03 February 2009

Self-Regulated Learner

A self regulated learner (SRL) is one who knows what she wants to learn and be able to monitor and adjusting her learning in achieving her goals. This involves metacognition, motivation, and strategic actions. The diagram on the right is a metacognition model by Winne and Hadwin. "Metacognition is the awareness learners have about their general academic strengths and weaknesses, cognitive resources they can apply to meet the demands of particular tasks, and their knowledge about how to regulate engagement in tasks to optimize learning processes and outcomes."

The diagram looks too simple and cryptic. Starting with the 4 phases in the bottom right, it shows that the learner goes through these 4 phases in self regulated learning. These phases are not linear, that is, the learner may switch from phase 3 back to phase 1 and then to phase 4, etc. In any case, here is a simplistic explanation of the diagram. After realizing what task is to be learned (phase 1), the learner checks with the external and internal conditions (external conditions are conditions external to the learner, like the time / resource, etc. available, and internal conditions are the motivational factors, beliefs of the learners, etc.), the learner engages in some operations to learn what needs to be learned. In the process of learning, she compares the expected Standards she have constructed (e.g. hitting the golf ball straight, or solving a differential equation), and the Products (or results) she is experiencing (e.g. the golf ball went to the left, or the answer to the solution of the differential equation is different from the answer in the textbook), and this results in the Cognitive Evaluations. The learner then may need to revise the goals and plans (Phase 2), repeat the process, or study and find other tactics (Phase 3), and through further adaptions of these learning processes, continue to evaluate the Standards (which may also be revised), and further compare with the Products of her learning.

In computing, the task that students usually encounter is in the from of creating a computer solution for a problem. The usual tactics we provide the students in their learning include: lecture / lab materials, textbook, previously solved problems, google, etc., and students may explore all these in their learning. Learning goals are useful especially if learning goals are constructed in the form of a semantic map so students can refer back the supporting learning goals so they can reassess whether they have learned these to continue. This is also part of self-regulated learning. In any case, students often find themselves "stuck" in their assignments. What other ways can we help them get "unstuck" so they can continue in the process of self-regulated learning?


Winne, P., Perry, N. (2000). Handbook of Self-Regulation. Edited by M. Boekaerts, P.R. Pintrich, M. Zeidner. Academic Press.

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