By Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., author of Self-Regulation in the Classroom: Helping Students Learn How to Learn
Part of our Cash in on Learning series by Richard M. Cash, Ed.D. Click to read other Cash in on Learning posts.
In my previous blog post, I offered ideas on how we can start the year off right with our students. In this post, I share specific strategies for modeling the attributes of a self-regulated learner.
Self-regulation for learning (SRL) is the concept of balancing our affect (feelings), behaviors (actions), and cognition (thoughts) to be successful in learning. SRL develops in four stages:
- Modeling and observing: seeing how others manage themselves
- Copying and doing: directly applying observed strategies
- Practicing and refinement: consciously making the strategies our own
- Independence and application: unconsciously and appropriately applying strategies
Many students may lack some foundational SRL skills, due to the time spent in virtual or hybrid learning environments last school year. When students don’t have direct interpersonal interactions, it can be difficult for them to develop, refine, and successfully apply SRL strategies. Therefore, it is essential that educators overtly model effective SRL strategies.
But before we can model SRL, we need to understand the learning process so we can teach students how SRL fits in. In the classroom, there are four phases to the learning process:
- Fostering confidence for learning: To approach any learning experience, students need to feel confident that they can achieve what is expected.
- Setting and managing learning goals: Students need to be aware of the learning targets and how to achieve them.
- Monitoring and adjusting learning goals: Sometimes we may have set the goal too high or too low—students need to know that it’s okay to adjust when necessary.
- Reviewing and reflecting on learning: To set themselves up for success the next time, students need to reflect on how they felt during the learning, what they did that worked or didn’t work, and what their plan for success is for the next learning cycle.
Here are SRL modeling strategies you can use in each of the phases of learning.
Start off with teaching your students how to develop positive self-talk. What we believe about ourselves determines how we approach learning. Self-talk strategies include:
- Sharing how you, the teacher, are feeling, doing, and thinking to set yourself up to learn. For example: “I know I can do well on this activity because I’ve done something like this in the past.” Or, “I stay positive by thinking about how good it will feel to be successful on this task.”
- Sharing how you avoid a negative mindset. For example: “Even though I didn’t do well the last time, this time I know that if I keep focused, I can be successful.”
- Repeating directions to yourself so students know exactly what to do. For example: “First, I’m going to . . . Second, I’m going to . . .”
Setting and Managing a Goal
Demonstrate how to set an appropriate goal. Here are some guidelines for setting and managing learning goals.
- Keep the goal short-term. For primary students, goals might be for the next 10 to 20 minutes. For middle and high school students, goals might be for the next 45 to 60 minutes.
- Keep the goal realistic: What is possible within the time period you have chosen? Is it something that is worth achieving?
- Make sure to post timelines for assignments and discuss important points along those timelines.
- Use “think alouds” when students are working through the steps to achieve a goal or task: “Step one, I need to make sure I have all my materials in place. Step two, I need to make sure my partner is ready as well . . .”
Monitoring and Adjusting When Necessary
Knowing when and how to adjust is a lifelong skill, so demonstrate this for your students:
- Model how to respond to mistakes: “Well, that didn’t work! Next time, I’m going to . . .”
- Teach problem-solving skills and advanced ways of thinking.
- Use flexible groups to provide a support system for students.
- Model how to ask questions in your classroom: “When I don’t know what to do, I’m going to check with my study-buddy or a classmate, then I’m going to raise my hand . . .”
Reviewing and Reflecting
The best learners take a moment to review what they have done and reflect on what worked and what didn’t work. Show your students how to review and reflect on their learning:
- Share ways to check answers, find supports when necessary, and ensure work is ready for evaluation.
- Teach students to reflect on their affect, behavior, and cognition as a method for self-reflection on their learning.
- Celebrate successes (no matter how small) with students.
- Model positive self-talk to set students up for success.
Effective use of SRL strategies is important for the learning process. Students need to observe their teachers and others (1) managing emotional reactions to stay positive, (2) using behaviors to achieve successful outcomes, and (3) analyzing information, including final products, to develop a positive self-belief, self-efficacy, and greater achievement.
Let me know if you have other strategies you model for your students to help them develop self-regulation for learning.
Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., writes the monthly Cash in on Learning blog posts for Free Spirit Publishing. He has given hundreds of workshops, presentations, and staff development sessions throughout the United States and internationally.
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