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Title: Developing the theory of interactive regulation : how teachers regulate student learning during whole class discussion
Author: Neil, Andrew
ISNI:       0000 0004 2743 4888
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2013
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Background: the aim of this study is to bring a better understanding of the theory of interactive regulation. This is done by examining how learning is regulated by the teacher at a fine-grained micro level during whole class discussion. The study investigates the processes involved with the construct of ‗micro regulation‘. The decision to focus on micro regulation arose from an initial interest in formative assessment which, in its broadest sense, is concerned with how teachers elicit, interpret and use evidence of student understanding to better meet the needs of learners. The literature identifies a number of weaknesses in both the conceptualisation of formative assessment and in its provision. For example, despite an investment of £150 million pounds over three years to promote formative assessment (DCSF, 2008) it has been recognised that there remains a ‗comparative weakness in provision‘ (OFSTED, 2009) whilst in the words of Professor Paul Black, formative assessment is ‗not happening‘ (TES, 2010). Regarding how formative assessment is conceptualised, Wiliam (2011) notes the way in which formative assessment has begun to be seen (wrongly in his view) as an assessment tool rather than a continuous process. Further reading in the field led the author to begin to view the more immediate and responsive process of micro regulation as being of primary importance, especially given his perspective as a classroom teacher. The review of the literature therefore led to a shift in focus from formative assessment to micro regulation. The construct of micro regulation is conceptualised as preceding formative assessment which is more concerned with making decisions about the next steps in instruction. The view was taken that it makes sense to examine the regulation that occurs prior to formative assessment as it is this initial regulation that may serve to inform decisions regarding whether or not subsequent instruction needs to be adjusted. Whilst some studies have been carried out into this more immediate form of regulation, there remains limited understanding surrounding this level of regulation as a continuous process, hence the need for this research. The literature review comprises two chapters. The first chapter attempts to make sense of formative assessment by examining the way in which it has evolved conceptually in the literature and the second chapter examines how regulation is conceptualised and highlights the main issues that this study addresses. Research questions: the main research question asks ‗What is the nature of the teacher-led regulation that takes place during whole class discussion?‘ Subsidiary research questions are asked about (i) the mechanisms that teachers use to regulate learning (ii) the way in which these mechanisms interact with other elements of the instructional activity (iii) the extent to which regulation is a continuous feature of the instructional activity and (iv) the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the regulation that takes place during the instructional activity. Results and analysis: a qualitative methodology was developed in order to comprehensively describe the structure of both the whole class discussion activity and the regulation that exists within this activity. Teacher – student discourse that took place across 20 lessons (involving five teachers and three different curriculum subjects) was audio recorded and transcribed in full resulting in over 100,000 words of transcribed text. A qualitative content analysis was carried out using ‗analytic induction‘, an approach to data analysis that involves the initial development of an analytic scheme (i.e. coding) followed by its subsequent modification (Znaniecki, 1934). A number of ‗analysis-guiding‘ secondary research questions emerged inductively as the data analysis unfolded. During data analysis, the research literature was also been drawn upon with the result that the findings that emerged are both grounded in the data and validated by the literature. There were two distinct stages to the data analysis: descriptive and interpretive. Descriptive coding was used to describe the structure of whole class discussion activities and interpretive coding was carried out in order to identify the nature of the regulation that was evident within this structure. Findings and discussion: it was found that the structure of whole class discussion may be described in terms of a series of three-part and extended question-response-feedback (QRF) cycles. Validation for these QRF cycles was found in the literature. From a comprehensive description of the whole class discussion activity, it has been possible to identify the nature of the regulation that takes place. Micro regulation was found to comprise both regulatory questioning and regulatory feedback. In answer to the first subsidiary research question, it was found that regulatory questioning involves the use of modifiers and probes, whilst regulatory feedback involves teachers in confirming, rejecting, reformulating, providing answers to their own questions and finally by prompting students to help one another to solve a problem. In answer to the second subsidiary research question, it was found that regulation is a significant part of what a teacher does: an enlarged concept of regulation has developed in which regulation takes place both at the point at which evidence of student understanding is elicited (through teacher questioning) and also at the point at which this evidence is used to move learning forward (through feedback); regulation is both fully embedded in, and at the same time is an identifiable part of, the instructional activity. In answer to the third subsidiary research question, it was been found that regulation is a continuous feature of the whole class discussion activity. Finally, in answer to the fourth subsidiary research question, it was found that the strength of the regulation that takes place during whole class discussion activities varies greatly. Regulation remains weak if it takes place only during the three-part QRF cycle in which it is restricted to regulatory feedback alone. There is a stronger regulatory influence in the extended QRF cycle where teachers modify their questioning, however there is also evidence of a number of weaknesses in teacher questioning including the ‗guessing game‘, the ‗poorly worded question‘ and the ‗premature modifier‘. Strongest of all is the regulatory influence exerted in extended cycles through the use of probing questions. The outcome of this study is a conceptual model that shows how experienced teachers regulate learning during whole class discussion as well as a definition of the construct micro regulation. Conclusion: after summarising the main findings to come out of this study, this chapter discusses how teachers adjust the cognitive complexity of their questioning. Two further constructs emerge as a result of this discussion: regulatory questioning that has a ‗constructive‘ function and regulatory questioning that has a ‗deconstructive‘ function. A call is made for future research to focus less on regulatory feedback (which is often evaluative) and more on regulatory questioning which may be conceptualised in terms of these two functions. Such research would likely focus on emerging patterns of the adjustment of the cognitive complexity of questioning. In furtherance to this notion, a practical tool is proposed – the Regulatory Questioning Matrix – with which teachers might examine their own regulatory practice. Finally, this study draws to a close by taking a step back in order to consider the relationship micro regulation may have to other dimensions of interactive regulation.
Supervisor: Woollard, William Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: LB Theory and practice of education