Learners’ Perception of Personal Learning Environment

Subject: Education
Pages: 15
Words: 4477
Reading time:
16 min
Study level: PhD


The present research paper aims to investigate the students’ perceptions of the personalized learning environments (PLEs) in higher educational settings. The creation of PLEs and their impacts on the learning effects have received limited attention from scholarly researchers. This observation can be attributed to the fact that the technology-enhanced learning (TEL) systems continue to witness rigorous changes as new innovative platforms keep on emerging. The traditional learning management systems (LMS) have been challenged by the emergence of PLEs. This paper presents an in-depth insight into the learners’ perception of PLEs in relation to the two principal concepts of ownership and control. The research applies both quantitative and qualitative methods as a strategy of triangulation that will provide more reliable data and findings. The results are presented based on the Likert scale tool as it compares the perceptions of the two samples obtained from the King Saud University – College of Education. A detailed discussion is provided and recommendations are given to guide on areas of focus for scholarly researchers on the application of PLEs. The overall results of this study show a positive correlation regarding learners’ perception of PLEs. The perceived control and ownership of PLEs, in turn, enhance learning effects.

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The Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) approach utilizes technology to help students achieve self-direction and self-regulation in the pedagogical processes. The tool shifts the control of learning from the designer or instructor to the learner. The Learning Management System (LMS) has boated dominance in the Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) for more than a decade. The use of the TEL has witnessed a major alteration in the advent of web 2.0 as learners now have free access to a variety of online learning avenues including slide share, YouTube, online libraries, and Google books. Personal Learning Environment (PLE) helps the learner to access, collect, influence, and share facets of their ongoing learning experiences with colleagues. Unlike the traditional instructional methods, PLE is a learner-centric approach that enables the learner to own and control the learning process. As technological advancement reaches peak levels in the twenty-first century, the instructors’ roles have lessened since learners can use a myriad of devices and the internet to study individually. The present research paper aims at investigating how learners from a masters’ program perceive the use of PLEs.


Traditional pedagogies that are instructor-centered such as objectivism have gradually been abandoned as e-learning becomes popular. According to the behaviorist theory, the traditional education systems will continue to witness a myriad of changes as new technological advancements are realized (Nair, 2015). The development of the PLE has made it possible for learners to use and share open and reusable learning resources via the Internet. They can download, remix, and republish varied learning resources (Lee, 2000). The present research study investigates learners’ perception of PLEs with regard to control and ownership of learning environments (Samah, Yahaya, & Ali, 2011).

The study is based on the theory of psychological ownership as it reports empirical findings (Buchem et al., 2014) from an online survey that analyzes educational practice and explores the correlation of ownership, control, and personal learning environments as learners endeavor to create e-portfolios. According to a study conducted by Buchem et al. (2014), the management of intangible aspects of the schooling environment such as content and personal data correlate with the students’ feeling of belongingness to the learning environment as compared to the control of the tangible facets particularly the methodical learning tools such as web 2.0 services (Nair, 2015).

The background of this study is based on the premise that it is the learners’ perceptions that make a learning environment personalized. This underpinning implies that the student should be encouraged to develop a feeling of possession of the learning environment (Lee, 2000). The principal hypothesis of the present study is that the perception of a learning environment as a PLE relates to the feeling of ownership of intangible rather than tangible facets (Nair, 2015). In this case, the students view the learning environment as a PLE regardless of the control that they gain due to the sense of belongingness.

Problem Statement

In recent decades, traditional pedagogical approaches have been deemed unfit for modern learners. In the wake of changing technological changes and the ever-changing working environment, it has become crucial to adopt educational systems that correspond to the changing working environments and job requirements (Nair, 2015). As a result, technology-based learning tactics have been developed to help students control their feelings of owning the learning environments. Personalized learning environments have been developed to boost learner engagement and improve outcomes. The current research paper tries to investigate the learner’s perception of the personalized learning environments with particular emphasis on control and ownership.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the present research paper is to investigate learner’s perception of PLEs in relation to control and ownership of the learning environment. The respondents will help to shed light on the usefulness of PLEs in fostering a positive attitude towards learning in modern times.

