55 Self-Regulated Learning 

Self-Regulated Learning

Self-Regulated Learning (SRL) theory is defined as “the degree to which students are metacognitively, motivationally, and behaviorally active participants in their own learning processes” (Zimmerman, 2013). In other words, this model provides insight into what factors help learners take an active role in their learning.


Zimmerman (2013) is a social-cognitive researcher who has done extensive work on developing SRL models. Social cognitive learning theories work from the assumption that learning behavior occurs through an interaction of personal characteristics and environmental factors. According to Zimmerman (2013), SRL can be viewed as a cyclical model with three phases. Within each phase, there are two categories of self-regulatory processes:

  • Forethought: The self-regulation processes used in preparation for efforts to learn, focuses on improving learning.
  • Task Analysis (goal setting, strategic planning)
  • Self-Motivation Beliefs/Values (self-efficacy, outcome beliefs, task interest/value, goal orientation)
  • Performance: Processes used during efforts to learn, focused on self-control and self-monitoring.
  • Self-Control (self-instruction, imagery, attention focusing, task strategies, environmental structuring, help-seeking)
  • Self-Observation (metacognitive monitoring, self-recording)
  • Self-Reflection: Processes used after efforts to learn have concluded, focused on optimization of reactions to those efforts. These self-reflections influence forethought processes, beginning the cycle again.
  • Self-Judgment (self-evaluation, causal attribution)
  • Self-Reaction (self-satisfaction/affect, adaptive/defensive)

Research on SRL shows that self-regulation is strongly correlated with student achievement/performance. Effective self-regulators (proactive learners) tend to engage in quality forethought and performance phases behaviors. Less effective self-regulators (reactive learners) tend to engage most in the self-reflection phase processes. Self-regulation can be accurately assessed through observations by teachers of overt behaviors as well as by students using self-report (Zimmerman, 2013). 

Implications for Instruction

Understanding and supporting self-regulation through instructional strategies can help learners persist and succeed in their learning goals in low-supervision, high-distraction environments, as is the norm for most post-secondary students (Kornell & Finn, 2016, Zimmerman, 2013).


Zimmerman (2013) suggests there are four levels to regulation with implications for instruction:

  • Observation: Learner observes modeling of the skill/knowledge by a social peer, seeing positive feedback on peer performance. Implication: Instruction could incorporate models/examples of what success looks like
  • Emulation: Learner uses a model to engage in learning, which is reinforced if the model provides guidance, feedback, and positive social reinforcement, Implication: Instruction might include structured guidance in task steps, consider social/collaborative opportunities
  • Self-Control: Learner self-regulates in new situations without a direct model, and is aided greatly by structuring task, Implication: Instruction might ‘chunk’ content and learning tasks strategically
  • Self-Regulation: Learner independently applies and adapts strategies, self-efficacy is an important driver of regulation, Implication: Instruction might address sources of efficacy with regular opportunities for feedback and improvement as part of the evaluation policy and assessment design

In the Library/References 


Kornell, N., & Finn, B. (2016). Self-Regulated Learning: An Overview of Theory and Practice (J. Dunklosky & S. K. Tauber, Eds.). Oxford Handbooks Online. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199336746.013.23

Zimmerman, B.J. (2013) From Cognitive Modeling to Self-Regulation: A Social Cognitive Career Path,  Educational Psychologist, 48(3), 135-147, DOI: 10.1080/00461520.2013.794676 


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