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Do you monitor and evaluate your own learning? Do you alter the way you study based on performance on assessments? If so, you are engaging in self-regulation practices and, by doing so, increasing the likelihood of academic achievement. This lesson will define self-regulation, discuss the cyclical process of self-regulation and explore methods to promote self-regulation in the classroom.

Introduction to Self-Regulation

Ideal student: ‘You look upset. That is probably not the grade you were expecting.

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Do you ever try to evaluate the way you are learning to see if there might be a better way?’Less-than-ideal student: ‘What are you talking about?’Ideal student: ‘I’m talking about the process of self-regulation. Haven’t you heard of it before?’

Self-Regulation Defined

Self-regulation is the process in which students activate, take control of and evaluate their own learning.Self-regulation is not the same as motivation.

Although motivation and self-regulation share some common elements, there are some critical differences. In motivation, choice (specifically referring to autonomy and control over the situation) does not have to be central to the construct. Self-regulation, however, requires some degree of choice or intentional selection of strategies designed to help the learner achieve a goal or behavior.Self-regulated learners:

  • Are aware of their strengths and weaknesses
  • Utilize metacognitive strategies, for example, questioning one’s learning and monitoring one’s learning, to approach academic tasks
  • Attribute their success or failure to factors within their control

Self-Regulation as a Process

Self-regulation is a cyclical process. Students who are motivated to reach a certain goal will engage in self-regulatory activities they feel will help them achieve that goal. The self-regulation promotes learning, which leads to a perception of greater competence, which sustains motivation toward the goal and to future goals. The specific stages of self-regulation will be covered more in-depth later in this lesson.

Dimensions of Self-Regulation

Researchers identified three critical dimensions, or characteristics, of self-regulation:

  • Self-observation
  • Self-judgment
  • Self-reaction

Self-observation refers to the deliberate monitoring of one’s activities. Self-observation may take the form of recording frequency, duration or quality of a behavior. Self-observation is also critical to the regulation of performance. Self-observation may also lead to higher motivation.For example, if you realize your study habits were causing you to perform poorly on these tests, you may adjust the way you study, leading to higher test grades and more motivation to continue to improve your study habits.A second critical dimension of self-regulation is self-judgment. Self-judgment refers to evaluating one’s current performance levels compared to the goal level.

The third critical dimension is self-reaction. Self-reaction refers to one’s behavioral, cognitive and affective responses to self-judgments. Self-reactions can be motivating if one believes they are making progress toward their goal.

Negative self-evaluations are not necessarily demotivating if one believes they can still make changes and progress toward their goal.

Self-Regulation Cycle

Self-regulation is a cyclical process because during the process of self-evaluation and monitoring, the learner will make alterations to strategies, cognition and behaviors that will the alter learning and ultimately, the end-goal.There are three phases of the self-regulation cycle:

  • Forethought
  • Performance (volitional) control
  • Self-reflection

Self-regulation begins with the forethought phase. This pre-action phase refers to the processes that set up the learner for action toward their goal. This phase helps the learner to establish a positive outlook, set realistic expectations and address questions such as: ‘When will the work begin? What conditions will help or hinder learning activities toward the goal?’ and ‘How often will tasks be completed toward the goal?’ Short-term and long-term goal-planning occur in this stage.The next stage is the performance- (or volitional-) control phase. This phase involves processes that occur during learning that affect action and attention.

Specific strategies are established during this stage in order to help a learner be successful. Metacognitive strategies are identified, preliminary self-evaluation occurs and motivational strategies are identified. Questions such as: ‘Am I accomplishing as much as I thought I would? Am I being distracted?’ and ‘What will motivate me to continue working?’ are common questions during this phase.The final stage is the self-reflection phase. During this stage, learners reflect on their performance.

Did they accomplish the goals they set forth? Were there hurdles? Did the learner overcome those hurdles successfully? If the outcomes were positive, the learner will continue to use the methods established to set and proceed toward future goals. If the outcomes were negative, the learner will re-evaluate and make necessary adjustments for future goals.

Influences on Self-Regulation

There are several types of influences on self-regulation.

Social and external influences are:

  • Modeling (which is observed behaviors of others that lead to academic success)
  • Verbal description (which is verbal instruction from others describing the processes that made them successful in their goal achievement)
  • Social guidance
  • Feedback

Internal influences are:

  • One’s own internal standards for success and failure
  • Self-reinforcement, for example, rewarding oneself after completing a certain amount of work or studying
  • One’s self-efficacy beliefs

Teaching Self-Regulation

Self-regulation can be taught and promoted by educators. Self-regulation is different for every learner, so a variety of strategies and motivations should be used in the classroom. Some examples of methods to promote self-regulation include:

Explicit Instruction and Direction

In this case, educators can teach metacognitive strategies to their students to make them aware of the different methods to study and learn.

For example, educators can teach students how to read and ask questions of themselves to promote comprehension and understanding of the materials. They can also show them how to create checklists and self-quizzes to monitor learning.

Indirect Modeling

Another method to promote self-regulation is indirect modeling.

Educators can use classroom activities, such as journaling, to teach students to be self-reflective.

Teach Students to Track Their Progress

Educators can also show students how to track their progress. They can show students how to chart academic progress and note any areas of strengths or weaknesses that should be addressed.

Lesson Summary

In summary, self-regulation is the process of activating, taking control of and evaluating one’s learning and behaviors. Self-regulation requires a degree of choice or intentional selection of strategies by the learner.Self-regulated learners are aware of their strengths and weaknesses; they utilize metacognitive strategies and attribute their successes or failures to factors within their control.

Self-regulation involves self-observation, self-judgment and self-reaction, and is a cyclical process with three continual phases.Self-regulation can be influenced by internal factors, such as one’s own self-efficacy beliefs, and external factors, such as social guidance and feedback from others. Educators can promote self-regulation through explicit instruction, indirect modeling and promoting practices of metacognition.

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