Self-regulated learning (SRL)

I have started a new course in our LET studies called Self-regulated learning. In one of my previous post I talked about how during my studies I have noticed myself constantly observing, regulating and reflecting. I observe the learning environment, my own emotions and motivation, other student’s behavior and emotions, the teachers’ agenda and perhaps even the hidden agenda (what does the teacher want us to learn in addition to the obvious, that is, the facts about a certain subject). All this is connected to self-regulation and self-regulated learning, into which I get to dig deeper in the coming weeks.

So, my upcoming posts will be concentrated on SRL, and I’ve chosen to use a certain structure in all the post concerned, as this will reflect the tasks we have been given on the course: to plan our work, find three main points from given articles, two ICE notes from lecture, and finally reflect on our learning process.


Planning phase

Describe your solo phase task. What topics and concepts are related to your task? Set a goal for this work period. How confident are you that you will achieve your goal?

The idea on our Self-regulated learning -course is to read the given articles, and try to define and describe three main concepts from each article, and also to attend lectures about SRL and make two ICE notes per lecture. The main concepts from the articles and lectures should be written in the blog, and also the personal learning process reflected on.

The course starts with a lecture and articles that describe what is SRL, so the basics. I assume that I will encounter definitions of SR and SRL, discussion about cognition, metacognition but also how emotions and motivation is central in SRL. I also suspect that learning strategies are dealt with in the lecture and articles, as well as historical development about the view on SRL and past and  present trends in research of SRL.

The hardest thing, I suspect, is to read the articles. So I plan to read an article per day and make notes. However, if there is a long or difficult article, breaks in-between reading would be a good thing, so I have time to digest the information. I plan to check from my notes if I can explain the most important aspect of the articles, and if there seems to be some unclear issues, I  go back on that issue again. I know it’s going to be tough, especially as I’m not used to reading scientific articles, but I’m determined to try.

Three main points from the articles

Boekaerts, M. and Corno, L. (2005). Self-Regulation in the Classroom: A Perspective on Assessment and Intervention.

1. About the definiotion of SR and SRL. There is really no one simple and all-inclusive definition of self-regulation or self-regulated learning. Likewise, there is not a single SR model in education, but several different views that highlight different aspects of SR. According to Pintrich (2000), Corno emphasises volitional aspects of SR, whereas Winne emphasises the cognitive aspects of SR, and McCaslin and Hickey emphasize the socio-cultural aspect of SR. There are however some aspects of SR that the models agree upon: self-regulated students are active in generating meaning and regulate their thoughts, feelings and actions which in turn affect their learning and motivation. Similarly, models assume that different constraints, such as biological, developmental, contextual, and individual difference, may interfere with or support regulation. The theorists agree that students have the capability to make use of standards to affect their learning, and to set their own goals and sub-goals. Finally, all theorists assume that personal or contextual characteristics are not directly linked to achievement; self regulatory activities that students use to reach learning and performance goals lead to achievement.

Boekaerts notes that for the most part, theorists in educational psychology narrow the scope of students’ capability to self-regulate through a focus on the academic side of education, namely on learning and achievement goals. The scope of SR has been restricted to the construct of “self-regulated learning” (SRL) which highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of the SR models that have been developed in educational psychology.

2. Bearing the above mentioned in mind, Boekaerts in her dual processing self-regulation model distinguishes SR as serving different purposes: she describes how learning goals interact with well-being goals.

Boekaerts  proposed a model of SR in which students face two priorities in classroom learning: to 1) achieve growth goals that increase resources (e.g. students seek to deepen their knowledge or increase their cognitive and social skills) and to 2) maintain emotional well-being (e.g. to look smart and protect their ego, or they try to avoid harm and secure resources). Students strive to balance these two priorities.

arrowsIn mastery or growth process student pursuits self-chosen goals which is energised from the top down (Top-Down Self-Regulation) by motivation such as personal interest, values, expected satisfaction, and rewards. The SR is top down also because students’ adopted learning goals steer the process. When SR is triggered by cues from the environment it is bottom up (Bottom-Up Self-Regulation). Boekaerts’ model posits that students become concerned with emotional well-being when environmental cues signal that all is not well and that resources have to be redirected.

A search for well-being implies that students are more concerned with maintaining or restoring positive feelings than with the pursuit of growth goals. However, bottom-up SR is not maladaptive when it functions to prepare the student for learning. There are different types of coping strategies that student can use when he/she feel troubled, such as seeking social support and problem solving, which are viewed as adaptive. Contrasting to these are strategies such as aggression, avoidance, denial, and passive behavior which can be viewed as maladaptive. However, for the student these kinds of strategies can be adaptive if they succeed in restoring their well-being.

