Self-regulated learning strategies

... in volunteering organizations (pilot study)

Self-regulated learning behavior has become an important topic in educational research over the last decades. Psycho-pedagogical approaches to self-regulated learning mostly target the individual/micro level of analysis by focusing issues of educational achievement in formal educational settings such as schools or universities. However, there have been surprisingly little attempts to apply this fruitful research perspective to the wider context of lifelong learning. Lifelong learning may be broadly defined as learning that is pursued throughout life: learning that is flexible, diverse and available at different times and in different places. Since a substantial part of lifelong learning takes place outside of formal education, it poses a serious research problem. How to access learning experiences that happen “informally”? In this perspective, social scientists highlight the importance of life-course and biographical research to access individual learning experiences beyond traditional education. Recent empirical investigations have shown the importance of different organizational contexts such as the workplace, the community and volunteer organizations for individual learning and continuous competence development. However, a coherent explanatory framework for the analysis of individual and contextual learning dynamics is yet to emerge. Our interdisciplinary study “Self-regulated learning behavior in informal educational settings” targets the lacuna by exploring how the self-regulated learning experience of the individual interacts with structural features of the learning environment. We plan on (1) developing an empirical account of lifelong learning strategies that covers different perspectives of the informal learning experience in a longitudinal fashion, (2) understand how the organizational environment both enables and constrains competence development at the individual level and (3) theorize the social mechanisms behind this informal learning experience. We therefore propose to analyze the interaction of self-regulated learning strategies and contextual factors in the framework of the German volunteering service “Bundesfreiwilligendienst”. The German volunteering service is an ideal data base for this type of research since it is, legally speaking, a state financed informal “educational program” (Bundesfreiwilligengesetz 2011) and struggles with issues of educational qualification and certification. In addition, it represents a quasi-experimental setting in which it is possible to analyze the impact of different learning situations and contexts such as training events, peer learning activities and work place situations on self-regulated learning behavior. By analyzing how and to what extent informal learning is structured by organizational surroundings, we explore both the scope and the limits of self-regulation.

This interdisciplinary study is conducted in cooperation with the Institute for Education Studies.