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Significance of the Study

The study will serve two purposes. First, it will provide empirical evidence on the impact of establishing personalized learning environments. Second, it provides a correlational analysis of the use of PLEs and learner’s effects. The creation of PLEs is hypothetically believed to enhance learner to learner channel communication as peers share content. The study will investigate how students perceive this proposition.

Research Questions/Hypothesis

The present research aims to provide answers to the following principal question.

How do students at the chosen master’s program perceive control and ownership of personalized learning environments? The proposition of this study is that perceived control influences students’ psychological ownership of learning environments, which in turn correlates positively with intrinsic motivation and learning effects. The dependent variables are students’ intrinsic motivation and learning effects. On the other hand, perceived control and psychological ownership of PLEs are the independent variables.

Literature Review

In the field of technology-enhanced learning, learner control has gained increased focus for most educational researchers. Educationalists have used principles of psychology and constructivism to create and design powerful personalized learning environments (Samah et al., 2011). Buchem, Hoelterhof, Rahimi, Van, Veen & Mazarakis (2014) reveal that learners seldom experience the learning environments the way they intend. Rather, the students’ perceptions of their learning environments determine how much they can achieve. It has been shown that several factors including learning, the tasks involved, and the environments influence students’ way of interpreting learning environments. This combination is referred to as instructional metacognitive knowledge (Chookaew et al., 2014). The PLE has continued to take shape in much higher learning as the world makes marked technological advancements (Samah et al., 2011). The main agenda of this pedagogical shift from objectivist educational approaches to personalized learning environments is to enhance the learners’ control of their learning processes with a view of improving performance and relevance (Chookaew et al., 2014).

A growing body of research shows that recently, learner control has gained increased interest in the field of technology-enhanced learning (Moloi et al., 2010). More recently, authentic learning contexts have been configured to enhance students’ control of their learning experience. This trend reflects a shift from computer-assisted programs, intelligent tutoring systems, and LMSs that involved the limited application of technology to the use of PLEs, which foster learner-centric pedagogical approaches (Kim, 2012). An existing body of literature shows that learner control and ownership of learning processes in the context of PLEs have been hypothesized extensively concerning various paradigms of learning activities. The learner control can be analyzed from several perspectives including objectives, tools, communities, tasks, and guidelines (Attwell, 2012).

Dimensions of learner are discussed below as shown by different scholars and educational researchers in relation to perceptions of personalized learning environments. First, control of objectives enables the learners to determine the learning goals and outcomes from a personal level. The students identify what they want to achieve and relate it to the chosen PLEs methods (Wang & Huang, 2013). Moreover, learners are in a position to manage and share their data, services, resources, and content with peers. Control of objectives enables the learner to use scaffolding and guidance (Chookaew et al., 2014). Second, PLEs are associated with the control of tools by the learner. In this dimension, the students can choose and make use of tools that align with their learning needs, besides reusing and remixing content. In addition, through PLEs, the learner can aggregate and configure tools based on preference. In this vein, the individual selects tools that not only meet their needs but also align with their attitudes (Attwell, 2012).

Third, personalized learning environments have been deemed fit for learners as the feeling of instructor control that involves restrictions and rules is eliminated. Instead, the learner configures the learning environment in accordance with their freedom and preferences (Attwell, 2012). The environment is free from teachers’ rules. The learners can negotiate rules of communication and collaboration with their instructors, peers, and learning communities. Furthermore, it is possible to hold negotiations regarding intellectual property rights (Moloi et al., 2010). The third perspective entails the control of social base where the learner can choose the individuals with whom to communicate, the topics of discussions, those with who can share information, and most importantly, the initiation of discussions and collaborations.

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Regarding the control of tasks, the PLEs have been deemed highly effective (Kangaiammal, Silambannan, Senthamarai, & Srinath, 2013). The learners stand in a good position to specify their learning needs such as creating a user profile indicating information on their area of specialization. With the profile updated regularly, the learner can network with colleagues with matching needs for collaborations in the learning process. Also, self-monitoring is an important breakthrough associated with personalized learning environments (Moloi et al., 2010). The learner can monitor personal progress, conduct performance appraisal for improvements in areas that post a lag. In addition, with comparisons with peers and the feedback, the learners are in a viable position to identify areas of improvement, ideas to be imitated and adjustments where applicable (Kangaiammal et al., 2013).

