What is Self-regulated Learning?

“Self-regulated learning” is a very fancy-sounding term. Like much “educationese” it can cause those who are in the classroom to glaze over and think “here comes some new fad that they want us to teach kids!” For those outside the classroom, it is another example of the almost impenetrable jargon that separates the field of education from the everyday life of most people.

But the concept of self-regulated learning is much simpler and much more universal than it may sound. At its core, when people regulate their learning, they understand what they are trying to learn, they are aware of what part of the topic they understand and what parts are new to them, and they manage their time and resources in such a way that they can effectively learn what they need to learn in order to be successful. When explained this way, it is easy to see that, yes, of course we want that for all students. As adults and teachers we have to do this sort of thing all the time. When the new interactive whiteboard is installed in my classroom, I will have to figure out what parts I understand (perhaps using programs like Microsoft Word or PowerPoint), what parts I don’t understand (perhaps how to flip back and forth from a “whiteboard” to my computer desktop, or how to calibrate the pen when it doesn’t line up with the cursor on the screen), and how I’m going to bridge the gap (call the tech specialist for help, find video tutorials, etc.).

And this is what we want for kids! We want them to know what they are trying to learn. We want them to know when they “get it” and when they don’t. We want them to be able to manage their time, their space, their resources, and their own mental conversations in such a way that they can be successful as they navigate school. We want students to leave school and enter the work world ready to engage in hard work. We want them to understand how to be a self-starter and what to do when they get stuck (and no, the answer isn’t to call your teacher).

student at a desk using a tablet computer

With this series of blog entries, I will explore this concept of self-regulated learning and discuss ideas for bringing it to life in the day-to-day world of your classroom. In the next entry, I will discuss why giving students choice in the classroom is so important and how it impacts their ability to be self-regulated. I will also give some tips on how to create more choice in your classroom without driving yourself crazy. In the meantime, what are your own experiences with learning to be self-regulated?