Self Regulation Theory in Education
What is self-regulation?
Self-regulation is a process whereby students activate and sustain cognitions, behaviors, and effects that are systematically oriented towards attaining their goals.
Self-regulation involves a process that a student uses to attain his or her goals in the process consists of activating cognition, behaviors, and effects.
This can be a complicated process, especially when we try to figure out how it interacts with the students’ motivation.
This self-regulation process could be thought of in three phases.
- The Forethought Phase
- The Performance Phase
- The Self-Regulation Phase.
Forethought Phase of Self-Regulated Learning
The forethought phase involves the self-regulatory processes that happened before person acts. So, it involves things such as analyzing the task and setting goals in planning strategically.
One of the things that students should do before they act is to set goals that are decided on specific outcomes they want for their learning or performance.
For example, a learning goal would be to learn how to write a good topic sentence in an essay, learn how to solve a math problem involving derivatives or finish a course assignment by midnight.
Effective goals are specific, challenging, and attainable in the short term.
In other words, having a goal to graduate from college is a good goal to have, but it’s a long-term goal if you’re a sophomore in college.
Therefore, a shorter-term and more effective goal would be to understand the concept of friction in a physics course.
Effective students also engage in strategic planning and the following steps;
Selecting Strategies; Strategic planning involves selecting strategies that will enhance the learning processes.
Sequence Strategies; After selecting strategies, effective learners decide how to sequence them in ways that will best enhance learning.
For example, to learn the friction concept, my strategy might be to attend a class on the topic, then read the textbook section on friction, and then solve problems in the textbook related to friction.
Or I might decide to sequence the strategies differently, read the textbook first, then attend class, and then solve the problems.
The critical point here is that this is a conscious process that I think about in the forethought phase before implementing the strategies.
Effective Self Regulated Learning Strategies
Self-Instruction; Another self-regulatory strategy that has shown to be effective is self-instruction. Self-instruction involves talking aloud while engaging in a task.
Students have been shown to learn more when they talk through how to proceed.
For example, I might talk about the steps involved in adding fractions.
Imagery: Another effective strategy is to use imagery, which involves creating pictures in your mind.
Athletes can use imagery to imagine themselves successfully completing important aspects of their sport.
For example, basketball players can imagine themselves shooting free throws during a game.
Imagery can also be used in academic subjects, for example, by imagining scenes described by the author of a book or creating an image of friction by thinking of someone pushing a block on a piece of sandpaper.
Environmental Structuring; Another effective strategy is environmental structuring, which involves optimizing the immediate environment’s effectiveness.
For example, if someone’s mowing the grass outside while studying, you could shut the window or go to another room to minimize the noise because it can interfere with your concentration on the material you’re trying to learn.
Help-seeking; Help-seeking involves asking someone more knowledgeable for help. Knowing that you need help and who might help you is a meaningful way to be proactive in regulating your learning.
Time Management; Finally, time management is an essential strategy that involves setting specific goals and estimating how long it will take to achieve them, and monitor your progress.
These are only a few of the many effective self-regulatory strategies that are available to learners. Hopefully, they give you an idea of the types of strategies available in the forethought phase.
Sources of Motivation in the Forethought Phase of Self Regulation.
In other words, why do students decide to regulate their academic strategies?
Factors that affect students’ strategic choices include their self-efficacy beliefs, outcome expectations, task interest, and goal orientation.
Self-efficacy refers to one’s beliefs about her abilities to learn or perform a specific task at a specific level.
Outcome expectations refer to one’s beliefs about the results of his learning or performance.
Interest includes enjoying a task for the rewards inherent in the task and
Goal orientation involves one’s beliefs about the purpose of learning, whether it’s to develop one’s competence or to demonstrate one’s competence.
The Performance Phases of Self Regulation
The performance phase includes a self-regulatory process that occurs during the behavior that involves self-control and effects, attention, and action.
Here many of the same strategies are discussed in the forethought phase are also included as part of the performance phase. That’s because you first think about what you’re going to do in the forethought phase, and then while you are participating in the task or activity, you need to regulate these different strategies.
The other two strategies are shown in this performance phase are; Task strategies and interest incentives.
Task strategies include strategies that can lead to success on a specific task.
For example, if I’m trying to add fractions, one strategy is to make the same number denominators.
Interest incentives include developing strategies that make a task more enjoyable, such as challenging yourself, are making a game out of an activity, completing a sheet of questions about Native Americans might be boring to 1/4 grade student, so she might challenge herself to answer the questions without looking up the answers and completing the sheet in less than three minutes.
Self-Reflection Phase of Self Regulation
The self-reflection phase involves the self-regulatory processes that occur after the behavior and influences a person’s response to the experience, including self-judgments and adaptive self-reactions.
The self-reflections then affect the four thought processes and beliefs about subsequent efforts.
To learn, and this way, we can see that self-regulation is a cycle that involves taking in feedback and adapting.
At this point, the student can either seek out opportunities to learn more about the topic or activity or to avoid opportunities to learn more.
One source of their motivation is their self-evaluative judgments.
Here Students judge the feedback they have received, such as the amount of praise or criticism. They also judge their learning and performance against the standards that they have set for themselves, either an absolute standard or standard with different levels of success possible such as very good, good, not so good, etcetera.
Causal Attribution Judgments
Another source of motivation is Causal attribution Judgments. Students explain their successes and failures by attributing them to their effort, strategy, use, or natural ability.
Causal Attribution Example: Students who attribute their failures to effort are more likely to be motivated to continue than students who attribute their failures to natural ability. If they do that, they’ll feel helpless because they cannot change their natural ability.
Students’ self-judgments are tied to their self-reactions, such a self-satisfaction, and adaptive and defensive inferences.