Learner control and ownership are related to the concept of agency in the sense that human capability to make decisions and apply them in daily life scenarios. For this reason, ownership has gained increased significance in learning processes. Therefore, when learners are allowed to own their learning processes they tend to engage with the processes themselves, which has been considered an effective factor contributing to success. In the perspective of technology-enhanced learning, scholars have proposed numerous approaches that adopt the concept of ownership (Moloi et al., 2010). Marín, Salinas, and de Benito (2014) posit that control, motivation, and possession are mutually interdependent. For instance, according to the folio-thinking approach to e-portfolio, research has shown that instructors and students consider the feeling of control and ownership as a crucial element for owning an e-Portfolio. The use of an e-portfolio enhances user control as the learning strategy integrates all educational activities of the learner. In this regard, the greater the control of the learners over their portfolio directly correlates with increased internal motivation towards their learning processes.

However, little research has been done on the degree of ownership that leads to positive learning effects. In addition, there has been inadequate evidence revealing the forms of possession and management of technical, legal, social, and psychological elements that have direct influence on the goals, information, and services necessary for efficient learning. According to some educationalists (Marín et al., 2014), there has been a conception of ownership and control of learning from different perspectives. First, technically, the learner has the responsibility of aggregating and configuring services. Second, from a legal point of view, the learner legally owns the data and the resources. Third, psychologically, the learners perceive themselves as the owners of the learning processes. This psychological feeling is a critical booster to positive learning effects as owning the learning environment shapes the attitude of the learner towards the learning activities.

Further research has shown that some important elements surrounding ownership of e-portfolio play important roles in enhancing positive perceptions of the personalized learning environments (Marín et al., 2014). For instance, ownership of different processes associated with learning rests on different parties depending on varied educational settings. According to Attwell (2011), the learners owns the reflection that involves the control of the process, evaluation is owned by both the student and external parties, whereas accreditation of the learning process falls under the ownership of the external agents such as educationalists (Buchem et al., 2014).

In the context of PLE, ownership entails both the learning processes and its elements including digital tools utilized in the creation of PLE. Mainly, in the wake of social networks that play an important role in shaping the nature of relationships and changing the external learning agents, it has become important to manage the intangible aspects of learning such as individual data that promotes the learners’ views on ownership (Buchem et al., 2014). The concept of ownership of the learning processes can be explored by investigating philosophical frameworks that surround it (Marín et al., 2014). It can be looked into by examining the concept of ownership in general and self-ownership. According to Buchem et al. (2014), ownership relates to individual autonomy, which is a psychological disposition manifested through actions and attitudes towards oneself and the outside world. In the present study context, learner autonomy implies the psychological relationship the student has with the learning process.

Autonomous students manage to learn goals besides choosing the learning materials, methods, and decisions on organizing knowledge. Most importantly, they define the criterion for assessment. Therefore, owning learning environments is more or less similar to owning books and digital educational resources. Insofar as PLEs are concerned, the learner owns the control of technology, especially the capacity to create, design, and run an environment based on the individual’s preferences (Marín et al., 2014). Learner autonomy in the context of PLEs comprises the ability to create, make use of, change, leave and destroy a learning environment without any external consultations.

Research Context

The present research study was conducted in King Saud University, College of Education for students pursuing a master’s degree in Instructional Technology program. The courses were presented in the first semester of the year 2015.

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The learners engaged in the research study were 57 in total, comprising 33 female and 24 male. The respondents received teaching on computers in education and reading in instructional design and blended learning. All the participants completed the courses and for this reason, the research adopted convenient sampling, which is a non-random sampling technique.


The current study was conducted in King Saud University- College of Education. Ownership, control, and learning effect scales were considered in the collection of data. The study is based on 57 students at the University comprising 33 females and 24 males. The convenient sampling method was accomplished through the use of online surveys that involved the selected samples. This study adopted both quantitative and qualitative methods to triangulate the conclusions. Triangulation is a vital aspect of research that enhances validity and reliability (Buchem et al., 2014). The examination of the quantitative data was accomplished using SPSS software. On the other hand, open-ended questionnaires helped in gathering qualitative information that was analyzed and discussed with the participants.

