Action learning : a professional development tool to assist secondary mathematics and science teachers with self-regulation pedagogy

  • Tamsyn Terry

    Student thesis: Professional Doctorate


    The majority of existing studies on student self-regulation conclude that students and teachers are unsuccessful in either practising or teaching self-regulation. The problems and gaps identified in the literature are that teachers were not teaching self-regulation explicitly or effectively, lacked professional development and clarity in self-regulation pedagogy, and had not made a significant contribution to the conversation. This dissertation investigated how teachers can promote self-regulation in secondary school mathematics and science classrooms. The inquiry included a creative exploration of teaching methods to encourage self-regulation, the findings of which can help to foster positive changes to its systematic development and implementation. The principal research question in this study was: What effect does action learning, as a professional development tool, have on secondary school mathematics and science classroom teachers’ promotion of student self-regulation? Drawing on extant literature, this study formulated three sub-questions that acknowledged the conceptualisations, challenges, pedagogy and effects of self-regulation. Informed by the study’s findings and the gap identified in the literature review, the following questions guided the data analysis:
    • How did secondary school mathematics and science teachers conceptualise self-regulation and what challenges did they face with student self-regulation?
    • What pedagogical approaches did secondary school mathematics and science teachers adopt to promote self-regulation in the classroom?
    • How did action learning affect teaching practice and student self-regulation?
    This study required a method that would encourage teacher conversation to gather insights on student self-regulation. The collaborative research approach was built on constructivism, through which knowledge is developed and understanding is shaped by participants sharing their knowledge, thoughts, experiences and reflections. Action learning—a sustained and creative group-based research approach—was adopted for its regular provision of optimal opportunities. It was chosen not just for its rigorous analysis but also for the creation, trial, and review of self-regulation teaching methods. Action learning fostered a questioning culture where participants only made statements in response to a question. Action learning also enabled participants to gain a stronger understanding of the challenge at hand before proposing solutions. This contended with the natural desire to quickly devise solutions before the problem was fully understood. Action learning was supplemented by individual teacher interviews, student work samples and an anonymous teacher survey.
    For mathematics and science teachers, there were few methods for promoting instructional self-regulation. Thus, they successfully designed, tracked and developed systematic in-service methodologies for teaching self-regulation to students. By using the action learning system, their analyses resulted in fresh ideas and a novel theoretical framework applicable to the professional development of teachers in student self-regulation methods. The new theoretical framework provided practical and theoretical guidance to implement professional development programs for teachers of science and mathematics. The two core findings in this study were teacher learning and context-specific pedagogy. The first finding revealed the effectiveness of action learning as a professional development tool to promote teacher learning. While teachers developed context-specific pedagogy, they also enhanced their individual problem-solving and group work skills such as questioning, listening and reflecting. A practical implication was that teachers recognised the importance of actively teaching self-regulation and committed themselves to it. The second finding was the discovery of context-specific pedagogy by incorporating classroom teachings into a reflective method of inquiry to discover solutions relevant to their students. This study revealed the significance of flexible teaching strategies that concentrated on promoting both motivational and metacognitive self-regulation dependent on student strengths and weaknesses. By combining these strategies with findings in the current literature, a suitable pedagogical framework was conceived.
    Much of the literature on student self-regulation does not include a practical and iterative methodology of creativity for classroom teachers to develop successful learning approaches in student self-regulation. The application of a rigorous action learning methodology was key to this study’s practical and theoretical outcomes. The practical implications from this study added coherence and innovation to student self-regulation and its practice in the classroom. The theoretical underpinnings and practical perspectives of the study’s findings and conclusion contributed novel elements to the analysis and application of student classroom-based self-regulation approaches. This study discovered that illustrated explanations enable schools and teachers to develop bespoke approaches to stimulating student self-regulation in the classroom. This study was the first time that action learning was used both as a professional development tool for secondary classroom teachers and as a qualitative data collection method in researching student self-regulation.
    Date of Award2022
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorSitti Patahuddin (Supervisor), Francesco Sofo (Supervisor), Katja Mikhailovich (Supervisor), Wayne Hawkins (Supervisor) & Philip Roberts (Supervisor)

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