After completing a task or activity, students have feelings about their performance. They may be very excited and happy, or they may be sad and angry.
Researchers have found that positive feelings can motivate students to continue their efforts to learn.
But certainly, we can all think of cases where being upset over a result can motivate us to improve our performance the next time.
Most everyone involved with sports has either heard or used the expression after a significant loss. There’s always next year, referring to the fact that they will work harder over the coming year and try to beat the other team next year.
Other self-reactions are adaptive and defense inferences; these are conclusions students make about whether they need to alter their strategies in their future attempts to learn.
When students have a high level of satisfaction, they’re more likely to make adaptive inferences for their errors by choosing more effective strategies next time.
Students who are unhappy with their performances tend to make defensive inferences to avoid negative feelings in the future.
These defensive inferences include things such as helplessness, procrastination, avoiding tasks, and apathy.
These self-judgments and self-reactions in the self-reflection phase influenced the forethought phase’s processes and thus completed the self-regulatory feedback cycle.
Zimmerman Self Regulated Learning Model
How other people can affect someone’s motivation by affecting their self-regulation
Zimmerman and Cleary (2009) have proposed four levels of regulation, namely;
- Self-control and
Observation is the first level of regulation. At this level, the students observe someone performing an activity, someone who is proficient with the skill.
This person becomes a model to the students and conveys performance standards and motivational orientations.
Students could be motivated by vicarious consequences, for example, if the model teacher praised another student’s solution to a problem.
The next level is called emulation, where the students emulate the model and get help from another person. Students copy the general pattern or style of the model’s response instead of the model’s exact actions.
So, in these first two levels, students receive help from others, more so than in the next two levels.
Self Control of Skill
The third level involves self-control of a skill where students practice activity without models around; a typical example would be students doing their homework independently.
Here, learners need to self regulate, and they can do so by setting performance levels that they want to achieve and then become satisfied only when they have achieved that level of performance.
Zimmerman Self Regulation
The final level is called self-regulation. To be self-regulated for a task or skill, students need to practice this skill in unstructured settings where there are more dynamic and contextual conditions.
Based on the outcomes, students must learn to make adjustments. Here, students can identify the conditions under which skills should be performed and adapt based on self-monitored results. Rather than thinking back to the behaviors that were modeled.
Students don’t have to go through these four levels in sequence, and just because they’ve reached the final level does not mean that they will use it all the time.
But the point of these levels is to show that self-regulation happens in a social context where other people are important in helping students develop and maintain a high level of self-regulation and motivation beliefs.
Self-Regulated Learning in The Classroom
What do instructors need to know about self-regulation?
It helps teachers know about the different phases of self-regulation and what students think about in each phase.
Instructors can help students at each stage with some of the things discussed previously.
For example, many researchers have investigated motivation related beliefs and what teachers conduce to foster productive beliefs.
Others have written books on this topic because these teaching implications are provided elsewhere.
The self-regulation empowerment Program was designed to diagnose and treat specific learning problems with underachieving and at-risk students.
This program uses explicit modules to teach students cyclical self-regulatory thought and action, such as setting goals, making strategic plans, self-monitoring their performance and processes, and making adaptive self-judgments and reactions following test performances.
Self-Regulated Learning Zimmerman
Another example; One of Zimmerman’s problems in student’s self-regulation was that some students overestimated their self-efficacy to learn.
He and his colleagues designed a self-reflection training focused on attribution made in the self-reflection phase to address this issue.
This training included giving students short daily quizzes and requiring them to recognize theirs overestimates of self-efficacy.
After correcting their errors, the students received new problems and could get more points and obtain higher grades.
Students who received this self-regulation training outperformed other students on the regular course exams.
Self Regulated Learning Strategies Instruction
Recommendations for Instructors
Some recommendations for instructors from studies such as this include providing opportunities for frequent feedback. This might include;
- Providing more opportunities for feedback and or higher quality feedback.
- Providing assistance needed for students to succeed.
- Allowing students to correct their mistakes, such as what was done in the Zimmerman study, allows students to improve their grades.
- Helping students attribute failures, toe lack of effort or improper strategies. This implication is entirely consistent with the research on attribution theory.
Again, these are only a few of the recommendations for instructors, but they’re ones that are directly related to the types of research conducted by those studying self-regulated learning.
Placing these strategies related to self-regulated learning within the bigger picture of motivating strategies that could be used by instructors to motivate students.
MUSIC Model of Academic Motivation
The music model of academic motivation provides fundamental motivation principles for instructors to consider when designing instruction.
The music model states that instructors need to ensure that students believe that they;
- Have some control over some aspect of their learning.
- Understand why the content is useful.
- Believe that they can succeed if they put forth the effort.
- Are interested in what they’re supposed to be learning and
- Believe that the instructor cares about whether they meet the course objectives.
These five fundamental principles can be remembered by using the acronym music.
The implications based on self-regulation relate to empowerment because students need to be empowered to make their own decisions, so they have the opportunity to engage in self-regulation.
It’s impossible to self-regulate if someone else is making all the regulations for you by telling you exactly what to do. By empowering students, teachers provide students with opportunities to regulate different aspects of their environment, such as their goals, strategies, how they want to manage, a time to seek help, and how to set up their learning environment.
Of course, students will need some help with all of these things initially until they become more skilled at managing them.
Self-regulation also has implications related to the music model’s success component, which states that students need to believe that they can succeed if they put forth the effort.
Instructors should provide frequent feedback, provide students’ assistance to succeed, allow students to correct mistakes, and help students attribute failures to lack of effort or improper strategies.
Self-regulation doesn’t focus on usefulness and interest in caring, although these components may support elements that instructors need to use to help foster student success beliefs.