We have previously discussed several studies that examined the use of prompts to support self-regulated learning (see Supporting self-regulated learning in a hypermedia environment and The Interplay of Cognitive and Metacognitive Processes). Regulating of one’s learning comprises of regulating the motivational, metacognitive, cognitive, and behavioural aspects of learning. Studies have provided evidence suggesting that learners regulate their learning in suboptimal ways when learning in digital environments. For example, they do not make use of the learning materials, they use less effective learning strategies, or they fail to adapt learning strategies.
To support SRL in digital environments, Daumiller and Dresel (2018) examined the effects of metacognitive and motivational prompts, separately and in combination. In the study, university students were given 50 minutes to learn in a digital media environment that had either i) no prompts, ii) metacognitive prompts, iii) motivational regulation prompts, or iv) both metacognitive and motivational regulation prompts. Metacognitive prompts were intended to activate monitoring of strategy use (e.g., Is your current learning effective), monitoring of the learning progress (e.g., What do you understand already and what can you elaborate on?), and regulation of learning strategies (e.g., How can you optimize your current learning?). Motivational regulation prompts were intended to activate utility value (e.g., what can you use such content for later on?), attainment value (e.g., what relevance does this content have for you?), and intrinsic value (e.g., How could you possibly make your current learning more interesting?).
The results showed that the students who received metacognitive prompts only and those who received motivational prompts only had higher level of self-reported metacognitive control and task-related learning activities. Students in these two groups also scored higher in content knowledge that was measured across three time points. There was only an effect of motivational prompts on exam performance that was measured 10 weeks after learning in the digital environment. Based on the results, the authors concluded that motivational regulation prompts could be an effective SRL support in digital environment.
This study substantiates the effectiveness of prompting to support SRL in computer-based learning environments. While prompting appears to enhance metacognitive processes, it is still not clear how learners “transform their mental abilities into task-related academic skills” (Zimmerman 2001, pp.1). The question on what kind of activities do learners engage in when optimally regulating their learning remains open for future research.
Zimmerman, B. J., & Schunk, D. H. (2001). Self-regulated learning and academic achievement: Theoretical perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.