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Teaching self-regulated learning skills

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Teaching self-regulated learning skills

The evolution of the teacher-controlled learning environment to include more self-directed online education has highlighted the need for students of all ages to develop self-regulated learning skills.

Self-regulated learning is how students regulate their own emotions, cognition, behaviour and aspects of the context during a learning experience. Examples of good self-regulation skills include good time management, the ability to rapidly select the most efficient problem-solving strategies and the ability to actively monitor emotional states such as frustration.

While these skills are essential tools for lifelong learning, they are often not explicitly taught, leading to distinct populations of students who lack independence, motivation, persistence and a positive sense of wellbeing.

In order for educators to effectively pass on these skills to their students, whether kindergarten or tertiary age, it is necessary they first understand self-regulation themselves.

Students go through three main phases when regulating their learning: planning, performance and reflection.

Planning is when students set up their goals and standards to be achieved in a certain task, session or course. This phase involves students’ perception of the learning environment – so, for example, how challenging a task is for them – but also their perception of their own abilities and motivation.

Performance is when students are actually engaging with their learning experience. During this phase students monitor their learning, usually comparing their progress against standards set in the planning phase.

Reflection is when students think about and evaluate their learning experience. This includes reflecting on feedback and mentally storing ideas and concepts to use for future learning.

These phases are not necessarily linear, and students may go through many cycles across a learning task.

Given the importance of self-regulated learning, it is vital that educators are explicitly teaching these skills and providing strategies for students to apply when learning. Part of this teaching process should include:

  1. Explaining the usefulness and importance of self-regulated learning skills to students
  2. Explicitly teaching students self-regulated learning strategies
  3. Supporting students to identify when and where they can use self-regulated learning skills

If we agree that these types of learning skills are necessary to develop lifelong learners, then teachers need solid examples of exactly how to teach students these types of skills.

Whole school policy needs to allow teachers the freedom to teach self-regulated learning skills rather than content only. Without homogeneity within the school, there is not enough support for teachers to deliver lesson plans related to self-regulated learning.

Research coming from Europe (Dignath-van Ewijk and van der Werf, 2012) based on teachers’ beliefs and behaviours relating to self-regulated learning has shown that teachers believe in the value of teaching self-regulated learning skills to their students, but do not know how to.

Profession development for teachers on how to teach self-regulated learning skills is desperately needed, so tools, resources and strategies are available for them to utilise in the classroom.

The Science of Learning Research Centre – a nationwide collaboration between researchers in education, psychology and neuroscience dedicated to understanding learning – has a particular interest in investigating all aspects of teaching self-regulated learning.

Some of its studies look at the difficulties teachers face in incorporating content outside of what is listed in the curriculum (Jayawardena et al, 2016) and the benefits of self-regulated learning abilities in teachers (Sautelle et al, 2015). More recently, ongoing studies focus on the importance of productive confusion and sustained attention in self-regulated learning.

There is also a research study open to participating Victorian government schools focusing on ‘Realising the Potential of Australia’s High Capacity Teachers’, which contains a substantial amount of pedagogical training on understanding and teaching self-regulated learning skills to primary and secondary schools students (Grades 5-8).

Schools wishing to participate in 2017 in the research study mentioned above can contact Dr Susan-Marie Harding at for more information.


Dignath-van Ewijk, C., & van der Werf, G. (2012). What teachers think about self-regulated learning: Investigating teacher beliefs and teacher behavior of enhancing students’ self-regulation. Education Research International, 2012.

Jayawardena, K. P. R., van Kraayenoord, C. E., & Carroll, A. (2016). Promoting self-regulated learning in science: A case study of a Sri Lankan secondary school science teacher. International Journal of Information and Education Technology, 7(3), 195-198.

Sautelle, E., Bowles, T., Hattie, J.A.C., & Airifin, D. (2015). Personality, resilience, self-regulation and cognitive ability relevant to teacher selection. Australian Journal of teacher Education, 40(4), 54-71.

Think about your own classroom practice. Do students understand the goals and standards expected for each learning task? Do you set aside time for student reflection?

