Sunday, October 02, 2011

Beyond IQ Series # 16: Self-regulated learning

Current MACM Series Installment

This is the 16th installment in the Beyond IQ series. This installment provides the definition and conceptual overview of the broad domain of self-regulated learning, which is highlighted in the MACM model figure below. [All installments in this series (and other related posts and research) can be found by clicking here].

(double click on image to enlarge)

What do I need to do to succeed?

High motivation and positive self-beliefs are necessary but insufficient conditions for succeeding in educational environments. A bridge must link cognitive/academic abilities and motivation with actual behavior. The primary link is the presence of self-regulated learning strategies (e.g., study skills, cognitive and learning strategies, engagement, adaptive help-seeking) that allow individuals to manage efforts to accomplish their goal. Self-regulated learning behaviors can also be considered to be associated with the neuropsychological construct of executive functions.

“The term “volition” refers to both the strength of will needed to complete a task, and the diligence of pursuit (Corno, 1993).”

Self-Regulated Learning

Motivation is a necessary but insufficient condition for positive academic outcomes. Motivation results in a decision to act, a decision that then must be implemented via engagement in action. Once a student engages in the pursuit of an academic goal, volition (self- regulation) is critical to ensuring that the myriad of variables that might derail the student from his/her intent do not interfere (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002). When tasks require high information processing demands (e.g., academic learning) in the presence of distractions or competing goals, self-regulated cognitive strategies help the student maintain his/her focus on completing the intended action(s).

As defined earlier in this series, volitional controls reference conscientiousness and self regulation and the student's “state in planning for and during the action, and the controls used to sustain the intention (Gollwitzer, 1996)” (Corno, et al., 2002, p. 90). The ability to self-regulate one’s motivation, cognition, affect, and behavior is critical to adaptive development and growth (Corno et al., 2002; Pintrich & Zusho, 2002; Snow et al., 1996). Most educators would agree, and the research literature supports the conclusion that a student who can monitor and regulate their own learning in the face of distractions and frustrations learns and performs better than students who are weak in self-regulation (Pintrich, 2000c; Schunk & Zimmerman, 2003).

Key Assumptions

The theoretical and empirical self-regulation research, which includes linkages to literature in such domains as self-efficacy, academic goal setting, academic goal orientation, knowledge (domain-specific, strategy) and causal attribution, has been considerable during the past two decades (Puustinen & Pulkkinen, 2001). Briefly, literature syntheses have identified 5 primary models of SRL (advanced by Boekaerts, Borkowski, Pintrich, Winne, and Zimmerman) (Puustinen & Pulkkinen, 2001) and 7 prominent theoretical perspectives (operant, phenomenological, information processing, social cognitive, volitional, Vygotskian, and cognitive constructivist) (Zimmerman, 2001). Although a number of differing models of self-regulated learning exist, most models define academic self- regulation as “an active, constructive process whereby learners set goals for their learning and then attempt to monitor, regulate, and control their cognition” (Pintrich & Zusho, 2002, p. 250).

Most SRL models share a number of common assumptions. According to Pintrich (2000c), these assumptions are:

The active, constructive assumption, which views “learners as active constructive participants in the learning process” (p. 452).

The potential for control assumption which assumes that “learners can potentially monitor, control, and regulate certain aspects of their own cognition, motivation, and behavior as well as some features of their environment” (p. 454).

The goal, criterion, or standard assumption which assumes that “there is some type of criterion or standard (also called goals or reference value) against which comparisons are made in order to assess whether the process should continue as is or if some type of change is necessary” (p. 452).

The mediation assumption which states that “self-regulatory activities are mediators between personal and contextual characteristics and actual achievement and performance” (p. 453).

Characteristics, Processes, and Phases

Self-regulated students possess 3 major characteristics and employ 3 major processes (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002; Zimmerman, 2000). Self-regulated students typically use a variety of self- regulated strategies, believe they can perform well (positive self- efficacy), and set multiple and varying personal goals. Furthermore, “self-regulated learners engage in three important processes: self- observation (monitoring of one’s activities); self-judgment (evaluation of how well one’s own performance compares to a standard or to the performance of others); and self- reactions (reactions to performance outcomes)” (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002, p. 124). Of particular importance to students who experience repeated failure (e.g., students with disabilities) is the finding that students who receive positive feedback from their self-observations and judgments tend to continue to engage in positive goal- directed learning. Conversely, self-observation and judgment that provides frequent unfavorable evaluations and reactions increases the probability of disengagement from learning.

According to Pintrich’s (Pintrich, 2000c; Pintrich & Zusho, 2002) framework for self-regulated learning, most SRL models include 4 major phases (which do not necessarily occur in an a strict linear sequence): (a) planning and activation; (b) monitoring; (c) control and regulation; and (d) reaction and reflection. These 4 phases are conceptualized to operate in all major domains of human behavior—cognition, motivation and affect, and behavior. As a result, in the most general sense, there are at least 12 major SRL “cells” (4 phases-by-3-behavior domains). This level of conceptual breadth produces a quandary in the identification, definition, and listing of the implications of the wide array of potential SRL MACM variables. Furthermore, many of the MACM variables described previously in this series (e.g., goal setting, self-efficacy) are targets of SRL strategies. Given the resultant complexity of the SRL literature and the necessary decision to refrain from in-depth descriptions of the nuances of different underlying theories in this series, a pragmatic decision was made to only define and describe, in general terms, the 4 major phases of SRL that operate across cognitive, motivation and affect, and behavior. Examples of specific cognitive, motivation and behavior strategies are included for illustrative purposes. Finally, the relatively small amount of research on classroom-based SRL investigation is surprising given the frequent lament from teachers regarding the importance of a student’s “study habits or skills” (Pintrich & Zusho, 2002).

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