Classroom-based interventions to improve students' learning capital

Year: 2008

Author: Askell-Williams, Helen, Lawson, Michael, Ellis, Terry

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper we argue that one component of students' intellectual wellbeing is the quality of the students' meta-knowledge about learning, that is, their "learning capital." Learning capital refers to students' knowledge of, and capabilities for, learning. Following Mayer we see learning capital as extending across the interconnected domains of students' knowledge about motivation, cognition and metacognition, which interact and impact on students' capabilities for problem-solving in learning situations. Pressley pointed out that poor learners are often deficient in some areas of cognition, metacognition and motivation and "interaction between these component deficiencies compound difficulties" (p5).

We purposefully selected, from the larger sample reported in this symposium, a year 9 science class of 28 students to comprise the intervention group. We worked with the students' class teacher to deliver learning capital improvement modules embedded in regular class lessons, that were delivered as part of regular science lessons. The main focus of the learning capital modules was to prompt students to organise and elaborate the subject-matter information, using diagrams and concept maps, in order to more effectively encode and subsequently retrieve knowledge. The modules included discussions of learning capital and explicit attention to the metalanguage of the psychology of instruction. We collected pre-and post intervention questionnaire data, and students work samples and academic results. We also gathered parallel data about students' life at school and students' mental health status from the class teacher and the students' parents/caregivers.

We provide a micro-level analysis of changes in students' employment of diagrams and concept maps during learning activities. We report summary statistics of students', teacher and parents/caregivers' questionnaire responses and examine changes in students' learning capital across time.