Karen 15 October 2016

Self-regulated learning in the primary–secondary schooling transition years offers a proactive pedagogical approach to classroom behaviour management beyond the focus on students’ behavioural compliance towards an aspiration to empower students and teachers for lifetime learning.

Lyn Bird 18 October 2016

I totally agree with your points. I completed my PhD in 2010 looking at how to develop young students as self regulated learners. Since then I have developed interactive teacher modules on SRL practice and goal setting, monitoring & reflection which are used by my staff as effective practice professional learning. SRL is the basis of all learning & a life long skill.

navneet 07 April 2017

I feel SRL is the best approach for learning and it should be the part of school curriculum. I need to look into a lesson plan based on SRL so that i can make my own lessons in mathematics for high school students. Kindly share a lesson plan based on Self regulated learning.

Parke Trann 25 July 2017

I agree that as our education becomes more connected to and reliant on online technologies that all learners need to become more versed and skilled in the area of self-regulated-learning (SRL).  Further, as pointed out in this article, many educators believe that they lack the professional development and knowledge about SRL to adopt it into their classroom pedagogy.

Though this article may oversimplify SRL into three components, planning, performance and reflection, it does clearly provide a compelling argument that it needs to be taught in schools.  School administrators should be looking at new avenues to support student learning.  Though SRL is not a new trend, it is an underutilized aspect of the education tools box and administrators should be supporting their teachers in providing them opportunities to learn and implement this into the classrooms.

Locke and Latham (2006) explain that goal setting, a key component of SRL, has affect on performance , motivation and persistence.  As educators these are behavioural traits that we seek to bring out in our students, thus we should be learning how to include SRL in our planning, practice and professional dialogue.  From observations and discussions I have had with many teachers in both my school and division, goal setting, self-monitoring and student reflection on their professional learning and classroom instruction are underutilized for various reasons.  However aspects like feedback are things that we are already using but may not see the connection to SRL,  The role of feedback and its importance is in reinforcing self-monitoring and reflection, key aspects of self-regualtion (Toby and Goldsmith, 2013). 

Though the article suggests that the school divisions (and governments) should invest in training and professional development for all teachers, and I support that, a level of the responsibility should fall on the shoulders of the educators.  As a teacher, we have many opportunities to seek out professional growth opportunities and the ability to further our education.  Thus, teachers cannot sit back and continue to rely on the skills and teaching strategies that they employed when they started, but instead should model life long learning by continuing to grow professionally and seek out professional growth opportunities that will expand and challenge their skill set..  Utilizing sites like this and the many other online resources (Blogs, Twitter, and other professional networking sites) offer educators free access tho share in and discuss SRL.  As educators, we need to follow these networks, become involved and contribute to the practice in order to grow and learn about SRL principles and strategies so that we may implement them into out teaching.

Through studying about SRL, i have come to realize that some of my most successful practices are part of SRL. By enabling students to realize the value in goal setting, monitoring their progress, focusing their energy to learning rather than grades, providing them with immediate and meaningful feedback and conferencing on regular basis to discuss their learning, my students have started to make significant gains not only in my classes, but in all their courses.  Teaching students how to learn, problem solve, collaborate and communicate?monitor their learning effectively is as important, if not more important than curricular outcomes in terms of 21st learning skills.

In closing, I support the authors call to action for teachers, administrators and educational leaders to make a shift to SRL in teaching practice.  Literature by leaders in the field of self-regulation encourage the teaching of it and clearly demonstrate that those students that have higher self-regulation skills are far more successful in achieving their goals and meeting standards.  I can say that I will be taking my knowledge of SRL to my school and sharing it, promoting it and encouraging the inclusion of it into all teachers pedagogical practice.


Locke, E., & Latham, G. (2006). New Directions in Goal-Setting Theory. Current Directions In Psychological Science, 15(5), 265-268

Tobey and Goldsmith (2013)Developing Self-Regulating Learners: The Critical Role of Feedback, Article ASC|D Express (

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