COVID | Free Full-Text | Scoping Review of Self-Directed Online Learning, Public School Students’ Mental Health, and COVID-19 in Noting Positive Psychosocial Outcomes with Self-Initiated Learning
The purpose of this study is to highlight the results of a scoping review of relevant articles concerning self-directed learning, online learning, and mental health regarding public school students during COVID-19 to determine if these articles took into consideration the importance of self-initiation in learning and reduced parental demand that learning be standardized. More generally, the question is, what was the effect of self-directed online learning on the mental health of public school students during the COVID-19-imposed, in-person learning restrictions? Following an evaluation of the returned articles concerning this question, it will be considered in what way self-initiated self-directed learning and reduced parental concern regarding standardized learning might be put into perspective so that the result is an appropriate use of self-directed learning in online learning for the improved mental health of public school students that will lead to positive psychosocial outcomes.
This study is valuable because it is the first scoping review of its kind to evaluate the results of self-directed online learning of public school students with respect to mental health during COVID-19, especially in relation to self-initiation of learning and reduced expectations of parents regarding standardization of their children’s learning. It is important because self-directed learning, if self-initiated and unhampered by standardized expectations by parents, has been found able to promote positive mental health in students, leading to positive psychosocial outcomes, unlike what is found with the standardized learning of public schooling. The conclusion is difficulties that have been recognized regarding self-directed learning in public schooling are ones that relate to the perspective taken by researchers regarding the relationship among self-directed learning, online learning, and mental health in public schools. These perspectives can be redirected and difficulties overcome if the focus of research is self-initiation of self-directed learning unimpeded by parental expectations dependent on standardized learning.
2. Materials and Methods
To increase the reach and acceptability of the scope, a 28 June 2023 search was conducted of PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, and ProQuest using the same parameter as the 30 May 2023 search of Google Scholar. These databases were chosen among others as their entries include both research related to health and that concerning public schools. Upon conducting the searches of each of the databases, it became evident the ProQuest 28 June 2023 search (which returned 691 results for “self-directed learning, online learning, mental health, public schools, COVID-19”) consisted primarily of returns related to online learning for other than public school students. Consequently, the ProQuest search was adjusted to “k-12 online learning” rather than “online learning” on 29 June 2023, which returned 51 results.
The methods used in developing the materials included, firstly, searching Google Scholar until its page of ten separate results did not return at least one article with each keyword in the parameter. On 30 May 2023, 11 pages of returns were required to meet this criterion, with 110 distinct entries. The entries were then copied to a Word document to search for duplicates. None were found. As well, there were no records marked as ineligible by automation tools. Following, a tab for each of the 11 pages of the search was created in the Safari browser. The returns were checked for the English language by skimming the abstracts. Concurrently, noting if the publication was in a peer-reviewed journal. There were 3 articles in languages other than English and 17 published in non-peer-reviewed journals, completing the screening portion of the Google Scholar search, leaving 90 articles. Eligibility was determined by reading each abstract to identify if any of the words public schools, students, or COVID-19 were missing from the article. A total of 53 did not include public schools, 2 did not mention students, and none lacked mention of COVID-19, leaving 36 eligible articles from the Google Scholar portion of the search. These remaining articles were further assessed for mention of self-directed learning, online learning, or mental health. This assessment was done by conducting an individual word search for each of the three terms in the remaining articles. There was 1 article that did not mention self-directed learning, 1 that did not refer to online learning, and 12 that lacked discussion of mental health. This left 21 articles from the Google Scholar portion of the search for the final assessment.
Regarding these final 21 articles to be appraised from the Google Scholar search, each was then scrutinized regarding whether the article had a positive or a negative point of view concerning any of self-directed learning, online learning, and mental health. This involved a search for these terms in every one of the articles and identifying the content regarding the terms. The positive responses were 9 for self-directed learning, 9 related to online learning, and 6 concerning mental health. In contrast, the negative responses were 12 regarding self-directed learning, 12 for online learning, and 15 with respect to mental health.
On 28 June 2023, similar methods used to those of the Google Scholar search were followed in relation to creating the materials searched for each of PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science, in that order. The result was that there were 2 articles returned for PubMed, 0 for Scopus, and one for Web of Science. There were no registers that were searched. The 2 PubMed results were excluded as both concerned post-secondary learning. The Web of Science return passed all tests regarding eligibility that had been undertaken for the Google Scholar search the month before and was included as part of the study. A ProQuest search was also performed on 28 June 2023, returning 691 articles. To ensure that the articles returned were those concerned with public school students, ProQuest was re-searched on 29 June with the keyword “online learning” modified to “k-12 online learning”, as it was evident that most of the returns were for post-secondary or adult learning primarily. This additional search limited the returns to 51 articles. Of these, 21 did not concern public schools, 7 did not mention students, and 5 did not relate to COVID-19, making each of these screened articles ineligible for inclusion. Two of the articles searched were unable to be retrieved. Finally, the full text of the articles returned in the ProQuest search of 29 June 2023 was assessed. Excluded were 4 articles that did not mention self-directed learning, 1 that did not refer to online learning, and 5 that did not consider mental health, leaving 8 articles from the ProQuest search that were included for study.
It should be remarked that there were no duplications of these additional articles returned from a search of the other databases with those returned from the Google Scholar search conducted the previous month or among the other databases themselves. This lack of duplication brings into question the fullness of the Google Scholar database and the adequacy of the other databases for searching topics concerning both health and public school learning.
In total, there were 30 articles included as part of the study. The positive responses concerning the three variables under consideration were as follows: self-directed learning—14; online learning—13; and mental health—9. The negative responses were self-directed learning—16; online learning—17; and mental health—21. These included returns were then ready for the later assessment to follow in the Discussion Section regarding whether they considered self-initiation of self-directed online learning or parental expectations concerning maintaining standardized expectations regarding the online learning of their children.
Of the articles assessed, 19 of the 30 (63.3%) articles have either all negative or all positive assessments of each of the three variables. Of these, 7 articles (23.3% of all articles) are entirely positive regarding self-direction, online learning, and mental health. The other 12 (40% of all articles) have completely negative assessments of each of self-direction, online learning, and mental health. For those articles that were neither all positive nor all negative in their assessment of self-directed learning, online learning, and mental health regarding public school students during COVID-19, 2 (6.7%) were positive with respect to both self-direction and the mental health of the public school students during COVID-19, but negative regarding online learning. A total of 2 (6.7%) found self-directed learning and online learning to both provide positive results during the pandemic but, at the same time, create poor mental health. No articles (0%) were positive towards online learning and mental health but negative regarding self-directed learning. There were 3 articles (10%) that were positive about self-directed learning but negative concerning both online learning and the student’s mental health; 4 (13.3%) judged online learning as positive but were negative about both self-direction and the mental health of public school students. There were no articles (0%) in which the authors were positive about the mental health of public school students but negative regarding both self-direction and online learning. The low percentages of articles with other than all positive or all negative assessments demonstrate that authors are more likely to be polarized one way or the other regarding the effect of this parameter containing each of these keywords.
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