Self-regulated learning

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  • Educational design should design learning environments that engage students in appropriate self-regulative activities

Zimmerman et al. specified three important characteristics:

  • self-observation (monitoring one's activities);
  • self-judgement (self-evaluation of one's performance) and
  • self-reactions (reactions to performance outcomes)

See also: Self-directed learning

Self-regulated learning

According to Bandura, self-regulation strongly depends self-efficacy theory self-efficacy beliefs. “Perceived self-efficacy influences the level of goal challenge people set for themselves, the amount of effort they mobilize, and their persistence in the face of difficulties. Perceived self-efficacy is theorized to include performance accomplishments both directly and indirectly through its influences on self-set goals.” Zimmerman et al. (1992: 665)

For Alpert Sleigh (1997) self-regulation includes several components:

According to Zimmerman et al. (1992: 664), self-regulated learners direct their learning processes and attainments by

  • setting challenging goals for themselves
  • applying appropriate strategies to achieve their goals,
  • and by enlisting self-regulative influences that motivate and guide their efforts.

In addition, “self-regulated learners exhibit a high sense of efficacy in their capabilities, which influences the knowledge and skill goals they set for themselves and their commitment to fulfill these challenges [...]. This conception of self.directed learning not only encompasses the cognitive skills emphasized by meta-cognitive theories, but also extends beyond to include the self-regulation of motivation, the learning environment, and social supports for self-directedness.” (Zimmerman et al. (1992: 664)

According to Chyung (2007) [1], “group of cognitive psychologists has suggested that effective learners are often self-regulated or self-directed. According to self-regulated learning (SRL) theorists, self-regulated learners are “metacognitively, motivationally, and behaviorally active participants in their own learning process” (Zimmerman, 2001, p. 5). Similarly, self-directed learning (SDL) theorists explain that self-directed learners “take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and materials resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes” (Knowles, 1975, p. 18)[2].”

According to Wolters (1989) [3], “Self-regulated learners are generally characterized as active learners who efficiently manage their own learning experiences in many different ways (Schunk & Zimmerman, 1994). In theory, self-regulated learners have a large arsenal of cognitive and metacognitive strategies that they readily deploy, when necessary, to accomplish academic tasks. Also, self-regulated learners have adaptive learning goals and are persistent in their efforts to reach those goals (Pintrich & Garcia, 1991; Schunk, 1994). Finally, self-regulated students are proficient at monitoring and, if necessary, modifying their strategy use in response to shifting task demands (Butler & Winne, 1995; Zimmerman, 1989). In short, self-regulated learners are motivated, independent, and metacognitively active participants in their own learning (Zimmerman, 1990).”

The author [3] then studied the regulation of motivation. Students were asked to report their behavior with respect to several academic situations (attending a lecture, reading a textbook chapter, writing a paper, and studying for an exam), each described in three different ways: material seemed irrelevant or personally unimportant; material or task was difficult; and material was boring or uninteresting. This total of 12 situations was assessed by an open-ended questionnaire.

The analysis (double coding) of the questionnaire led to the following 14 categories: performance goals, extrinsic rewards, task value, interest, mastery goals, efficacy, cognition, help seeking, environment, attention, willpower, emotion, other motivation, and other.

Later, these 14 categories of strategies were regrouped into 4 broader categories labeled: extrinsic regulation, intrinsic regulation, volition, and information processing ("other" and "other motivation" were excluded")

Extrinsic regulation
performance goals,
extrinsic rewards
intrinsic regulation
mastery goals,
help seeking;
volition category

According to Wolters [3] Corno (1989) [4] claims that “volition concerns those processes involved in maintaining an intention or goal until it is fulfilled and is distinct from motivation that pertains only to those processes involved in the initial creation of an intention or goal.”. However, Wolters notices that the distinction between motivational and volitional processes is not always clear...

Pintrich et al (2000) [5] note that developed instruments such as the LASSI or the MSLQ to measure self-regulation are useful but more research is needed with respect to several problem areas identified.

Self-regulation tools

ITSs and ILEs can provide built in tools to facilitate self-regulation in learning processes by providing dynamic and intelligent regulatory feedback (Winne, 2005). Visualizations, assessments, reflective journaling, models and simulations are some options to enhancing self-regulation.

