37 Self-Regulated Learning

Teaching Strategies: Self-Regulated Learning

Self-regulated learning refers to a self-directed process through which learners transform mental abilities into task-related academic skills (Zimmerman 2001). According to Zimmerman (2008), students are considered self-regulated to the degree of their metacognitive, motivational, and behavioral participation in their own learning process. Other research has claimed that there are three general influences on student self-regulated learning: knowledge (about themselves, subject area, the task, context in which they will be learning), motivation to learn, and volition (when students know how to resist and deal with distractions) (Worfolk, 2004).  


According to recent literature, several processes are involved in effective self-regulated learning (Kitsantas & Dabbagh, 2011):

  • goal setting
  • task strategies
  • self-monitoring
  • self-evaluation
  • adaptive help-seeking

According to Zimmerman (2008), all the self-regulatory processes are embedded into three sequential and cyclic phases:

  • forethought (task analysis and self-motivation beliefs)
  • performance phase (self-control and self-observation)
  • self-reflection phase (self-judgment and self-reaction)

The need to develop the understanding of self-regulated learning and its implementation comes from the increased student diversity in the classroom and increased diversity in modes of delivery, with a particular emphasis on information communication technologies (Cassidy, 2011). Literature states the big emphasis on information and communication technologies as a tool to support self-regulated learning (Cassidy, 2011).

Quick Start Guide – Self-Regulated Learning

As we have mentioned above, self-regulated learning refers to the degree to which students are active and responsible participants in their own learning process. Literature highlights several processes, which can be involved in effective self-regulated learning (Kitsantas & Dabbagh, 2011; Zumbrunn, Tadlock & Roberts, 2011). We suggest a general approach through our quick start guide with basic processes to shape skills for self-regulated learning. Instructors are free to implement these processes in their teaching with their own modifications.

  1. Setting goals: This is the first step in self-regulated learning. The process of goal setting specifies the outcomes and intended results. In the classroom, the goals may be as simple as getting a good grade on an exam or gaining a general understanding of the topic (Zumbrunn, Tadlock & Roberts, 2011). Goals can be short-term and long-term which can be linked to each other to enhance students’ learning (Kitsantas & Dabbagh, 2011).
  2. Task strategies: This step includes selecting strategies that will be effective for the learning outcomes. Sometimes students will lack an understanding of effective strategies for learning, therefore, the instructor’s task is to help students become comfortable with different learning strategies by providing scaffolding during strategy practice. The success and failure to learn are dependent on the use of effective strategies rather than on other uncontrollable factors such as ability (Kitsantas & Dabbagh, 2011).
  3. Self-monitoring: This process includes the observation of tracking performance and outcomes. Systematic self-monitoring will help learners to adjust their strategies optimally and compare the self-monitored outcomes with their own standard or goal (Kitsantas & Dabbagh, 2011). Instructors can encourage self-monitoring by having students keep a record of the number of times they worked on particular learning tasks, the strategies they used, and the amount of time they spent working (Zumbrunn, Tadlock & Roberts, 2011).
  4. Self-evaluation: Students are more likely to become self-regulated learners when they are able to evaluate their own learning (Zumbrunn, et al., 2011). This step refers to using standards to make self-judgments. This can help students to adjust their learning for achieving their goals. Teachers can promote self-evaluation in the classroom by helping students monitor their learning goals and strategy use, and then make changes to those goals and strategies based upon learning outcomes (Zimmerman, 2004).
  5. Help-seeking: Self-regulated learners are not always acting on their own, and often they seek help to direct their own learning. The term ‘help-seeking’ means to recognize when help is needed to accomplish a particular task, as well as being able to identify effective sources of help (Kitsantas & Dabbagh, 2011).

By engaging learners in these cyclical self-regulatory phases, students become more interested in the task and feel self-efficacious in their abilities to meet those goals successfully (Zimmerman, 2008).


This section outlines how you might begin to think about adopting the aforementioned teaching strategy and the tools you might consider employing.

  • D2L Brightspace: D2L is one of the tools an instructor may use to foster self-regulated learning. By uploading the course syllabus and course schedule in the content/course overview area, the instructor thus helps students set their goals about the course and clarifies expectations. The discussion forum can contribute to self-monitoring and self-evaluating when students share their opinion about their achievements with their peers and ask for help when they feel they need it. D2L can also be a means of scaffolding students’ self-regulated learning by housing additional material that students will need according to the instructor.
  • Lecture Capture: Lecture Capture software allows instructors to record lectures and upload them to D2L for students’ review. Later when students watch these lectures, they are getting involved in self-regulated learning, as they are in charge of proceeding through processes that constitute their learning. These processes include watching the lecture in the way they want or how many times they need (task strategy), monitoring their learning, evaluating by certain criteria, and asking or looking for more help according to their retention of material. This variation is further strengthened by allowing for repeatable mastery checks based on the concepts presented.  These master checks can be facilitated through D2L quizzes, or through interactive e-learning.
  • Interactive e-learning: Interactive e-learning software allows instructors to create engaging, flexible, and media-rich online lessons, thus helping the learner to go through the course by learning, self-monitoring, self-evaluating, going through external links, looking for more information. Formative assessment built in the course can help the learners to go through the self-monitoring and self-evaluating process of self-regulated learning.




Cassidy, S. (2011). Self-regulated learning in higher education: identifying key component processes. Studies In Higher Education, 36(8), 989-1000. doi:10.1080/03075079.2010.503269 

Kitsantas, A., & Dabbagh, N. (2011). The role of Web 2.0 technologies in self-regulated learning. New Directions For Teaching & Learning,2011(126), 99-106. doi:10.1002/tl.448 

Woolfolk, A. 2004. Educational psychology. 9th ed. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. 

Zimmerman, B. J. (2004). Sociocultural influence and students’ development of academic self-regulation: A social-cognitive perspective. In D. M. McInerney & S. Van Etten (Eds.), Big theories revisited (pp.139-164). Greenwhich, CT: Information Age.  

Zimmerman, B.J. (2008). Investigating self-regulation and motivation: Historical background, methodological developments, and future prospects, American Educational Research Journal, 45(1), 166-183.  

Zimmerman, B.J. 2001. Theories of self-regulated learning and academic achievement: An overview and analysis. In Self-regulated learning and academic achievement: Theoretical perspectives, ed. B.J.  Zimmerman & D.H. Schunk. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Zumbrunn, S., Tadlock J. & Roberts E. D. (2011). Encouraging self-regulated learning in the classroom: A review of the literature. Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium (MERC), Virginia Commonwealth University 


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