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Learners Communicating for Helping Students Become Self-Regulated Learners Visonary Status Applying for Learning Communities Hot 5 Did You Know? Book Review Helping Students Become Self-Regulated Learners Meet a self-regulated learner. She is someone who approaches every class with a strong belief in her ability to learn. She sets learning goals for herself, uses a number of different learning strategies to achieve those goals, is self-aware enough to change her environment if it isn’t working for her, plans her study time and sticks to her plans, is willing to ask for help, and is able to self-assess with a good degree of accuracy. Just the sort of student every instructor delights in working with. Paul Pintrich wrote the seminal article on self-regulated learners in 1995, at about the same time as Barr and Tagg’s game-changing article on the learner-centered paradigm was published. While learner-centered pedagogy focuses on the learner, it does not look at the extent to which the learner exercises control over the entire learning situation. The selfregulation movement is part of learner-centered pedagogy, but it puts control and responsibility for learning squarely in the hands of learners. Self-regulation includes behaviors, motivational aspects, cognitive aspects, and contextual aspects. The behavioral aspect of self-regulation includes such skills as the ability to observe one’s own behavior (“I’m procrastinating”). The motivational aspect would include skills such as establishing reasonable goals (“I want to study two hours a night for this course”). The cognitive aspect would include such abilities as drawing on prior knowledge (“How does this relate to the course I had last semester?”). And the contextual aspect includes such skills as clear awareness of demands (“This course is going to take a lot of time”). So if some of your students are constantly complaining that they don’t have time to finish assignments, if they approach learning passively, have beliefs about themselves that they are just not good at whatever subject you teach, are constantly surprised at their grades on tests, what is to be done? Are self-regulated learners born that way? Or are there things educators can do to encourage self-regulation in their students? The answer to that question is a qualified “yes.” Students can be taught to be self-regulated learners, but many may resist the instruction. The kinds of things that students need to do to improve their self-regulation may prove too onerous for some. They must set learning goals, they must be aware of their own learning, they must know when to ask for help, they must stick to their study plans, they must think about their own thinking. Pintrich created an instrument (the Motivational Strategies Questionnaire) to evaluate students’ self-regulation, and the feedback form contains lengthy directions to help students improve their self-regulation. To improve on the metacognitive strategy of “self effort,” for example, the guide suggests that students “Keep a list of the topics that you find yourself procrastinating instead of studying for. Try to analyze why you postpone studying these topics by discussing them with other students. Talking with them may lead you to consider an approach that may help you act more quickly instead of delaying studying the material.” One might wonder how many students are willing to put in that level of effort. Still, the research is clear: there are many things that educators can do to increase students’ self-regulation. One of the most important ideas to teach students is that the ability to learn is malleable. Stanford University psychology professor, Carol Dweck, has done significant research on what she calls “mindset.” She finds that people tend to have either a fixed or growth mindset. Those with a fixed mindset believe that their ability to learn is fixed as birth and that there is little they can do about it. “I can’t do math. Never have been able, never will.” Those with a growth mindset, on the other hand, are convinced that they can learn and that their ability to learn can increase over time. And, not surprisingly, according to Dweck, those with a growth mindset tend to be more successful overall. To help students develop a growth mindset, Dweck suggests, emphasize the possibility of change, praise students for their effort, not their “intelligence” (a fixed trait), and share stories of people who have accomplished what they thought they could never do. Educators can also teach self-monitoring strategies through the use of wrappers. A wrapper is an activity that surrounds an existing assignment or activity and encourages students to 2012 think about their own Summer Issue

Summer 2012 Newsletter

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