December 2012 – February 2013: The Enrollment Process

On December 8th at 11.05 pm I posted my Expression of Interest with less than an hour to spare before the deadline. Very quickly I was contacted by Student Services and so began a comedy of errors which would take the next three months to resolve:

The next step after the EOI was to get the Board of Studies approval. This involved references that proved I had the ability to do doctoral research. This was at a time when most people were on annual leave. I finally got my references in on 22nd January.

My MA Applied didn’t involve a tradional dissertation which was another proof of ability indocator for the Board of Studies. They finally accepted the MOE ELL project completed when at MAGS and gave their approval for my EOI on 30th January.

Meantime I needed to create an account at the university in order to enroll online. Apparently I already had a University of Auckland student ID number and NetID/UPI. I had no memory of this as it would have been set up years before and on what occasion, I have no idea. It used a now-obsolete email address. When I couldn’t remember my pin and created a new one, this was sent to that old email address. When I was going round in circles with Student Services, I asked Monique Hamlin to intervene. I began the process on 19th December and finally got access on 21st January!

Once I had access, I could finally begin the online application process. The four week limit built into the programme ran out before I could gather all the information needed. I didn’t understand why the information I was saving was not there when I went in the next time. Once again, Monique Hamlin sorted it out for me.

One of the reasons it took so long was the dripfeed instructions regarding which documents the university wanted notarised. Why, when they had my MA notarised would they want my DipTheol papers as well, and why when I had done my BA at Auckland, and they had my UE details on my transcript already, woultd they need my UE documents notarised and presented again? But they did and the online application was finally completed on 3rd March.

However, the EdD showed as still pending a week later and only five days before late fees would have to be paid.

Fortunately the staff in the Department at Education were wonderful. Martin East accepted supervising me straight away and recruited Constanza Tolosa as a co-supervisor. Ben and Barbara, the cohort supervisors invited me to attend the first block knowing enrolment was in complete. I caught up with Keitha Shalley, my former neighbour, who I discovered was the very efficient cohort administrator.

However, the admission process was very stressful and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.

Meeting Martin 12.3.13

Does online reflection enhance performance/learning outcomes when completing a task for an L2 NCEA writing standard?

Martin and I brainstormed to refine my interest in Computer Assisted Language Learning, Metacognition and Second Language Acquisition.  We established that strategic competence (effective student reflection and autonomous learning) is what I am most curious about.  Technology is the understated but assumed tool to support both learning and reflection.

Background: in my senior second language courses, one lesson in four takes place in the computer laboratory.  A regular activity involves students choosing from about three online grammar activities, which support their past or pending communicative learning activities.  After selecting and completing one or two grammar activities, students complete a Reflection Journal entry and answer three key questions:

  • What did I choose to do?
  • Why did I choose to do it?
  • What am I going to do next?

In my research, I particularly want to discover whether reflection interventions of this type have any significant effect on learning outcomes.

Martin and I then discussed how this question might be answered and identified the following possibilities to explore further:

1. Possible data fields

  • Compare two Year 11 classes with the same teacher and course where one acts as a control group and the other a research group.  The latter is given the Reflection Journal intervention (Can the composition of each class be balanced to ensure validity?)
  • Compare learning strategies used by Year 11 and Year 13 students (What are they doing and do they make a difference?)
  • Compare the use of two grammatical structures practised by Year 11 and Year 13 in open-ended writing tasks
  • Use a writing task for an NCEA assessment or another writing task that is not for an NCEA assessment.  (What are the pros and cons of each option?)

2.  Possible research tasks:

  • A grammatical structures test
  • An open-ended piece of writing
  • Student reflections
  • Rebecca Oxford’s Language Learning Strategies Inventory used in a pre-test and post-test comparison

The conclusion of the research: “From our data the following appear to be effective metacognitive strategies…”

Given my provisional status to date, Martin recalled the book: Teaching and Researching Language Learning Strategies by Rebecca Oxford so I could start reading for my literature review.  Chamot and O’Malley are other experts in the field to read.

