose, et al, claiming that how students organise knowledge influences how they learn and apply new material (2010). However, the memory processing system has a ‘bottleneck effect’, meaning overload can clog the system. This is also known as the Cognitive Load Theory (Merriënboer et al., 2005; Sweller, 1988). To avoid cognitive overload, the following aspects need to be taken into account: the student’s attention must be aimed; the complexity of the study material needs to be reduced; support needs to be given; irrelevant information needs to be left out; and both the visual and audial systems need to be invoked (Kester & Merriënboer, 2013). Additionally, Kester and Merriënboer claim that in the design of activities, motivational colours, shapes, and details need to be left out, because they solely hinder learning (2013). In contrast, Ambrose et al mentions that “(…) students’ motivation determines, directs, and sustains what they learn,” (2010).
To conclude, self-regulated learning comes in three phases: Preparation, effectuation, and evaluation. These three steps can be monitored with use of an online portfolio, where to both students and teacher have access. The learning should not occur online only, but also offline to ensure opportunity for interaction. Apart from that, the Cognitive Load Theory should not be overlooked, which means that redundancy needs to be taken into account.
Self-Regulated Learning in ESLL
An online portfolio can be used to monitor self-regulated learning (Kester & Merriënboer, 2013), but formulating learning goals without further support, may prove difficult for most students. Research by Gu and Johnson (1996) has found that self-regulated learning concerning English vocabulary, can significantly and positively predict effective acquisition and vocabulary size. Similarly, Park (1997) found a distinct correlation between metacognitive abilities and scores on language tests. These skills are inherently stronger developed in girls, who tend to have greater self-discipline (Duckworth & Selighman, 2006; Ablard & Lipschultz, 1998; Pokay & Blumenfeld, 1990; Zimmerman & Martinez-Pons, 1990). Regarding language acquisition, several studies have contradicted each other on whether boys or girls have innate advantageous neurological structures to master a foreign language (Baxter et al., 2003; Weiss, Kemmler, Deisenhammer, Fleischhacker, & Delazer, 2003; Oxford & Nyikos, 1989; Ehrman & Oxford, 1989, 1990; Bacon, 1992). For either gender, research suggests that the proactive role towards acquiring a language, rather than inherent advantages, is more important in achieving learning goals (Tseng, Dörnyei, & Schmitt, 2006; Tseng & Schmitt, 2008). However, applying self-regulated learning successfully, requires a more proactive attitude.
Most important in the success of self-regulated learning, is the coaching provided by the teacher (Çelik, Arkın, & Sabriler, 2012). This is confirmed by Lin, Zheng, and Zhang, who suggest that in online learning, expert-learner, and content-learner contact is important, but learner-learner contact is less significant (2017). Apart from that, students require to be challenged, in order to avoid boredom (Tseng, Liu & Nix, 2017). Boredom decreases the likelihood that student will apply self-regulated learning, or other strategies requiring effort (Macklem, 2015, p. 42). When self-monitoring skills are applied in challenging situations, students’ attitude towards learning improves, their performance in language acquisition develops, and general motivation and confidence concerning language proficiency increases (Chang, 2007).The ability to set learning goals, and to self-evaluate, has shown to be crucial to ESLL (Zimmerman, Bonner, & Kovach, 1996). Providing feedback on set learning goals, providing questions for evaluation, and considering the six dimensions of self-regulated learning when formulation learning goals, can support this crucial component of self-regulated learning (Andrade & Bunker, 2009).
The aforementioned six dimensions of self-regulated learning – how, why, when, where, with whom, and what – construct a complete image of self-regulated learning (Dembo, et al., 2006). When setting learning goals, these six questions should be answered.
How concerns the method of learning, and includes strategies such as summarizing, asking questions, and creating visuals (Andrade & Bunker, 2009). According to Moore, providing tools and structure in learning can increase the number of learning strategies learners can apply, but it also decreases learners’ autonomy (1972, 2007). Scaffolding learning is important, but within self-regulated learning, it should predominantly be based on suggestions. Apart from that, techniques for learning sub-skills and acquiring main skills, should be emphasized (Andrade & Bunker, 2009).