Jermann et al. (2004), describing collaboration management tool design options, distinguish between three types of regulation tools:

  • mirroring tools: reflect information on an interaction with no evaluation
  • metacognitive tools: propose possible courses of action with a comparison to a reference model
  • guiding systems: comparison of the current state with the desired state is assessed by the system internally and guidance is provided accordingly.

Related topics: Open learner model, cognitive tool, metacognition

Instructional design models that emphasize self-regulation

Assessment instruments




  • Alpert Sleight, D. (1997). Self-Regulated Learning during Non-Linear Self-Instruction, Educational Psychology, Michigan State University. [1].
  • Boekaerts, M., Pintrich, P. R., & Zeidner, M. (Eds.). (2000)Handbook of Self-regulation. San Diego: Academic Press.
  • Butler, Deborah L. and Philip H. Winne (1995). Feedback and Self-Regulated Learning: A Theoretical Synthesis. Review of Educational Research, Vol. 65, No. 3. (Autumn, 1995), pp. 245-281. [2] (this is probably the most quoted overview paper - Daniel K. Schneider)
  • Fetterman, D. M. (2001). Foundations of empowerment evaluation. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.
  • Jermann, Patrick, A. Soller, and A. Lesgold. Computer Software Support for Collaborative Learning. In What We Know About CSCL in Higher Education, pages 141-166. Kluwer, Amsterdam, 2004.
  • Jermann P. & Dimitracopoulou A. (2004b): Future Research Directions on Interaction Analysis Indicators. Interaction and Collaboration Analysis supporting Teachers’ and Students’ Selfregulation (ICALTS) JEIRP Deliverable D.26.1.3. Kaleidoscope NoE, December 2004. pp. 22. Available online at:
  • Pey-Yan Liou & Pei-Jung Kuo (2014) Validation of an instrument to measure students’ motivation and self-regulation towards technology learning, Research in Science & Technological Education, 32:2, 79-96,
  • Niemi, H., Launonen, A. & Raehalme, O. (2002). Towards self-regulation and social navigation in virtual learning spaces. A paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research 11-14 September 2002. University of Lisbon, Portugal. Paper available in Education-line database: HTML
  • Pintrich, Paul R.; And Others. (1991). A Manual for the Use of the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ).[3]
  • Pintrich, P. R. (Ed.). (1995). "Current Issues in Research on Self-regulated Learning: A discussion with Commentaries (Special Issue)". Educational Psychologist, 30 (4).
  • Pintrich, Paul R.(1995)Understanding Self-Regulated Learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, n63 p3-12 Fall,1995.[4]
  • Pintrich, P. R. (1999). The Role of Motivation in Promoting and Sustaining Self-regulated Learning. International Journal of Educational Research, 31 (6), 459-470.
  • Pintrich, P. R. (2000). The Role of Goal Orientation in Self-regulated Learning. In Monique Boekaerts, Paul R. Pintrich and Moshe Zeidner (Ed.) Handbook of Self-regulation (pp. 452-502). San Diego: Academic Press.
  • Pintrich, P. R., & Garcia, T. (1991). Students Goal Orientation and Self-regulation in the College Classroom. In M. L. Maer, & P. R. Pintrich (Eds.), Advances in motivation and achievement: Goals and self-regulatory processes (pp. 371-42). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, (Vol.7).
  • Päivi Virtanen, Hannele Niemi, Anne Nevgi, Outi Raehalme and Anna Launonen (2003), Towards strategic learning skills through self-assessment and tutoring in web-based environment, Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, University of Hamburg, 17-20 September 2003 HTML
  • Pintrich, P. R., & Ruohotie, P. (2000). Conative Constructs and Self-regulated Learning. RCVE: Hämeenlinna, Finland.
  • Virtanen, P., & Niemi, H. (2002). Online Tutoring to Support Student's Self-regulation and Learning Skills in Virtual Learning Environments. Paper presented at the Education and Cultural Diversities NERA's 30th Congress 7.-9. March 2002, Tallinn, Estonia.