The participants were encouraged to use to combine web 2.0 tools such as Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Prezi, SlideShare, and WordPress in the creation of PLEs during the semester. This assignment aimed at fostering the use of social media in the creation of personalized learning environments to measure the learners’ degree of perceived control and ownership in relation to the learning effects.

Research Results

The obtained results are based on the guiding question trying to identify how students perceive PLEs on two chief perspectives including control and ownership of the learning environments and how those perceptions impact learning effects. The results are presented based on psychological ownership, learner control, and impact on learning effects.

Table1.0: Results showing outcomes in mean and standard deviation of the five dimensions of psychological ownership of PLEs.

Dimensions of Psychological ownership. Females
n = 33
n = 24
n = 57
Sense of responsibility M = 2.29
Sd =.91
M = 1.87
Sd =.95
M = 1.97
Sd =.95
Sense of self-identity M = 1.83
Sd =.96
M = 2.41
Sd =.99
M = 2.29
Sd = 1.02
Sense of
m = 1.92
sd = 1.02
m = 2.36
sd =.8
m = 2.26
sd =.90
Sense of self-efficacy m = 2.23
sd = 1.03
m = 1.75
sd =.79
m = 2.28
sd = 1.09
Sense of belongingness m = 2.07
sd =.8
m = 2.38
sd =.77
m = 2.33
sd =.95
Totals m = 2.21
sd =.96
m = 2.03
sd =.92
m = 2.23
sd =.99

Table 1.0 psychological ownership statistics key: m = mean, Sd = standard, n = 57. Likert scale 1-5: 1 = completely agree, 5 = completely disagree.

Psychological ownership features five perspectives that include a sense of responsibility, self-efficacy, belonging, self-identity, and accountability. These dimensions were weighed across the samples where the respondents provided answers based on a Likert scale Form 1 ranging from (completely agree) to 5 (completely disagree). The results are shown in Table 1.0 that provides a statistical summary. It is important to note that the lower the score on the Likert scale, the higher the positive outcome.

Table 1.0 indicates the lowermost values among the five items used to evaluate various perceptions of psychological ownership attained by the chosen male students. Its mean was 2.03, and the lowest standard deviation was 0.92. The results imply that the female master’s students had the strongest positive perception regarding the ownership of the PLEs. The overall observation shows that both the male and female learners sampled developed a positive sense of ownership towards their learning environments. Further, the results indicate that learners perceived their e-portfolio based learning as their personalized learning environments. They felt responsible for the PLE, identified with it, accountable for it, and felt attached to it.

Learner control as defined under the psychological ownership theory refers to the vital concepts through which learners develop the attitude of ownership towards their learning environments. The study aims at measuring the perceived control of personalized learning environments for learners. The measurable dimensions of learner control include control of technology, objectives, design, planning, access rights, and the control of personal data. The items were applied to assess learners’ perceived control as shown in table 1.1.

Table 1.1: The mean and standard deviations of students perceived control with the use of PLEs.

Dimensions of Control Females
n = 33
n = 24
n = 57
Technology m = 2.47
sd = 1.06
m = 2.5
sd =.88
m = 2.46
sd = 1.1
Objectives m = 2.47
sd = 1.0
m = 2.5
sd =.88
m = 2.51
sd = 1.04
Content m = 2.36
sd = 1.13
m = 2.42
sd =.7
m = 2.41
sd = 1.11
Planning m = 1.78
sd =.93
m = 2.67
sd = 1.13
m = 2.09
sd = 1.17
Design m = 2.33
sd = 1.13
m = 1.88
sd = 1.33
m = 2.33
sd = 1.3
Personal data m = 2.49
sd = 1.22
m = 2.42
sd = 1.34
m = 2.55
sd = 1.3
Access right m = 2.16
sd = 1.21
m = 2.88
sd = 1.3
m = 2.53
sd = 1.35
Total Items m = 2.25
sd = 1.13
m = 2.48
sd = 1.12
m = 2.43
sd = 1.22

From table 1.1, the lowest values were posted by the female sample indicating the positive outcome of 2.25. The results evoke the researcher to ask why the female students felt more in control of the personalized learning environment. It can be shown that the application of instructional design in the master’s program shapes.