Boekaerts concludes that students who are faced with chronic stressors such as learning and emotional disabilities primarily use SR processes to maintain and restore well-being. Self-regulated learning, in contrast, develops when student’s are engaged in a purposeful manner in solving  complex problems and dealing with challenging tasks in any given subject matter.

3. Volitional strategies: As described by Corno (2001), volitional strategies such as time and resource management, prioritising goals and marking completed tasks are important in school as well as in life in general. Vermeer, Boekaerts, and Seegers (2001) also found that in difficult situations students’ willingness to maintain learning intentions and persist toward learning depends on their awareness of and access to volitional strategies. When students have access to well-refined volitional strategies which are manifested as good work habits, they are more likely to 1) stay on the growth track (i.e. volition strategy use supports top-down SR) and 2) get off the well-being track when a stressor blocks learning (i.e. volition strategy use helps students recover from maladaptive forms of bottom-up SR).

Zimmermann, B. J. (1989). A Social Cognitive View of Self-Regulated Academic Learning.

1. Triadic reciprocality model is very central in social-cognitive theory. The model was developed by Albert Bandura and it explains human behavior. From social-congnitive theory point of view SRL is not determined merely by personal processes; these processes are assumed to be influenced by environmental and behavioral events in reciprocal way. (However, reciprocality does not mean symmetry in strength between them.)

Triadic reciprocality

Personal determinants are peoples knowledge, beliefs and values that influence their behavior. A person’s behavior causes how they are reacted to by others (environment). Environment in turn, such as social interaction, can alter personal characteristics or behavior. Personal characteristics of a person (e.g. age, gender, race) can also elicit reaction from the environment without regards to the behavior of the person.

Here’s a classroom example of triadic reciprocality to make it clearer. In the classroom a teacher presents a lesson to the class, and students reflect on what the teacher is saying. Here the environment influences students’ cognition, a personal factor. Students who don’t understand a point raise their hands to ask a question. Here personal factors influence behavior. So, the teacher reviews the point. Here behavior influences environment.

2. Self-efficacy according to Bandura refers to “beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.” More simply, self-efficacy is what an individual believes he or she can accomplish using his or her skills.

I think i can 2

Social cognitive theorists assume that self-efficacy is a key variable affecting self-regulated learning.  Students with high self-efficacy have displayed better quality learning strategies and more self-monitoring of their learning outcomes. Social cognitive theorists assume that self-regulation composes of three classes of sub-processes: self-observation, self-judgment, and self-reaction. These performance-related subprocesses are assumed to interact with each other in reciprocal fashion.

Among the three major types of influence, self-efficacy is considered a key personal (i.e., self-) influence. Self-observation, self-judgment, and self-reaction are depicted as major categories of performance-related influence. Two major classes of environmental influence are the physical context and social experience. In accordance with social cognitive theory, the major types of personal, behavioral, and environmental influence are assumed to be interdependent.

Self-regulated learning is never an absolute state of functioning but rather varies in degree. When a learner can exert strategic control over each of the three types of influence (i.e. personal, behavioral and environmental), he or she can be described as self-regulated.

3. Self-Regulated Learning Strategies: Bandura ascribes much importance to a learner’s use of self-regulation strategies. In his view, applying the strategies provide a learner with valuable self-efficacy knowledge. This knowledge, in turn, is assumed to determine which strategies the student selects to use.

The purpose of each strategy is to improve students self-regulation of their (a) personal
functioning, (b) academic behavioral performance, and (c) learning environment, so these strategies are closely tied to Bandura’s triadic reciprocality model.

Bandura has distinguished the following strategies:

  • Self-evaluating (students evaluate their progress and quality of work)
  • Organising and transforming (students rearrange their instructional material to improve learning)
  • Goal-setting and planning (students set themselves goals and subgoals, and schedule their tasks)
  • Seeking information (students seek additional information for example from internet)
  • Keeping records and monitoring (students for example take notes of lectures, reading materials etc.)
  • Environmental structuring (students try to make the environment such that it makes learning easier, for example a quiet place to read)
  • Self-consequenting (students imagine or arrange themselves a reward after completing a task or reaching a goal, or a punishment if not)
  • Rehearsing and memorising (students try to memorize the material)
  • Seeking social assistance (students ask for help from teachers, peers or other who could help)
  • Reviewing records (students read notes, textbooks or tests to prepare for next class or test for example)

The strategies of organizing and transforming, rehearsing and memorizing, and goal setting and planning focus on optimizing personal regulation. Strategies such as self-evaluation and self-consequences are designed to enhance behavioral functioning. The strategies of environmental structuring, seeking information, reviewing, and seeking assistance are intended to optimize the students’ immediate learning environment.

Hadwin, A.F., Järvelä, S., & Miller, M. (2011). Self-regulated, co-regulated, and socially-shared regulation of learning.

