1. Overview of the Learning and Educational Technology (LET) Research Unit
LET focuses its research and teaching on the learning sciences and technology-enhanced learning. The members of this research group have particular expertise in the integration of theoretical perspectives on the social, cognitive and motivational processes of learning and utilising it in research-based design. In practice we aim for understanding the “skill and will” of learning and design future innovations for learning. The main objectives of the research work in the Learning and Educational Technology Research Unit are as follows:
(1) To provide theoretical investigation and analysis of recent advancements in research on motivation, self-regulation and socially shared regulation of learning.
(2) To perform empirical study of the contextual and social dimensions of individual and socially shared learning in various learning environments.
(3) To design technology-enhanced learning methods to enhance individual learning and create opportunities for collaboration and increase competence building among teams.
(4) To promote methodological development for process-oriented methods for enhancing theoretical and empirical understanding of the dynamics of learners’ achievements and appraisals in multiple contexts.
The LET research strategy is part of the Department of Educational Sciences and Teacher Education research focus on Learning and Interaction. The LET strategy is also linked to the Oulu University research strategy focus area of “Cultural interaction and Identity” as well as the development area of “Research-based Teacher Education”.
2. Theoretical background
The research group’s theoretical grounding is in sociocognitive and constructivist approaches on learning (Brandsford, Brown & Cocking, 2000) following the recent theoretical and methodological development in the learning sciences (Sawyer, 2006). The group’s special expertise lies in self-regulated learning theory (Schunk & Zimmermann, 2008) and research on motivation (Volet & Järvelä, 2000) as well as social interaction in learning and socially shared cognition (Resnick, 1991).
Individual and collaborative learning
Different notions of the social aspects of learning vary from that of perspectives focusing on individuals who participate in group activities to perspectives focusing on groups that consist of individuals (Greeno, 2006). This line is blurring, and the main message by many researchers is that we should view the individual minds as acting in interaction with group understandings (e.g., Resnick, 1991). In the recent literature, collaboration is commonly referred to as co-construction of knowledge (Dillenbourg, 1996), building collaborative knowing (Stahl, 2004), co-argumentation (Baker, 2002), negotiating of shared meaning (Pea, 1993), construction of common knowledge (e.g., Crook, 2002), exploratory talk (Mercer, 1996) or coordination (Barron, 2003). Many definitions demonstrate the nature of collaboration as a condition in which cognitive, social and emotional aspects are tightly intertwined. However, these definitions do not as such explain how collaborative learning takes place; neither do they explain the role of cognitive and motivational regulation in socially shared activities. It seems evident that individual-level processes of collaboration are necessary, but not sufficient in building shared understanding, and therefore, the analyses have to be extended to group level analyses, which is our current research challenge.
Self-Regulated Learning (SRL)
Models of SRL emphasise that students are more effective when they take a purposeful role in their own learning (Pintrich, 2000; Zimmermann, 2000; Winne, 1995). Research in this area has emphasised that self-regulated learners are autonomous, reflective and efficient and have the cognitive and metacognitive abilities as well as the motivational beliefs and attitudes needed to understand, monitor and direct their own learning.
SRL includes several sub-processes. Accordingly, different studies on SRL have stressed different aspects; for example, metacognitive processes (Winne, 1995), learning strategies (Zimmerman & Martinez-Pons, 1989), self-efficacy (Schunk & Zimmerman, 1997), motivational regulation (Wolters, 2003), emotional self-regulation (Pekrun, Goetz, Titz & Perry, 2002) and volition (Corno, 2001). Depending on the studies, there are differences in how self-regulatory processes are portrayed. Based on these studies there is strong evidence how cognitive strategies contribute to student learning and how different motivational perceptions (e.g., achievement goals, beliefs of self-efficacy) reciprocally have an effect on the use of strategies. In spite of an increased understanding of cognitive aspects of self-regulation, motivational and social aspects of regulation have not yet been probed thoroughly, which is our current theoretical and empirical interest.
3. Research partners and scientific networks
LET has an active network of international and national research groups. The base for the international collaboration is grounded for partnership in Learning Ecosystems and Activities of the Future (LEAF) and active participation in EARLI, ICLS and CSCL scientific networks. LET has been a partner in the EU-funded Technology Enhanced Learning Networks of Excellence Kaleidoscope (NoE). The role of the research unit is to be a partner in multidisciplinary research collaboration (e.g., CIE, Center for Internet Excellence).
4. Doctoral studies
LET has a pathway from Master’s studies to Doctoral studies. The students are able to start their research career by joining in LET research projects and conducting their Master’s thesis. They can continue to work as a research assistant in the projects and start planning their doctoral studies. LET organises its own doctoral seminars and other thematic scientific meetings. The full-time researchers are also members or status members of different doctoral schools (KASVA and OPMON) as well as supervised by the international partners. Opportunities for international research visits and opportunities to invite PhD students and colleagues from leading international research groups are continuously created.
The aims are to:
- Create opportunities for graduate students to participate in research projects and support motivation for post-graduate studies.
- Encourage new doctoral students to the research unit’s core theoretical areas and methodological traditions.
- Connect new doctoral students to the research projects and simultaneously encourage candidates to develop their expertise in specific topics.
- Create opportunities for post-doc researchers and provide support for their own career.
- Invite international doctoral students and post-doc researchers for both short- and long-term visits
5. Scientific publishing and publicity
The research unit’s first priority is publishing in high-impact international peer-reviewed journals. Also, active participation in high-quality scientific international conferences is encouraged. The main scientific networks are: EARLI, AERA, CSCL, ICLS, ICM. Furthermore, disseminating topical issues in research and practice by giving lectures and presentations as well as contributing to a variety of media is also seen as an important issue.
The aims are:
- Increase the amount of published articles in high-impact scientific journals
- Continuously develop expertise in scientific writing and publishing
- Popularise our scientific results, e.g., in terms of seminars, social media and journal articles
6. Research funding
The main research funding comes from the Academy of Finland, Doctoral schools, European Union, Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, different foundations and the Ministry of Education.
7. Research quality assessment
The quality of the research conducted by the research unit is assessed based on the scientific criteria of the Academy of Finland. Also, successes in receiving new funding, success in peer-reviewed publishing and in scientific partnership inquiries as well as public interest towards our research are indicators of the quality of our research.
The aims are to:
- Build a quality assessment procedure.
- Continuously submit research articles and conference papers to the top-level journals and conferences.
- Follow systematically and continuously update LET Research strategy in order to establish high-quality research work.
Last updated: 2.5.2012