  • Winne, P. (2005) A perspective on state-of-the-art research on self-regulated learning. Instructional Science. 33: 559–565
  • Zimmerman, Barry J. (2000): Self-Regulatory Cycles of Learning. In: Gerald A. Straka (Ed.): Conceptions of Self-Directed Learning. Münster: Waxmann, 221 - 234.
  • Zimmerman, Barry J. (1989): Models of Self-Regulated Learning and Academic Achievement. In: Barry J. Zimmerman, Dale H. Schunk (Eds.): Self-Regulated Learning and Academic Achievement: theory, research and practice. New York: Springer, 1-25.
  • Barry J. Zimmerman; Albert Bandura; Manuel Martinez-Pons (1992). Self-Motivation for Academic Attainment: The Role of Self-Efficacy Beliefs and Personal Goal Setting, American Educational Research Journal, Vol. 29, No. 3. (Autumn, 1992), pp. 663-676. PDF (Access restricted)
  • Barry J. Zimmerman; Manuel Martinez Pons, Development of a Structured Interview for Assessing Student Use of Self-Regulated Learning Strategies, American Educational Research Journal, Vol. 23, No. 4. (Winter, 1986), pp. 614-628. PDF (Access restricted)
  • Schunk, Dale H., Barry J. Zimmerman.(1998)Self-Regulated Learning- From teaching to self-reflective practice. New York:Gulliford Press. online version recommended
  • Scott G. Paris‌,Alison H. Paris. (2001)Classroom Applications of Research on Self-Regulated Learning.Educational Psychologist.2001, Vol. 36, No. 2, Pages 89-101. abstract
  • Teresa Garcia. (1995) The Role of Motivational Strategies in Self-Regulated Learning.[5]
  • Teresa Garcia Duncan‌,Wilbert J. McKeachie. (2005).The Making of the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire. Educational Psychologist 2005, Vol. 40, No. 2, Pages 117-128. [6]
  • Harvey, Virginia Smith; Chickie-Wolfe, Louise A.; Eads, James B.(2007)Fostering Independent Learning: Practical Strategies to Promote Student Success. The Guilford Practical Intervention in the Schools Series. [7]
  • Nicol, David J.; Macfarlane-Dick, Debra. (2006).Formative Assessment and Self-Regulated Learning: A Model and Seven Principles of Good Feedback Practice.Studies in Higher Education, v31 n2 p199-218 Apr 2006. [8]
  • Vollmeyer, Regina; Rheinberg, Falko. (2006)Motivational Effects on Self-Regulated Learning with Different Tasks.Educational Psychology Review, v18 n3 p239-253 Sep 2006. [9]
  • van Den Hurk, Marianne. (2006) The Relation between Self-Regulated Strategies and Individual Study Time, Prepared Participation and Achievement in a Problem-Based Curriculum.Active Learning in Higher Education: The Journal of the Institute for Learning and Teaching, v7 n2 p155-169 2006. [10]
  • Ainley, Mary; Patrick, Lyn. (2006) Measuring Self-Regulated Learning Processes through Tracking Patterns of Student Interaction with Achievement Activities.Educational Psychology Review, v18 n3 p267-286 Sep 2006. [11]
  • Dettori, Giuliana; Giannetti, Tania; Persico, Donatella. (2006).SRL in Online Cooperative Learning: Implications for Pre-Service Teacher Training.European Journal of Education, v41 n3-4 p397-414 Sep-Dec 2006. [12]
  • Kurubacak, Gulsun. (2007)Promoting Self-Motivated Learning through Project Based Online Learning. ERIC online submission. abstract and pdf


  1. Chyung, S. Y. (2007). Invisible Motivation of Online Adult Learners during Contract Learning. Journal of Educators Online, 4(1).
  2. Knowles, M. (1975). Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Wolters, Christopher A. (1998). Self-regulated learning and college students' regulation of motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 00220663, 19980601, Vol. 90, Issue 2
  4. Corno, L. (1989). Self-regulated learning: A volitional analysis. In B.Zimmerman & D.Schunk (Eds.), Self-regulated learning and academic achievement: Theory, research, and practice (pp. 111–141). New York: Springer-Verlag.
  5. Pintrich, P., Wolters, C., & Baxter, G. (2000). Assessing metacognition and self-regulated learning. In G. Schraw & J. Impara (Eds.), Issues in the measurement of metacognition (pp. 43–97). Lincoln, NE: The University of Nebraska Press,