First Block

Thursday 7 March, 3:40-7.30 (N354)

3.40 – 3.55 Meeting prior to powhiri (see powhiri handout attached) (Ben & Barbara)
4.00 – 5.30 Powhiri at Faculty Marae followed by afternoon tea (Ben)
5.30 – 6.30 Introductions to each other (Barbara) and to the EdD programme at The University of Auckland (Ben)
6.30 – 7.30 Becoming an EdD candidate: During this session there will be a round-table discussion of issues of importance when undertaking an EdD, including:

  • How to manage part-time studies and expectations of others (supervisors, workplace, family/friends) – keeping a balance,
  • Keeping motivated (Barbara)
  • How to make the most of the EdD support group (Ben).

7.30 Wrap up

Friday 8 March, 9.00-4.30 (N354)

9:00 – 10.00 What is Educational research?  A general introduction to the world of educational research that involves paradigms, ethics (Barbara) and political dimensions (Ben)
10.00 – 10.30 DELNA (literacy) test (required for all doctoral students)
10.30 – 11.00 Group photo & morning tea
11.00 – 11.20 Induction (Keitha)
11.20 – 12.15 Introducing your research projects (Ben) You will have 10-15 minutes each to introduce your research topic/question and engage in some brief discussion
12.15 – 1.15 Lunch
1.15 – 2.00 Purposes of a literature review (Barbara)
2.00 – 3.00 Finding the literature (Librarian)  Library session on advanced search strategies
3.00 – 3.30 Analysis of the literature: critical evaluation (Ben)
3.30 – 4.00 Peer review process for formative feedback on Project 1 (Barbara)
4.00 – 4.30 Timeline, expectations for Meeting 2 (23–24 May) (Ben)
Wrap-up (Barbara)

Original Research Proposal 8.12.12

Provisional title of thesis 

“Using online tools to teach metacognitive strategies to secondary school students in order to improve learning outcomes and lower attrition rates in secondary school second language classes.”

Introduction / background

A 2003 Ministry of Education stocktake of the New Zealand Curriculum recommended that an eighth Learning Area, Learning Languages, be established.  Joe Guthrie, the Languages Advisor at the time, wrote:

“The fact that relative to other countries, New Zealand has very low levels of language learning was one of the issues considered in this report…The rationale for the establishment of this new learning area is:

  • Learning languages is key to students developing greater understanding of the cultures of others.
  • Relative to other countries, New Zealand has very low levels of language learning.
  • Language education helps to foster bicultural and multicultural awareness.
  • The teaching of languages supports literacy in English and forms part of a broad general education for all students.
  • There is general agreement amongst the New Zealand languages community that years 7-10 are the most appropriate years for any significant investment in languages teaching.
  • Schools should be required to provide instruction in another language for students in years 7 to 10 (except for Māori immersion settings), but it should not be mandatory for all year 7-10 students to learn another language. Languages include foreign, community and heritage languages and second language learning in English and in te reo Māori.”

Despite hope at the time that the new learning area and the push to begin languages in Year 7 would increase numbers of students continuing into the senior secondary school, numbers in language classes have continued to drop.  Students might begin to study in Year 7, but retention rates into senior secondary school classes remain low.  Students who continue their language learning are often taught in combined classes or by correspondence.  So nothing much has changed since 2004 when Guthrie wrote:  “In… state schools, then, just over half the students who begin or continue learning a language at high school… can expect that there will still be a class operating in that language by the time they reach Year 13.”

So, how can we improve the numbers learning languages at secondary school?  Could teaching metacognitive strategies, such as control and regulate, help improve learning outcomes and so stem high attrition?

