What is Self Regulation?

The ability to self-regulate has been viewed as a desirable quality throughout history because of its positive affects on behavior and the acquisition of skills (Reid, 1993). The appeal of self-regulation and its positive effects on behavior and educational outcomes has prompted much research in this area. "Self-Regulation refers to the self-directive process through which learners transform their mental abilities into task related skills" (Zimmerman, 2001). This is the method or procedure that learners use to manage and organize their thoughts and convert them into skills used for learning. Self-regulation is the process of continuously monitoring progress toward a goal, checking outcomes, and redirecting unsuccessful efforts (Berk, 2003). In order for students to be self-regulated they need to be aware of their own thought process, and be motivated to actively participate in their own learning process (Zimmerman, 2001). 

Why use Self-Regulation?

Self-regulation is desirable because of the effects that it has on educational and behavioral outcomes. The use of Self-Regulation techniques are a way to actively engage otherwise passive students in their academic instruction. Students need to view learning as an activity that they do for themselves in a proactive manner, rather than viewing learning as a covert event that happens to them as a result of instruction (Zimmerman, 2001). Allowing students to take a more active role in their education puts students in the driver's seat and in charge. 

Who is Self-Regulation good for?

Self-regulation techniques are widely used. Successful people and learners use self-regulation to effectively and efficiently accomplish a task. They will regulate different strategies and monitor the effectiveness of that strategy while evaluating and determining the next course of action. Generally, successful learners already utilize various forms of self-regulation. Instruction in the use of self-regulation is typically directed towards students who are not currently using such techniques, and consequently are not successful in educational settings. Through the use of strategies and self-regulation, performance can be greatly improved. The use of self-regulation techniques assists students in performing tasks more effectively and independently. For example, successful learners will constantly check their comprehension. When successful learners read a passage, and realize that they do not understand what they have read, they will go back and reread, and question or summarize what is that they need to understand. On the other hand, when a student with learning disabilities reads a passage, and realizes that they do not understand what they have read, they tend to shut down, or just continue to read because they do not recognize the goal of reading the passage. Students with learning disabilities tend to be passive learners, often failing to evaluate and monitor their own learning, in order to compensate they allow others to regulate their learning or rely on the assistance of others to successfully complete a task. They lack these essential executive control functions, which are necessary to complete complex academic tasks independently. Components of Executive Control Process: 

1. Coordinating metacognitive knowledge - Regulating cognitive and metacognitive knowledge, understanding one's own knowledge, and thought process. 

2. Planning - Using a deliberate and organized approach to attack a task.

3. Monitoring - Assessing comprehension while progressing through a task, and checking for effectiveness, testing, evaluating and revising strategies.

4. Failure detection - While progressing through a task, detecting when there is a misunderstanding or an error is made. 

5. Failure correction - When an error is detected, going back and correcting any mistakes. Through instruction in various self-regulation techniques students with learning disabilities can be successful at "the self-directive process through which learners transform their mental abilities into task related skills" (Zimmerman, 2001). 


Different theories of self-regulation exist, but for our purposes the guidelines that these theories provide to direct interventions are more important. These guidelines are consistent with the various self-regulation interventions. The two major guidelines derived from theoretical perspectives are: 1. The behavior to be targeted has to have value to the individual intended to self-regulate that behavior. If the target behavior was not seen as valuable there would be no reason to self-regulate that behavior, it would serve no purpose. It is also important to keep in mind that the particular behavior itself may not be valuable or rewarding, but the effect that the behavior produces or the individuals' perception of the behavior may be valuable. 2. The target behavior needs to be both definable and observable. Defining the behavior specifically and objectively is essential. If the behavior is not defined in detail, it will be difficult or impossible to self-regulate. The behavior needs to be well articulated so that anyone would be able to understand the behavior being targeted, and the occurrence of that behavior can easily be observed. It does not need to be overt and observable to outside individuals, but it does need to be observable to the individual intended to self-regulate. Harris, Reid, and Graham (in press), describe four cornerstones of self-regulation: self-monitoring, self-instruction, goal setting, and self-reinforcement. We will define and describe each independently, however they are all interrelated and can be used independently or in combination. -Self-Monitoring of Attention

