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City Tech Study Shows Student Success Easier to Achieve with Self-Regulated Learning

Key players in City Tech’s Self-Regulated Learning project are, from left: Lecturer Sara Crosby, Vice President Marcela Armoza, Project Director John Hudesman and SEEK Program Director Dorie Clay.

As students, we’ve all had the experience of studying and then taking a test, getting it back, looking at the grade and then ‘filing it’ away.

Quite the opposite is happening at City Tech for students who take part in an initiative called Self-Regulated Learning (SRL). When professors are trained to teach using SRL techniques, students not only retain what they learn but apply SRL skills to help them succeed academically as they continue on in their studies. It has been used in math and writing courses at the College, but can be applied to any course, regardless of subject matter.

SRL is all about students’ use of constant feedback from professors to rethink how they study and how they monitor their learning. The feedback is frequently delivered via specially constructed quizzes in which students are assessed on academic content as well as their level of academic confidence. In other words students compare what they think they know with what they actually know. Students – like the rest of us – often believe they know more than they actually do, and this type of thinking leads students to underestimate how much work they realistically need to put into preparing for class.

In addition, SRL quizzes give students an opportunity to use their instructor’s feedback to improve their original quiz score. Each quiz comes with a revision sheet, which lets students reflect on how they prepared for the quiz and then demonstrate that they have mastered the quiz material by redoing any incorrect problems. The instructor then reviews their revised work and can award some or all of the original quiz credit for their efforts. As a result, students learn to view the quizzing process as a natural part of learning, i.e., quizzes help them learn from their mistakes, instead of being seen as a punishment exercise.

According to SRL project director John Hudesman, results indicate that students in SRL classes were almost twice as likely to pass CUNY’s required COMPASS mathematics exam than those in non-SRL classes. Hudesman is a clinical psychologist who is an adjunct professor of student affairs at City Tech/SEEK (Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge), and a senior principal investigator at CUNY’s Center for Advanced Study in Education (CASE).

Feedback from SRL students have included such comments as: “I truly believe this class is extremely helpful. The way it is structured is unlike any other math class I’ve taken. Having quizzes often helps keep us on point and we become aware of our progress.” “I think making sure students are active in the classroom helps a lot. We become more confident in our answers.” “I feel very fortunate to have been part of this SRL learning experience; it has changed my perspective on how I see math as a whole; it is no longer a dreaded subject.”

The City Tech project was developed in the late 1990s by Hudesman, who worked as a counselor at the College for 25 years. “I did a study with incoming students and found that many students didn’t prepare very much,” he explains. “They didn’t prepare for tests because they never had to do it in high school. In fact, the least prepared students had the highest opinion of their academic success; they consistently predicted better grades than they received.” City Tech’s then SEEK director Marcela Armoza, and now the vice president of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs at the College, encouraged Hudesman to address this problem of students’ unrealistic expectations.

Hudesman put out some feelers and found out about the work being done by the CUNY Graduate Center’s Distinguished Professor of Educational Psychology Barry Zimmerman, a Self-Regulated Learning pioneer. As a result of their collaboration they received several federal grants to support SRL at City Tech and to create pilot projects at Rutgers University at Newark, the Raymond Walters College of the University of Cincinnati, Youngstown State University, Youngstown Early College High School and CUNY's LaGuardia Community College. The program was applied to 14 different academic departments at these schools.

“SRL has allowed us to have a meaningful impact on the ability of City Tech students to succeed that goes well beyond the classroom,” Dr. Armoza says.

SRL not only involves training students – faculty members must also learn this new understanding of learning processes and how to monitor and manage them. The payback is that faculty find they can more effectively deliver their course content and that students are more active learners.

One City Tech faculty member who has made the most of SRL techniques is Sara Crosby, a developmental writing adjunct lecturer. “The SRL model offers a clear, handy way to add structure to my classroom and to the course content. After a short adjustment period, my students usually realize that the constant feedback, the concrete strategies, and all the practice and monitoring we do give them the tools they need to pass.”

While the grants supporting SRL at City Tech came to an end last year, the College still supports the initiative through the SEEK Program which provides special academic, finance and counseling assistance to students.

According to Hudesman, the collaboration among academic and administrative offices at City Tech has been key to its effectiveness. “The program has succeeded because of the unique rapport here among staff in our SEEK, student affairs and counseling offices and faculty in our departments of mathematics and English,” he explains. “We’ve come together to develop strategies for how to present material to the students. SRL is not content-driven; it’s a way of delivering content.”

In addition to collaboration within the College, Hudesman appreciated assistance and support from Dr. Bert Flugman, director of CASE, Cheryl Williams, associate university dean, CUNY Office of Special Programs, and Arlene Floyd, director of Tech Prep programs at Youngstown State University and former director of admissions at City Tech, among others.

Hudesman and colleagues have presented papers or posters about SRL at many conferences and meetings, the most recent of which include: the Annual Meeting of the Association for Psychological Science, San Francisco, CA; the Association for Psychological Science Conference, Reno; Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Boston, MA; Research Conference of the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education: Washington, DC; the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York, NY; and the Research Conference of the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC.

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