In 2008, Rod Ellis formulated “a set of general principles for instructed language acquisition.”  Principle nine states that “Instruction needs to take account of individual differences in learners.”  On page 5, Ellis says:

“Studies of good language learners suggest that successful language learning requires a flexible approach to learning. Thus, increasing the range of learning strategies at learners’ disposal is one way in which teachers can help them to learn. Such strategy training needs to foster an understanding that language learning requires both an experiential and an analytical approach.”

Ellis explains further that “While it is probably true that teachers can do little to influence students’ extrinsic motivation, there is a lot they can do to enhance their intrinsic motivation.”

Metacognition strategies are part of an analytical approach and could enhance intrinsic motivation.

In his article entitled The role of Metacognition in Second Language Learning, Neil Anderson says that “The teaching of metacognitive skills is a valuable use of instructional time for a second language teacher. When learners reflect upon their learning strategies, they become better prepared to make conscious decisions about what they can do to improve their learning. Strong metacognitive skills empower second language learners.”

R Ramesh agrees that “The use of metacognitive strategies… can lead to more profound learning and improved performance… Understanding and controlling cognitive processes may be one of the most essential skills that classroom teachers can help L2 learners develop… However, while all learners use learning strategies, successful learners learn how to use them effectively.”

So what are effective metacognitive strategies?

Ramesh quotes the work of Wendon, Chamot and O’Malley et al, saying that there are “two major components to metacognition: knowledge about L2 learning and control of the learning process.”

He explains that “good learners are able to plan their learning approach, monitor their success, and modify their approach as needed.”  He says they exercise ‘executive control.’

In the past two years, I have used shared googledocs and a range of other tools to encourage primarily senior but also junior French students to reflect on and take ownership of their learning, encouraging them to think about what they have done, what it has achieved and why, and what the next steps towards achieving learning goals are.

This experimentation has dovetailed with a tutor group teachers’ initiative at the school.  The tutors have embarked on learning conversations around the Key Competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum.  The Key Competencies are to become the substance of future tutor teacher conversations with students and parents with a view to increasing learning outcomes and improving learning habits across the curriculum.

As a member of both the PD and Reporting Committees and a subject teacher who has trialled using technology to facilitate students’ reflection on learning, I wonder about the comparative effectiveness of metacognition to increase learning outcomes when students reflect on the more general Key Competency skills with their tutor teachers and when they reflect on the more targeted subject-specific skills with their subject teachers.

Aim and research question(s) and rationale

The overall aim of the research, therefore, is to discover whether teaching effective metacognitive strategies to secondary school second language students will improve their learning outcomes and stem the tide of attrition into the senior school.

I also ask whether student reflection on subject-specific learning improves language learning outcomes more than the more global reflections on Key Competencies?

Key questions might be:

  • What are effective metacognitive language learning strategies?
  • Can they be learned?
  • Does the use of effective metacognitive strategies increase learning outcomes?
  • What can teachers do to encourage the acquisition of effective metacognitive language learning strategies?
  • What conditions must be in place before students initiate the use of such strategies rather than relying on teacher facilitation?
  • Does reflecting on subject-specific learning improve language learning outcomes more than reflections on Key Competencies?
  • Does the learning of effective metacognitive strategies increase retention rates in language classes?
  • What technology tools best facilitate the acquisition of effective metacognitive language learning strategies?
  • Can the learning of reflection strategies improve learning outcomes for Maori and Pasifika students and increase their retention in language classes?

The proposed research is important because it aims to establish the most effective metacognitive strategies to help students help themselves, to improve learning outcomes and retention rates, and to create lifelong learners.

Research context and design

The context of the proposed study is language teachers in a Professional Learning Group (PLG) and their students.  Using collaborative action research, online teacher and student journals, and appropriate achievement and retention and attrition data, participants will establish strategies to use with their students and measure the success of their implementation against achievement data and attrition rate data.


Reference List

Second Language Acquisition

Ellis, R. (December 2008)  Principles of Instructed Second Language Acquisition. In CALdigest. Washington DC: Centre for Applied Linguistics (

Krashen, Stephen D. (1995)  Principles and practice in second language acquisition. Hertfordshire: Prentice Hall Europe.

