Students’ Autonomy in Selecting Optional Reading Materials in an Online Course and its Impact on their Critical Thinking and Decision Making Skill Development
Heeja Kim, Elna van Heerden, Kristen E. Bang

This study examines the impact of student self-engagement with reading materials on the learning outcomes of critical thinking and decision making skills in an online university setting. The study operates within the framework of the context-dynamic skill theory (von Bertalanffy, 1968), and the skill theory assesses how person and world function together in human development (Yan and Fischer, 2002). The results of the Regression Analysis show that among the six components of Student Engagement, the students’ positive experience with Optional Readings produced the largest effect on the perceived learning outcome, ‘Critical Thinking and Decision Making Skill Development.’Althoughexploring more readings could have increased the students’ curiosity and ability to make adjustments that would maximize their learning, not all of the students capitalized onthis option. The results of the study demonstrate the different learning capacities and contextsin which students performed their assignments, with varying levels of engagement in reading materials. In consideration of the unique learning context and capacity of each student, the present study asserts the importance of providing varying levels of autonomy in selecting optional and additional reading materials, according to each student’s individual needs. The study then advises a discussion on the ways to create learning contexts and curricula that would strengthen students’ commitment to fostering their own intellectual skills.

Full Text: PDF     DOI: 10.15640/jehd.v3n4a10