Carolin Kreber

  • Do professors self-regulate their learning about teaching

    Carolin Kreber, University of Alberta

    Research seminar

    Theme addressed: Scholarship of Teaching


    This study was concerned with the various meta-cognitive and affective processes which can be observed in individuals engaged in self-regulating their learning (SRL) (e.g., Pintrich, 1995; Schunk & Zimmerman, 1989; Zimmerman, 1998). Specifically, it was explored whether, and if so to what extent, university science professors self-regulate their learning about teaching. The specific objective of this qualitative study was to test the applicability of the SRL model in relation to learning about university teaching.

    Methodology/research design

    In this qualitative study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with thirty-six professors of science. Participants were purposively sampled for field of study, status of their academic appointment and level of academic work experience. Interview questions were based on two models: First, Zimmerman's (1998) self-regulatory learning cycle (SRL) and second, Kreber and Cranton's (2000) scholarship of teaching model distinguishing three types of knowledge -- (1) instructional, (2) pedagogical, and (3) curricular knowledge-- within which learning takes place. Zimmerman's (1998) SRL cycle translated into thirteen questions which asked for each knowledge domain: instructional, pedagogical, and curricular. Interviews lasted between 40 and 90 minutes. Each was audiotaped and later transcribed verbatim.


    Few professors reported having explicit goals for their learning (about teaching) and few tended to engage in the process of SRL (about teaching) as described by the SRL model. Years of experience as a professor did not appear to make a difference in the extent to which these professors engaged in the process. However, as was expected, some professors showed greater engagement in certain phases of the SRL model than others. Learning in the domain of instructional knowledge was most common, followed by curricular knowledge. Learning about how students learn (a domain we termed pedagogical knowledge) was the least often mentioned. Many instructors stated "wanting students to learn" as a goal-yet, only rarely were such statements made in connection with "wanting to better understand how students learn". It became evident that the majority of professors did not conceive of themselves as learners about teaching, nor did it appear that they recognized teaching as a domain of inquiry that could be approached with quite the same curiosity as the discipline itself. When pedagogical goals were present, few professors monitored their learning process but focussed their self-evaluation on the outcome of their learning. We suggest that the usual process by which most professors learn about teaching is perhaps less sequential, cyclical, and constant in nature than the process described by the SRL model.

    Theoretical and educational significance of the research

    Professors do not understand themselves as learners of teaching. Consequently, they are far less likely to set pedagogical learning goals for themselves. However, if they were helped to understand teaching and learning as a "field of inquiry", to set realistic learning goals and to reach greater awareness of how they learn (i.e., SRL),the notion of SRL would not at all be irrelevant. Eventually, however, this would require creating a campus culture that values teaching and the scholarship thereof (Knight & Trowler, 2000).