1.  Defining regulation, SRL, CoRL and SSRL: In the article Hadwin, Järvelä and Miller disclose that defining and operationalising regulation, self-regulation, co-regulation and shared-regulation is not consistent. In their perspective regulation of learning is

  • intentional and goal directed
  • metacognitive
  • social
  • learners regulate behavior, cognition, and/or motivation/affect
  • challenge episodes invite strategic regulation of learning.

SRL refers to learner’s planning, monitoring and regulating of congnitive, behavioral, motivational and emotional processes towards completing an academic task or goal. In self-regulation the environment affect  how individual adopts, develops and refines strategies, monitors, evaluates, sets goals, plans, and adopts and changes belief processes. SR occurs in independent, cooperative and collaborative tasks. It changes knowledge, beliefs and strategies that the individual uses, but it also changes the environment (structures and conditions).

CoRL is temporary coordination of self-regulation among self and others. Co-regulation appears in social interactions to mediate temporarily regulation (strategies, monitoring, evaluations, goals setting and motivation). Co-regulation is jointly negotiated, though recognising that each person brings different kinds of self-regulation challenges and expertise to a social interaction that affect the temporary regulation. So in co-regulation the individual is seen as seeking to affect other and is being affected by others with the intention to achieve their goal. Co-regulation occurs in tasks which are designed to have solo, cooperative and collaborative products.

SSRL is interdependent and collectively shared regulatory process. In shared regulation the group employs common strategies and tactics (actively construct strategies and beliefs, monitor, evaluate, set goals, and plan together) to control challenges together. Shared regulation occurs in co-operative and collaborative tasks.

2. About research in SRL, CoRL and SSRL. Research about SRL has relied much on self-report instruments and performance measures and investigate the influence of social factors in individual self-regulation at a single point in time. It has been critiqued that these measures may fail to capture the fine and dynamic adaptations that learners make within and across studying sessions. Consequently, contemporary researchers have started to explore methods (such as think-aloud method and computer trace data) that would better capture the cyclical nature of SRL as it acts with social contexts.

In CoRL research, discourse analysis and observation of dialog and transactions between dyads has been dominant. These studies have given information about how interactions support, press, pull or create affordances for the gradual emergence of SRL process. Research has demonstrated the emergence of alternative multi-method approaches to uncover co-regulatory processes. For example, a study conducted by Hadwin, Oshige, Miller and Wild (2009) acknowledges that tasks are dynamic cultural tools that change and develop through student – teacher interaction. The study shows that one measure of co-regulation of task understanding  could be the calibration between student – teacher perceptions of academic tasks with improved calibration demonstrating more productive co-regulated learning between student and teacher.

Hadwin, Järvelä and Miller disclose that in contrast to CoRL research, understanding SSRL demands macro-analytic or combination approach to understand the learning context and how it evolves over time. Social interactions are contextualised in larger episodes to capture regulatory processes as they surface over time. For example, researchers can concentrate on examining the learning episode from the start of the task to the point in which the group’s shared goal is constructed. In general, SSRL research has two promising approaches for determining how groups collaboratively set goals, monitor, evaluate and regulate: examining larger episodes of data across events and examining calibration among individual representations of shared regulatory processes.

3. Issues to consider in future research.  Hadwin, Järvelä and Miller propose five key issues that should be given careful consideration in the future SRL, CoRL and SSRL research:

  • clearer and more consistent use of the terms
  • clearly identify the regulatory process and construct that are investigated
  • concentrate on investigating social aspects of regulation of learning of individuals and groups when they confront a problem
  • investigate how regulation changes in time, that is, how regulation adapts and changes from challenge episode to another, or from task to another
  • how successful SRL, CoRL and SSRL can be optimized to promote the most successful team work, and especially to find out which are efficient instructional interventions that promote co-regulatory and shared regulation prosesses.

ICE Notes from lecture

IDEA: Think about what kind of ideas and thoughts the material evokes in you? What is the idea or thought you think is important and meaningful for you. CONNECTION: Make connections between what you have read and what you already know. Activating the prior knowledge between ideas. What are the key concepts that are related to this phenomenon? EXPAND the perspectives to the topic by considering real life examples, what it could be in practice or how could you use these skills or knowledge for example in your work contexts.

ICE note 1:

On our lecture our professor Sanna Järvelä said that self-regulated learning can be learned, teached, controlled and it’s lifelong. She also talked about experimenting one’s own learning. So self-regulated learning can be practiced and improved, and further more, when you understand what SRL is, you can also teach it to others. I realised that this is exactly what we are doing on our Self-regulated learning – course; we are practicing our SLR. Our weekly solo tasks have been structure in a way that it follows the SRL cycle (see Winne and Hadwin’s model in the picture below):

Winne model

We are planning and setting goals on a weekly basis, when studying we are applying learning strategies that we posses at the same time monitoring and controlling our progress, and finally evaluating and reflecting on our success after which we can adjust our plans, goals and strategies for the next week. This way we are experimenting on our learning, and becoming better self-regulated learners.

