Self-Regulation of Learning in Postsecondary Education
The chapter introduces this volume on self-regulation of learning by providing a look at the soundness of the theories, techniques, and tools readily available to instructors and students that could serve to facilitate self-regulation.
Self-regulation of learning occupies a fundamental place in postsecondary education. It is hard to think about the academic success of students in our colleges and universities if the students are not self-directed and self-motivated and cannot sustain cognition, affect, and behavior in order to assist in pursuing their academic and professional goals (Bembenutty, 2009; Schunk and Zimmerman, 2008). Self-regulation of learning refers to learners' beliefs about their capability to engage in appropriate actions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in order to pursue valuable academic goals while self-monitoring and self-reflecting on their progress toward goal completion (Zimmerman, 2000). The need for self-regulation of students enrolled in postsecondary education institutions is undeniable. Consequently, the focus of this volume on self-regulation of learning is on the specific knowledge that educators and students must acquire in order to secure effective acquisition of skills necessary in our demanding society.
Objectives of This Volume
The chapters making up this volume provide a look at the soundness of the theories, techniques, and tools readily available to instructors and students that could serve to facilitate self-regulation. The authors have synthesized theory, research, and practice from multiple areas in which self-regulation has been tested and implemented successfully. I anticipate that the readers of this volume will find that these chapters are enjoyable, informative, practical, and thought-provoking for those interested in postsecondary education.
What Is Self-Regulation of Learning?
The seminal work of Albert Bandura promoted self-regulation of learning as a pivotal component of any major academic endeavor (Schunk and Zimmerman, 2008). Over the past three decades, self-regulation of learning has emerged as an important area of research helpful in explaining academic success. Researchers have made substantial progress in understanding how children and adults learn how to exercise psychological and behavioral control in order to direct efforts and remain goal-focused despite distraction. Self-regulation affects motivation, emotions, selection of strategies, and effort regulation and leads to increases in self-efficacy and improved academic achievement.
Motivational and Regulatory Processes of Self-Regulation.
Self-efficacy is related to successful academic performance. Self-efficacy refers to learners' beliefs in their ability to organize and execute actions necessary to attain specific goals (Bandura, 1997). Students with high self-efficacy may decide to continue working on an important assignment even when test anxiety arises and/or a temptation to stop calls for attention. However, students with low self-efficacy beliefs may not only succumb to temptation, they may let disruptive thoughts interfere with performance.
Self-regulation also influences outcome expectation, which refers to individuals' beliefs that their course of action will result in the attainment of desirable outcomes (Bandura, 1997). Self-regulation of learning has been found to be effective in most major areas of human development and learning, such as in school, college, and medical settings; sport and industrial organizational tasks; and direct classroom instruction as well as online instruction.
Self-regulation influences, and is influenced by, learners' intrinsic interest, which is students' enjoyment of participating in a task for the sake of learning, and by extrinsic interest, which refers to students' engagement in a task for reasons other than the task itself (Deci and Ryan, 1985; Pintrich and others, 1993; Schunk, Pintrich, and Meece, 2008). Students may possess intrinsic but not extrinsic motivation, have extrinsic but not intrinsic motivation, have both, or neither.
Self-regulation is a function of learners' future time perspective, which is individuals' perception of how far psychological distance they are from reaching future goals (Husman and Lens, 1999). Students with adaptive future time perspectives highly value future academic outcomes in spite of highly attractive immediate rewards. They indeed are able to delay gratification for anticipated valuable rewards attainable only in the future (Bembenutty, 2009). Psychologically, for them, the conflict between a small immediately available reward and a large one reached after a voluntary waiting period is less difficult because of their future time orientation. In this regard, Zimmerman (2000) observed that in light of the obstacles that exist, learners need to delay gratification.
Self-regulated learners exercise effort regulation, which is construed as students' intentions to put forth resources, energy, and time to secure completion of important academic tasks (Pintrich and others, 1993). Skilled self-regulated learners are those who generate extraordinary motivational beliefs in order to secure goal accomplishments. They are also those who, when conflicts arise between pursuing important academic goals and alternative tempting options, learn how to remain task-focused despite immediate impulses to succumb to attractive temptations.
Cyclical Processes of Self-Regulation. Zimmerman (2000) proposed that learners have the capacity to engage in a cyclical self-regulated learning process in which they establish standards, set academic goals, regulate their beliefs and motivation, select learning strategies to be used, monitor their academic progress, and evaluate their progress toward goal completion. According to Zimmerman (2000), self-regulation of learning involves three cyclical phases. Self-regulation of learning is cyclically initiated when learners set valuable academic goals, select learning strategies, and assess their feelings and motivational beliefs necessary to attain the goals.
1. Forethought phase. During the forethought phase, learners, as proactive agents, engage in self-generating goals, strategic planning, intrinsic interest on tasks, and sustaining self-efficacy beliefs.
2. Performance phase. During the performance phase, learners initiate actions by which they enact volitional control and use strategies such as self-instruction, imagery, self-monitoring, and attention control.
3. Self-reflective phase. During the self-reflective phase, the process of self-regulation ends with learners' self-reflection of their level of satisfaction with task completion and self-evaluation of task completion itself. During this phase, learners initiate self-evaluation of their performance, examine their attributions and self-reactions, and adapt their performance according to their successes or failures.
Why Is Self-Regulation of Learning Important for Postsecondary Education?
Contrary to students' experiences during elementary schools and to some degree in secondary schools, postsecondary education requires students be proactive and self-disciplined and engage in self-creation, self-initiation and self-evaluation of academic tasks. During elementary and second education, teachers and parents primarily guide students, for the most part students take classes with the same peers, homework assignments are checked often, notes to parents are often sent about good academic progress, and children are to some extent protected from distractions and competing alternatives to education. In postsecondary education, however, students are expected to exercise control of their conduct, maintain motivation, develop plans for the future, exercise delay of gratification, and put into effect goals and learning strategies.