-Self-monitoring of Performance

-Self-Monitoring of Strategy Performance

-Implementing Self-Monitoring

-Common Questions


We often talk to ourselves. This spontaneous speech of this is referred to as private speech and serves no communicative function. It is part of normal early childhood development and tends to peak around age eight and to disappear by around age ten. Researchers realized that this private speech often served to help individuals perform tasks. These researchers utilized this phenomenon as an intervention called self-instruction in which individuals are literally taught to "talk themselves" through a task. Self-instruction uses induced self-statements. Self-instruction serves many purposes. It may aid in orienting, organizing, and/or structuring behavior. Children will use private speech to consciously understand or focus on a problem or situation and to overcome difficulties. The goal of self-instruction is to go from modeled, induced, strategic, task-relevant, private speech to covert, strategic, task-relevant, private speech.

-Functions of Self-Instruction

-Variables Which Affect Self-Instruction

-Types of Self-Instruction

-Self-Instruction Training

Goal Setting

Goal setting is a common practice among successful learners. Goals allow us to see progress that is made, enhance motivation, provide structure and focus attention, and serve an informational function. Goal setting also provides a logical "rule of thumb" for attacking a problem. In research and practice goal setting has been shown to be an influential and valuable means for improving performance. The expected and anticipated fulfillment gained by reaching or making progress toward a goal provides motivation to continue until the goal is reached or exceeded (Harris, Reid, Graham, in press). 

Properties of Goals


To use goal setting, it is important to consider the properties of effective goals. There are three critical properties of goals: 1. Specificity - Goals should be well defined and set clear standards. This provides the student with a thorough understanding of what is expected. This will also make it easier for them to gauge their progress. 2. Difficulty - This refers to how challenging the goal is for the individual. It is important to set goals at a moderate level of difficulty for the student. Goals should be set at a level of difficulty so that the student has to put forth effort and utilize resources, but are still attainable. Setting goals that can be achieved with little or no effort will not increase a student's motivation; setting goals that are too difficult will be overwhelming for students. 3. Proximity - Proximal goals are goals that can be completed in the near future. Distal goals are goals set to be completed only in the future (i.e. long-term goals). Proximal goals produce greater performance because they are more immediately attainable. Distal goals should be broken down into to several proximal goals set to reach that long-term goal.


Self-reinforcement occurs when a student chooses a reinforcer and self-administers it when criterion for performance is reached. For self-reinforcement to be successful, students should anticipate providing themselves with the reinforcer when they have reached an acceptable level of performance (after I get all my math homework done, I can go outside and play.) The reinforcer must also be readily accessible for the student to access, at least eventually. There are four steps involved in teaching children in self-reinforcement.
1. Determining standards and setting evaluative criteria - Students need to be able to understand when they have met the requirements necessary to be able to self-reinforce. For example, a student may set a goal of writing two pages of a report and when those two pages are complete they can play a video game for 15 minutes. They will need to determine their standards for writing two pages (organization, writing, revision, editing, or whatever it may be).
2. Selecting a reinforcer to be earned, and controlling access to that reward, making it only attainable after performance of the target behavior has occurred - The reinforcer needs to be something that the student can only receive after they perform the target behavior and are not able to obtain it otherwise. It cannot be readily accessible.
3. Performance evaluation to determine whether the set criterion was met - They need to be able to evaluate their performance against the set standards. For instance, using the writing example, they need to be able to evaluate their writing performance and decide if they have successfully met the standards of writing two pages.
4. Self-administration of the reward - The students need to be able to dispense, or provide themselves with, the reinforcer. This is crucial if the process is to be a successful "self"-reinforcement.


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