Lightbown, Patsy M. & Spada, Nina. (1993)  How languages are learned. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Learning to Learn

Anderson, Neil, J.  (April 2002)  The Role of Metacognition in Second Language Teaching and Learning.  Retrieved Oct 2012 at:

Clegg, J.   Metacognition: an overview of its uses in language-learning.  Retrieved Oct 2012 at:

Dyer, Wayne, Hadfield, J. & Marsden, Nick. (2008)  Top tools for literacy and thinking.  PearsNZ.

Lai, Emily, R.  (2011)  Metacognition: A literature review.  Online: Pearson Assessments.  Retrieved Oct 2012 at:

Ramesh, R.  (30 Nov, 2009)  Metacognitive strategies for enhancing second language acquisition.  Retrieved Nov 2012 at:

Town, Douglas Andrew.   Metacognition and its development.  Retrieved Nov 2012 at: 

Williams, Marion. & Burden, Robert L. (1997)  Psychology for language teachers.  Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.

Research and Learning Outcomes

Marzano, Robert J., Pickering, Debra J., & Pollock, Jane E.  (2001)  Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement.  Alexandra, VA: ASCD.

Nunan, David.  (1992)  Research methods in language learning.  Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press. 

Stoop, Graham. (Chief Review Officer, ERO).  (July 2012) Literacy and mathematics in years 9 and 10: Using achievement information to promote success.  Wellington, NZ: Education Review Office.

Timperley, H., Wilson, A., Barrar H. & Fung I.  (2007) Teacher professional learning and development: Best evidence synthesis iteration (BES).  Wellington NZ: Ministry of Education.


Byrne, R.  (Ed)  The super book of web tools for educators: A comprehensive introduction to using technology in all k-12 classrooms.  Retrieved Sept 2011 at:

Redecker, Christine, AlaMutka, Kirsti, Punie, Yves.  (19th October 2008)  Learning 2.0 – the use of social computing to enhance lifelong learning.  Final Presentation at European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Annual Conference, Poitiers. Retrieved Nov 2012 at:  

Rollins, Mark J.  (2011)  Moodle 2.0 for teachers: An illustrated guide.  Great Britain: Lulu Enterprise.

Suzuki, Renata.  (June 2004)  Diaries as introspective tools: From Ashton-Warner to Blogs.  In Teaching English as a second language, Vol 8(1).  Retrieved July 2004 at:

Wojcicki, Esther. (June 25, 2007) Google teacher academy: Docs and spreadsheets in the classroom.  Retrieved Nov 2012 at: 

The New Zealand Curriculum

Guthrie, Joe. (2005)  Have you got a Japanese teacher up your sleeve?”: New Zealand principals’ perceptions of language teacher supply. In New Zealand Studies in Applied Linguistics Volume 11 (2).

Ellis, R.  (2005) Instructed second language acquisition: a literature review.  Report to the Ministry of Education.  Auckland: Uniservices Limited.

Ministry of Education.  (2007)  The New Zealand Curriculum.  Wellington: Learning Media Limited.


March 2013: First Block

The first day and a half block, 7th and 8th March, was great.

It was nice to go through the powhiri, bump into both Maryann and Jenny Lee, daughters of my close friend, Lily, and catch up with my 1973 lecturer, Roger Peddie, quite apart from Keitha after thirty years.

It was equally nice to meet Ben Dyson and Barbara Grant, the Cohort Teachers and my cohort colleagues, Adel, Mark, Dennis and Paul.

After introductions, we discussed how to manage part-time studies and juggle family and work responsibilities, were introduced to each other’s research ideas and the peer review process, had a lecture on the paradigms of educational research, completed our DELNA literacy tests and were inducted regarding practical matters such as gymn and pool access and the use of the library.

Finally we learned about the first assignment, a literature review, and the role it would play in our theses. Time to start reading.