A phenomenological analysis of the self-regulatory behaviours of a group of young adults in a business vocational education and training program

Year: 2012

Author: Liveris, Christine, Cavanagh, Rob

Type of paper: Refereed paper


Raising the school leaving age and national reforms in Vocational Education and Training have resulted in an increasing proportion of young adults in vocational education and training programs in Western Australia. A challenge for practitioners is to help these students develop generic transferable employability skills and attributes to facilitate independent lifelong learning. The shift of control from teacher to student can be a major transition for some younger learners, and a need for further research into the self-regulation characteristics of this cohort has been identified.

The primary research question was:
What are the self-regulation behaviours of a group of 18-24 year olds while preparing a business assessment?
How did they manage their time and study environment?
What were their help-seeking behaviours?

This paper outlines the background, methodology, results and conclusions of this investigation.

This phenomenological study was concerned with understanding self-regulation behaviour as it was perceived by eight VET business students and their teachers. Students' and teachers' constructions of their own reality and the researcher's interpretations were fundamental to answering the research questions.

Semi-structured interviews with participants and teachers were undertaken after submission of a written task. Initially, raw data were coded using broad categories from Pintrich's theoretical framework. Data were then reduced to clusters of statements and placed into specific categories. Synthesis across the cases was achieved by placing individual cases in rows and attributes in columns.

Quality control was achieved through a combination of data from the participant and teacher interviews, and the researcher's interpretations; the latter have been linked to previous research and reviewed through peer debriefing.

Help-seeking behaviours are complex, and prompted by different motivational patterns. Several participants were consciously operating on a minimal effort principle. It is likely that the self-regulation strategies that these students were able to use, and the strategies they were prepared to use, differed. One participant presented with behaviour consistent with dispositional anxiety. Another presented with behaviour consistent with a learning difficulty. Each learner allocated time on this task differently. All participants chose a specific assessment preparation environment.

The self-regulatory behaviours of these learners are dependent on a range of factors. Findings provide the basis for further research into the relationship between personality and self-regulation behaviour; practitioner education programs to help with the early identification and intervention of students with learning difficulties; and the impact of internet distractions on time and effort.