The Impact of PLEs on Learning Effects

According to the Antecedents-Consequences-Model, the learning effect is considered because of ownership and control (Attwell, 2012). The proposition that gaining a sense of control and ownership amongst the students provides a basis for building a favorable learning environment is paramount to the development of sound pedagogical processes (Attwell, 2012). The learning effects were tested based on various dimensions including the time that learners willingly engage in learning, student engagement, creativity, interest orientation, self-direction, and intrinsic motivation. Moreover, the learning effects were measured based on the tendency to indulge in collaborative learning activities social learning, and the transferability of the PLEs into future use.

Table 1.2: Statistical data of learning effects (m = mean, sd = standard deviation), n = 57; Likert scale 1-5: 1 = completely agree, 5 = completely disagree.

Learning Effects Females
N = 33
N = 24
N = 57
Time Invested m = 2.6
sd = 1.07
m = 2.58
sd =.72
m = 2.62,
sd =.99
Student engagement m = 2.78
sd = 1.3
m = 2.54
sd = 1.02
m = 2.79,
sd = 1.27
Creativity m = 2.71
sd = 1.12
m = 2.08
sd =.78
m = 2.55,
sd = 1.08
m = 2.71
sd = 1.2
m = 2.38
sd =.71
m = 2.71,
sd = 1.13
Interest orientation m = 2.42
sd =.99
m = 2.13
sd =.9
m = 2.36,
sd = 1.0
Intrinsic motivation m = 3.29
sd = 1.2
m = 2.54
sd =.78
m = 3.14,
sd = 1.15
Social learning m = 3.06
sd = 1.05
m = 2.46
sd =.78
m = 2.86,
sd = 1.02
Future application m = 2.96
sd = 1.2
m = 1.91
sd =.93
m = 2.62,
sd = 1.24
Continued use m = 3.16
sd = 1.21
m = 1.91
sd =.93
m = 2.62,
sd = 1.24
Learning transfer m = 3.4
sd = 1.2
m = 2.33
sd =.87
m = 3.04,
sd = 1.28
Learning transformed m = 3.33
sd =1.07
m = 1.58
sd =.83
m = 2.79,
sd = 1.28
Total Items m = 2.99
sd = 1.21
m = 2.26
sd = 0.88
m = 2.79,
sd = 1.18

The results show that the male sample students who invested more time to create personalized learning environments were more engaged and creative as they followed their interests. Learning on their own PLEs correlated positively with creativity and engagement. Generally, continued use (m = 3.16), and intrinsic motivation (m = 3.14) witnessed the highest values. The results indicate that the learners are unlikely to continue using their learning environments created during the course and performance was less significant than learning. On the other hand, interest orientation (m = 2.36) and students’ creativity (m = 2.55) demonstrate that the two samples headed their interests and employed creative practice in their PLEs.


The comparison of table1.0 and 1.1 reveal some key insights between learners’ perception of control and ownership. The control of content received the most positive results (2.3) while the sense of responsibility obtained the most negative results (1.1). This situation shows that the students’ control of content has little importance in the promotion of the learner’s sense of responsibility. The correlation analysis backs this elucidation. At the same time, the self-efficacy item (1.4) closely correlates to the control of the personal data item (2.7). The results of the study show that compulsory tasks and decisions on the web tools such as YouTube and Google plus, insignificant odds to regulate the learning management systems, little control, and accountability of personal data have antagonistic impacts on the learner’s perceptions of learning environments.

The results show that the control of planning and design impacts positively the students’ perception of the learning environment. This has been demonstrated by the high degree of willingness of students to invest time in learning, adhering to their learning interests, and showing a high level of creativity in the PLEs. Overall, the perception of the PLE practice is that it has the capacity of changing the students’ way of learning. In this manner, the apparent learner control of design and development, which stands for the intangible elements of the personalized learning environments, has been deemed a relevant aspect of the PLE practice and design.


This paper provides an important area of focus in modern pedagogical systems. The increasing recognition of personalized learning environments has provoked scholarly attention to investigate their impact and perceptions on the part of the learning process and the students respectively. In this regard, the present study aimed to investigate how students perceive the concepts of ownership and control of their learning environments. The study was conducted in King Saud University- College of Education, where a total of 57 students pursuing a master’s degree in computers in education, reading in instructional design and blended learning. A wealth of literature has been presented showing varied points of view of the learner’s perception of PLEs. It is indicated that the management of intangible components such as planning and design leads to the development of better learning environments as compared to the use of tangible aspects such as technical tools.

