Learning in Uncertainty: Examining the Relationship Between Perceived Environmental Uncertainty and Self-Regulated Learning of Finance Professionals, and The Role of Technology in Supporting It

Chaudhari, Vasudha (2021). Learning in Uncertainty: Examining the Relationship Between Perceived Environmental Uncertainty and Self-Regulated Learning of Finance Professionals, and The Role of Technology in Supporting It. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00012cf9

Abstract

Uncertainty is an inherent component of the modern-day workplace. Professionals need to learn to navigate their work lives through these uncertainties. Thus, learning to manage continuous change and uncertainty is key to professionals carrying out their practice successfully. Although past research has sought to unpack the intricacies of uncertainty perception and management, it has been predominantly at an organisational level. Two factors remain largely unexplored in the current literature: 1) Uncertainty perception and learning at an individual level and 2) Role of technology in supporting individual learning during uncertainty. The research questions posed in this thesis, stem from an inclination to address this gap and evaluate whether empirical evidence exists for an association between perception of uncertainty and how individuals learn during periods of uncertainty, and the role of technology in mediating this association.

This thesis aims to address the following research questions through a mixed methods research design, including semi-structured interviews, questionnaires, and co-design approach with members from the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investments (CISI). What is the nature of environmental uncertainties within the finance sector and the perception of finance professionals towards these uncertainties? How do finance professionals self-regulate their learning in times of uncertainty? How do finance professionals perceive the role of technology in supporting their self-regulated learning during uncertainty? How do finance professionals perceive the usefulness of the LiU framework in recommending SRL strategies based on the type of perceived uncertainty? Three studies were planned to answer these research questions.

Study 1 focused on delineating the nature and sources of environmental uncertainties in the finance sector. Results from the thematic analysis of interviews from Study 1 (n = 9) provided the categorisation of sources of objective uncertainty within the finance sector. It also provided insights into how finance professionals perceived the antecedents and consequences of uncertainty and what type of self-regulated learning strategies they used when faced with uncertain times. Whether their self-regulation strategies differed based on the type of uncertainty they perceived was investigated in Study 2. Study 2 investigated the relationship between self-regulated learning and perceived environmental uncertainty using the quantitative survey method and secondary analysis of interview data. Statistical analysis of survey data (n = 39) revealed that certain self-regulated learning strategies were significantly different across the types of perceived uncertainties. Among the self-regulation phases, statistically significant differences were seen in forethought and self-reflection phases; however, no significant differences were found in the performance phase based on the type of perceived uncertainty. This means that the way professionals planned their learning activities, set goals to achieve the learning objective and the extent to which they valued the learning activity depended on the type of uncertainty they perceived. Similarly, their self-reflective learning processes also differed based on the type of perceived uncertainty. However, the wide range of strategies they undertook to achieve the learning goals, their critical thinking, and help-seeking abilities were the same throughout, without a differential effect of perceived uncertainty. These results were in alignment with the thematic analysis of secondary interview data (n = 26), where the SRL strategies were associated with the type of perceived uncertainty. Study 3 investigated the role of technology in supporting the self-regulated learning behaviour of professionals using a co-design approach with two iterative cycles (Iteration 1: n=10, Iteration 2: n=10). Results from Study 3 showed that of the three phases of learning in uncertainty (identify- introspect-implement), any technology support was most effective in the introspection phase. It also revealed the importance of reflection as a dominant theme when learning in uncertainty.

Altogether, the original contribution of this thesis was an examination of the relationship between perceived environmental uncertainty and self-regulated learning and the role of technology in supporting it. In doing so, it highlighted the importance of guiding the professionals in the regulation of their learning and the positive implications it had in terms of motivational and metacognitive aspects. It also highlighted the role of a technological scaffold in helping the professionals become more reflective in their learning and strategic in managing their uncertainty.

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