SelMa – Self-regulated Learning and Baccalaureate Essay (Maturaarbeit). A Process and Impact Analysis

Duration: February 2015 to January 2018

Practically on all levels of education, the ability to self-regulate one's learning is relevant. Thus, self-regulated learning (SRL) also plays a pivotal role in secondary schools II (i.e. baccalaureate schools / high schools), which are at the centre of the planned study. Pupils who manage to self-regulate their learning are able to set their own goals for fulfilling academic tasks, to plan the way to achieve these goals, as well as to initiate the learning process, to regulate and to supervise it. SRL plays an especially important role for mastering complex and comprehensive challenges (such as baccalaureate essays). It is still unclear, however, which strategies are especially important and if different strategies are efficient for different subjects.

Therefore, the study has two aims: On the one hand, it will analyse how pupils proceed, that is, which strategies they apply in what frequency, quality, and diversity whilst writing their thesis, and in how far they differ in the application of those strategies. On the other hand, we are interested in analysing which strategies are important to write an excellent matriculation thesis. With this study, advanced insights into the learning and working processes of the pupils will be gained. Those insights will enable the schools and teachers to support their pupils in completing complex tasks.

The sample group consists of pupils from high schools in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, who are doing their final thesis on their own.

At the centre of the longitudinal study are the online-diaries of the pupils, which they compose in parallel to their thesis. In addition, the pupils can make use of different online-tools (e.g. to-do-lists, diaries, mind-map-functions), which they can employ for the work on their thesis.

The study aims at analysing these diaries by means of a content analysis with regard to the frequency of the usage, the quality, and the diversity of the applied strategies for the regulation of the whole working process. In addition, four short standardised questionnaire-based interviews are conducted (before the working process, after handing-in the first draft, in the middle of the working process, after handing-in the thesis). These interviews are conducted in order to record pupils’ motivational-emotional orientations, their plans for the next steps within the working process, as well as their meta-cognitive knowledge about the strategies.

The academic achievement of this study lies in the fact that it is the first time that the SRL is analysed longitudinally with a focus on a ‘real’ task at high school. The different, complementary methods make for advanced insights into the working and learning process of the pupils while writing a larger and complex essay. Moreover, the comparison of regulation processes for different domains extend previous findings on the specificity of the domain and the generality of regulation strategies.