As the name implies, self-regulated learning is “self-determined and active efforts to initiate activities targeted towards learning goals, to perform them effectively, to monitor progress and to adapt them if necessary.” (p. 455) Said a bit more simply, it's learners taking charge of their learning—recognizing that it's their responsibility to decide on a plan, implement that plan, and then assess both the outcomes and the process. Self-regulated learners are independent, autonomous, and self-directed.
Teachers aspire to have students who are self-regulated learners; many students are not. Teachers' efforts to help students develop self-regulated learning skills are helped when thinking about it gets beyond general descriptions to specific details, like those reported in this research. The team starts with highlights from the literature. Self-regulation of learning occurs in three phases, beginning with a preaction phase in which the learner analyzes the demands presented by the situation and the task. It's during this time that “ideal” learners set goals, build up their motivation, and make plans, selecting relevant learning strategies and marshalling the necessary resources. Next, in the action phase, the learner engages in the task, monitoring the effectiveness of the learning, adapting approaches and processes as necessary. During this phase, learners work to keep themselves motivated and positive. Finally, in the post-action phase, the learner reflects on what has been learned by completing the task and what has been learned through the process that might apply to future learning.
The order and activities of these phases makes sense, but this research team was interested in going beyond this broad knowledge in the hopes of uncovering more specific strategies. “Different learning situations typically produce different self-regulation demands for the learner, and different SRL [self-regulated learning] strategies may be suitable to different degrees in different learning situations and for different fields of study.” (pp. 456-7) To identify those learning situations and to explore which learning strategies are suitable to each, the team conducted semistructured interviews with 39 faculty from four different fields and with 69 students identified by their teachers as effective self-regulated learners.
Both faculty and students agreed on eight learning situations that demanded self-regulated learning skills: exam preparation, self-study, preparation for an oral presentation, term paper preparation, thesis writing, lecture attendance, course attendance, and internship completion. There were some field-specific learning situations, but these eight situations were common across the fields. Moreover, all of the situations were considered “demanding” in terms of the levels of self-regulation they demanded.
Researchers also asked the faculty and students participating in this study to identify the strategies that were relevant to each learning situation. Based on previous literature, their model proposed that the strategies would fall into three categories: cognitive strategies, “which the learner uses to regulate the process of knowledge acquisition” (p. 455) (examples include deep and surface approaches to learning); metacognitive strategies, which the learner uses to monitor and adapt learning activities; and resource management strategies, which include regulating motivation, time management, help-seeking, and collaboration.
There was consensus between faculty and students regarding the strategies they identified, and those strategies did fall into the categories mentioned above. Resource management strategies were mentioned more frequently than metacognitive strategies, which were identified more frequently than cognitive strategies.
This research does not offer definitive findings, but it does begin to clarify those learning situations that call for self-regulated skills, and it begins to identify the skills that are most appropriate in each situation. This adds specificity to our conceptions of self-regulated learning. It allows teachers to explore with students the different kinds of strategies needed for a learning activity like exam preparation, and how strategies to prepare for an exam are the same or different from the strategies useful in regular, ongoing study of the course content. This helps students without strong self-regulated learning skills. It also deepens the understanding of students who may be using strategies, but without a lot of awareness.
Reference: Dresel, M., et al. (2015). Competences for successful self-regulated learning in higher education: Structural model and indications drawn from expert interviews. Studies in Higher Education, 40 (3), 454-470.