Unfortunately, many students arrive at colleges and universities lacking basic self-regulatory skills, exhibiting difficulties such as the ability to set academic goals and failure to identify appropriate learning strategies. These limitations seriously handicap some students despite their high intelligence, academic ambitions, prior knowledge, and high school performance. Thus, those with inadequate self-regulatory skills begin their postsecondary educations at a disadvantage.
Less discussed but equally important, some students also lack the willingness and the ability to delay gratification, as indicated by their preferential choice for an immediately available, less valuable reward rather than waiting for a more valuable reward that is temporally distant, such as getting their dream job after graduation or gaining acceptance to desired graduate school or professional programs. Academic delay of gratification refers to students' postponement of immediately available opportunities that would satisfy impulses in favor of pursuing important academic rewards or goals that are temporally remote but ostensibly more valuable (Bembenutty and Karabenick, 1998, 2004). In education at the postsecondary level, it is likely that students would have to overcome greater obstacles than in elementary and secondary schools in order to be academically successful, and they may have fewer resources with which to do so. That is why self-regulation of learning is an important aspect of learning that deserves the attention of educators, researchers, and policy makers interested in promoting academic success of students in postsecondary education.
Overview of Chapters in the Volume
The contributors to this volume have done a laudable job at examining aspects of self-regulation of learning that truly need the attention of students, educators, and policy makers of postsecondary education. Four major themes guide the chapters in this volume: motivation, use of strategies, professional training, and technology.
Motivation. Lichtinger and Kaplan argue that self-regulated learning involves students' different purposes of engagement. They observe that motivation and self-regulation are important for the adaptive engagement of students in postsecondary education.
Zusho and Edwards, after reviewing the literature on self-regulation of learning and motivation through the lens of achievement goal theory, offer practical tips to educators who struggle with unmotivated learners.
Use of Strategies. Self-regulation depends on effective help seeking. On this topic, Karabenich and Dembo point out that to be self-regulated learners, students need to seek help strategically when they need it.
The chapter by Weinstein, Acee and Jung focuses on the critical roles that learning strategies play in both academic readiness and the self-regulation of learning necessary for academic success in all categories of higher education.
Bembenutty posits that the ability to delay gratification is the cornerstone of all academic achievement and education. His chapter provides a review of research on the association between academic delay of gratification and students' motivational beliefs and use of self-regulated learning strategies.
Professional Training. Middleton, Abrams, and Seaman examine case studies of student teaching interns to identify contextual factors that may enhance or inhibit their use of self-reflective practices. They argue that self-reflective practice could be considered a form of self-regulation by which individuals monitor and change their own beliefs, motivation, and behavior.
Cleary observes that interest in student motivation and self-regulation among educators and school psychologists has increased in recent years because of the impact of school-based professionals on student academic success.
Randi, Corno, and Johnson explore how preservice teachers prepare for the transition from college classroom to career through assignments and features of the learning environment designed to approximate the demands of work settings and job-related tasks.
Technology. This volume provokes reflection and dialogue within the academy to consider contemporary instructional tools that could serve to enhance self-regulation of learning. The chapter by Kitsantas and Dabbagh discusses the role of Web 2.0 technologies in self-regulated learning. They urge educators to identify effective educational applications for these technologies important for higher education institutions and to ensure that faculty members have the training and resources necessary to create learning environments that promote and support student self-regulation.
Greene, Moos, and Azevedo observe that, increasingly, university faculty are presenting course content and complex topics to students via computer-based learning environments, such as hypermedia.
The purpose of this volume is to engender reflection and dialogue among educators and students about the important role of self-regulation of learning for postsecondary education. This volume provides evidence that educational psychologists not only can carry out interesting research but that their scholastic work has significant educational and practical implications for postsecondary education. This volume attests that with regard to self-regulation, we have come a long way during the last few decades and that more exciting work and contributions to postsecondary education are under way.
Bandura, A. Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control. New York: W. H. Freeman, 1997.
Bembenutty, H. Academic delay of gratification, self-regulation of learning, gender differences, and expectancy-value. Personality and Individual Differences, 2009, 46, 347-352.
Bembenutty, H., and Karabenick, S. A. Academic delay of gratification. Learning and Individual Differences, 1998, 10(4), 329-346.
Bembenutty H., and Karabenick, S. A. Inherent association between academic delay of gratification, future time perspective, and self-regulated learning: Effects of time perspective on student motivation. Educational Psychology Review, 2004,16(1), 35-57.
Deci, E., and Ryan, R. Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum Press, 1985.
Husman, J., and Lens, W. The role of the future in student motivation. Educational Psychologist, 1999, 34(2), 113-125.
Pintrich, P. R., Smith, D.A.F, Garcia, T., and McKeachie, W.J. Reliability and predictive validity of the Motivational Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ). Educational and Psychological Measurements, 1993, 53, 801-813.
Schunk, D. H., Pintrich, P. R., and Meece, J. L. Motivation in Education: Theory, Research,and Applications (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Education, 2008.
Schunk, D. H., and Zimmerman, B.J. (eds.). Motivation and Self-Regulated Learning: Theory, Research, and Applications. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2008.
Zimmerman, B. J. Attaining self-regulation: A social cognitive perspective. In M. Boekaerts, P. R., Pintrich, and M. Zeidner (eds.), Handbook of Self-Regulation (pp. 13-39). San Diego, Calif.: Academic Press, 2000.
HEFER Bembenutty is an assistant professor of educational psychology at Queens College of the City University of New York. His research interests include self-regulation of learning, delay of gratification, and homework.