The research indicates that students are likely to gain reasonable knowledge when freedom of excellence, accountability of personal data, and suppleness of the planning processes are upheld. As a recommendation for future research, scholars should focus on studying the effects of applying the use of modern devices such as iPads, smartphones, and tablets in designing PLEs. This recommendation is based on the premise that the changing wave of technological advancement will continue to disrupt existing pedagogical systems. As the emerging generation of learners familiarizes with the new devices, the use of traditional computer-assisted instructional designs might lead to poor learning effects.


The online surveys entail questions that were utilized to measure the learners’ perceptions of PLEs on varied dimensions including control, psychological ownership and the impact on learning effects. The Likert scale was used in which respondents indicated their perceptions measured from 1 (completely agree) to 5 (completely disagree).

Survey Questions

  1. On the provided table, indicate how you perceive the use of PLEs regarding the indicated dimensions of control based on the Likert scale 1(completely agree), 5(completely disagree).
Dimensions of Control Likert Scale (1 – 5)
  1. Control of technology
  1. Control of objectives
  1. Control of content
  1. Control of planning
  1. Control of design
  1. Control of access right
  1. Control of personal data
  1. On the provided table, indicate your perception concerning how PLEs build the psychological ownership of the various dimensions listed according to you.
Dimensions of psychological ownership Likert Scale (1 – 5)
  1. Sense of responsibility
  1. Sense of self-identity
  1. Sense of accountability
  1. Sense of self-efficacy
  1. Sense of belongingness
  1. Based on the Likert Scale 1 (completely agree), 5 (completely disagree), indicate how PLEs influence the different dimensions of learning effects according to you.
Dimensions of Learning Effects Likert Scale (1 – 5)
  1. Time invested
  1. Student engagement
  1. Creativity
  1. Interest orientation
  1. Self-direction
  1. Intrinsic motivation
  1. Continued use
  1. Learning transfer
  1. Learning transformed
  1. Social learning
  1. Future application

Reference List

Attwell, G. (2012). Who owns the e-portfolio? Pontydysgu. Bridge to learning. Web.

Buchem, I., Tur, G., Hoelterhof, T., Rahimi, E., Van Den Berg, J., Veen, W.,…Mazarakis, A. (2014). Learner control in Personal Learning Environments: A Cross-Cultural Study. Web.

Chookaew, S., Panjaburee, P., Wanichsan, D., & Laosinchai, P. (2014). A Personalized E-Learning Environment to Promote Student’s Conceptual Learning on Basic Computer Programming. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 116(5), 815-819.

Kangaiammal, A., Silambannan, R., Senthamarai, C., & Srinath, M. (2013). Student Learning Ability Assessment using Rough Set and Data Mining Approaches. International Journal of Modern Education and Computer Science (IJMECS), 5(5), 1.

Kim, C. (2012). The role of affective and motivational factors in designing personalized learning environments. Educational Technology Research & Development, 60(4), 563-584.

Lee, I. (2000). Learners’ Perceptions and Learning Styles in the Integrated Mode of Web-Based Environment. Web.

Marín, V., Salinas, J., & de Benito, B. (2014). Research results of two personal learning environments experiments in a higher education institution. Interactive Learning Environments, 22(2), 205-220.

Moloi, K., Dzvimbo, K., Potgieter, F., Wolhuter, C., & Van der Walt, J. (2010). Learners’ perceptions as to what contributes to their school success: A case study. South African Journal of Education, 30(3), 475-490.

Nair, U. (2015). Soft Systems Methodology for Personalized Learning Environment. E-Learning and Digital Media, 12(1), 34-56.

Samah, N., Yahaya, N., & Ali, M. (2011). Individual Differences in Online Personalized Learning Environment. Educational Research and Reviews, 6(7), 516-521.

Wang, H., & Huang, T. (2013). Personalized e-learning environment for bioinformatics. Interactive Learning Environments, 21(1), 18-38.