E-Goals: Exploring a goal-oriented approach to learner modelling and metacognitive software scaffolding.

Lead Research Organisation: Institute of Education
Department Name: Unlisted


Children differ a great deal in the way they approach learning tasks. Their approaches are influenced by the meaning they give to learning, their attitudes to success and failure and how they feel during learning activities. Some children believe that their ability can be increased through hard work and persistence: these children are said to have mastery goals. Mastery-oriented children view mistakes as useful pieces information about what still needs to be learnt and how much effort is needed to reach a higher level of understanding. Other children believe that ability is a fixed property which no amount of effort can change: these children have performance goals. Performance-oriented children are concerned with how other people view their ability and they try to look clever in front of peers and teachers. From a performance perspective mistakes are seen as indicating low ability and so these children tend to avoid challenges. Our previous research found several important differences between mastery- and performance-oriented children in how they tackled challenging problems and particularly in how they asked for help when they worked collaboratively in small peer groups. Performance children tended to ask for the solution to a problem rather than use helpful hints or clues and they often needed reassurance that they were 'doing it right'. The concept of scaffolding was introduced to describe the sort of support that teachers can give learners to help bridge the gap between what they could potentially achieve and what they are currently able to do by themselves. Scaffolding techniques have been used in educational software design; the requirements for successful scaffolding remain the same whether the scaffolder is a person or a piece of technology. The scaffolder needs knowledge about the learner and the topic so that they can provide or withdraw help at the right time for that particular learner.At Sussex we have developed a piece of software called Ecolab II which uses these dynamic features of scaffolding to help children learn about food chains and food webs. This software is also sensitive to the strategies children apply to the task. For example, it monitors the level of difficulty children choose and the manner in which they seek help. The software then draws children's attention to their learning strategies and provides suggestions about how these might be improved. We believe that goal orientation will be a crucial influence on how children respond to and use this sort of assistance. For example, if the software detects that the child is asking for too much help without any attempt at independent problem-solving, the software would provide a prompt such as 'Why not ask Ecolab for less help?'. However, if this child is motivated by performance goals she may need extra reassurance about her ability before feeling confident to undertake the task independently. Without taking account of her goal orientation the assistance provided may not help the child improve her learning strategies.In the current project we have the opportunity to use Ecolab II in order to investigate the relationship between goal orientation and software scaffolding by enabling the software to differentiate between learners with different goal orientations. Evaluating the feasibility of scaffolding which can adapt to children's goal orientation has the potential to influence and improve the design of future educational software as well as the development of a goal-oriented pedagogy more generally.
Description Three sorts of finding have resulted form the grant:
1) An increased understanding of the relationship between learning and learner goal-orientation
2) Practical guidelines for the development of scaffolding support that is sensitive to a learner's goal orientation
3) Software that can be used as a 'test-rig' for exploring how best to support learners with differing goal orientations
Exploitation Route Teachers could learn from our findings about ways in which their lessons could be sensitive to learner goal orientation
Sectors Education

URL http://www.sussex.ac.uk/psychology/chatlab/projects/e-goals
Description Our findings have been used to inform future research that explores the relationship between the goal-orientation of a learner and the way that they learn.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Education
Impact Types Societal