Learning does not stop after you graduate, you keep on learning new things in for example work life as well. So learning is life-long, and being a good self-regulated learner, you can benefit from that in your work and free time as well as you can apply the same SRL model; planning and setting goals, applying strategies, adapting and regulating.

ICE note 2:

SR is important in collaborative teams also. In collaborative teams three types of regulation is used: self-regulation, co-regulation and socially shared regulation. I think that if you are skillful in self-regulation, you are able to not only monitor, evaluate and regulate your own emotions, motivation and behavior, but also of others in the group. This in turn, I think, can help the collaborative work to be successful.

Today’s work life and business is very much about collaborative expertise – people join forces to solve complex problems, to find novel solutions and create innovations. But I wonder how many people are aware of their self-regulation processes in work life, and is there a chance to help people come aware of self-regulation processes and self-regulated learning. In many if not in most companies Development Discussion are held with the employees to enhance their development. Development goals set in the discussion for the employee usually and primarily come from the company’s strategy and also secondly from the employees personal wishes and needs for development. But how does Development Discussion actually help employees to develop and learn new things? I think that in most cases they merely give employees goals to achieve, but it’s up the the employee him/herself to achieve the goals the best they can.

This is of particular interest of mine of how people learn and develop in work life. So far in my studies I have not come across much information or research of SR or SRL in work life among employees, so this would be an interesting subject to study and learn more about.


Recall your Solo phase planning. How well did you succeed? Why? Describe one challenge that you had during your task performance. What did you do to manage with the challenge you faced? What would you do differently next time?

The schedule I made for myself did not go as planned, as my 4-year-old son fell sick, and was in fever at home for five days. I had planned to read the articles during daytime when my son should have been at daycare. So, my planned schedule failed miserably, and I also found the articles to be long and hard, and I really had not enough time to digest all the information in them.

What I did, I prioritized my tasks, skimmed the articles to try and find the most important aspects in them, and concentrated on reading those parts in the articles in particular. Recognising my limitations, in this case related to not having enought time to read all the articles in detail, helped me to rescope my work in deciding to skim the articled to find the aspect that are most relevant for me. Note that the most important aspects in the articles for me might not be what others found, or even what the writers of the articles find to be most important. But I try to look at the articles from my point of view, and find what is important for me at this point of my studies. I recognise that there are issues that might be useful for me at a later point in my studies (for example different research methods discussed, that might be useful for me when I’m writing my thesis), and I know that I can return to the articles and read them again, perhaps from a different perspective, as I have gained more knowledge about SRL, and then perhaps view some other issues in the articles more important and meaningful for me.

I think that learning to read scientific articles in general and from the point of view that is meaningful to you is important in research in academia. There are so many articles that you simply cannot read all of them in detail. You have to learn how to skim them, and from some of the articles you might just want to read parts, and when you detect the articles that are most important regarding your work, you can concentrate on reading those articles in detail.

One thing I still want to reflect on is the learning strategies. Looking at the list of learning strategies that Bandura has distinguished, I can recognise myself setting goals and planning in the beginning of the task and also during it, self-evaluating during the task and then resetting goals and re-planning, seeking additional information from internet on unclear theoretical concepts, keeping records of articles I read and the lecture I attended, environmental structuring when arraging a quiet place to read at home (asking my husband to care for the children while I try to study), self-consequenting (usually of having a coffee break after reading a part from the article), and reviewing records, that is, my notes from articles and the lecture now while writing this blog post.

So, I’m pretty happy with my learning strategies, and hope to have more time to concentrate on studying than I did during this first task. Next week I’m going to do the same thing, that is, schedule my work (both in this and other courses) and prioritise my tasks (both related to the courses but also other things I have to manage in my life).



Boekaerts, M. and Corno, L. (2005).Self-Regulation in the Classroom: A Perspective on Assessment and Intervention. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 54 (2), pp. 199-231.

Hadwin, A.F., Järvelä, S., & Miller, M. (2011). Self-regulated, co-regulated, and socially-shared regulation of learning. In B. J. Zimmerman & D. H. Schunk (Eds.),Handbook of self-regulation of learning and performance (pp. 65-84). New York, NY: Routledge.

Zimmermann, B. J. (1989). A Social Cognitive View of Self-Regulated Academic Learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 81, No. 3, pp. 329-339.


About kaipihla

A student in Learning, Education and Technology Master's degree program in University of Oulu, Finland.
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