The reason for the learning goals (why) concerns motive, and motivation (Andrade & Bunker, 2009). The two types of motivation are intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is an internal drive to achieve learning goals, as opposed to extrinsic information, which concerns an external factor, such as grades or graduating (Staatsen & Heebing, 2015). Intrinsic motivation tends to be more effective in language acquisition (Heilman, Juffs, & Eskenazi, 2007; Staatsen & Heebing, 2015). Motivation plays a key role in language acquisition, and requires development of positive self-talk, goal setting, and teaching learners how to manage their emotions, because emotions can negatively influence acquisition (Andrade & Bunker, 2009).
The third dimension of self-regulated learning for ESLL, is when, and addresses time. Time management is an important component of self-regulated learning and can be supported by providing time indications for activities. Apart from that, it can be useful to provide tips for structuring time (Andrade & Bunker, 2009).
Where does not only include the physical environment, but especially the characteristics of the environment, and whether these can be adapted to changing needs (Andrade & Bunker, 2009). Beforehand, it is important to decide whether the learning activities require for instance a quiet spot, or interaction with peers.
The fifth dimension, with whom, addresses the ability to determine what the learner needs from the environment (Andrade & Bunker, 2009). As opposed to traditional education, self-regulated learning requires the learner to find the material and help they need (Kester & Merriënboer, 2013). In language learning, interaction is a crucial component (Staatsen & Heebing, 2015; Ur, 2012), because it enables the development of communicative competence (Canale & Swain, 1980). Affective filters, inhibitions concerning producing language, can hinder the development of communicative competence (Krashen, 1981). Therefore, the choice of a trusted conversation partner, and an appropriate level in learning activity can be important. Andrade and Bunker (2009) mention that suggestions for interactive exercises and how to contact native speakers, could be included in an educational design. Additionally, facilitating situations wherein interaction can take place, can also support learners in developing communicative competence.
What is learnt, performance, includes reflecting, observing, and assessing (Andrade & Bunker, 2009). What is learnt is most apparent in the aforementioned evaluation phase of self-regulated learning (Zimmerman, 2000, 2006). To self-monitor the development of language, reflective journals can be useful. Feedback from experts (Van den Boom, Paas & van Merriënboer, 2007), and self-reflection on performance (Murphy, 2005), have proven to be effective within a reflective journal. Feedback through interaction, to notice the gap between the learner’s proficiency and required communicative skills, has also shown effective (Swain, 1995).
To sum up, self-regulated learning requires a coaching teacher, providing feedback on learning goals and the effectuation phase. These learning goals, should be formulated using the how, why, when, where, with whom, and what-questions. Apart from that, acquiring a language in a self-regulatory manner, requires learners to have plenty opportunity for interaction, and suggestions for learning activities.
Self-regulated learning is a manner of learning in which the student directs, monitors, and assess their own learning. This can be supported by ICT, for example through an online portfolio, or through designed activities by teachers. Such activities need to take into account how people learn and how the memory works. This means both the audial and visual systems need to invoked, motivation needs to be generated, but cognitive overload needs to be avoided, by applying redundancy.
Self-Regulated learning and Language AcquisitionLearning a language in a self-regulatory manner, can be done with use of an online portfolio that focuses on learner-formulated learning goals. These learning goals are part of the preparation phase, which is followed by effectuation, and evaluation. In setting learning goals, the how, why, when, where, with whom, and what-questions should be answered, and concern the four main-skills, and two sub skills. The topics that need to be explored regarding the sub skills can be determined by what students encounter and produce, such as common vocabulary, or grammar that is often applied incorrectly. Both vocabulary and grammar need to be offered in authentic contexts. These can be gathered from the comprehensible input that students require to have access to.
For both language acquisition and self-regulated learning, feedback is important. The feedback should be provided by the teacher, peers, and the learner themselves.
Developing self-regulatory skillsOnce the learning objectives have been formulated, the learner requires suggestions for learning activities to reach these goals. The learning activities should have a time indication, to facilitate planning and time-management skills. Similarly, suggestions for real-time interaction with native speakers, teacher, or fellow students, need to be provided. Interaction can function as an important part of gaining proficiency, and as feedback.
Feedback on the formulated learning goals, and peer feedback, facilitate the development of self-regulatory skills. Peer feedback allows students to discover others’ learning strategies, and thereby expands their own repertoire. Applying self-evaluation is also a significant component of developing self-regulatory skills. This needs to be facilitated by providing students with questions that evoke self-reflection.
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