Examining Self-Regulated Learning in Educational


In educational settings, there is a rapid development of psychological theories and applications within the recent decades. The issue of self-regulated learning (SRL) is given a special attention as it is regarded as the mechanism that characterizes proficient and effective learners. Self-regulation is defined as the ability of a student to control his or her learning and choose the most relevant ways to gain knowledge and systematically achieve academic goals (Vassallo, 2011). In turn, schools are expected to encourage students on their way to self-regulated learning, which is one of the ley problems. Namely, teachers lack the awareness of the significance of this opportunity, school curriculums are non-flexible, and students’ voices are often disregarded. In this paper, it is argued that self-regulated learning is a promising strategy that is widely explored in the academic literature. The problems of identifying the self, psychological and social perspectives, and student viewpoint are discussed.

Reflecting on Self-Regulated Learning Research in Education

Problem of the Self in Educational Settings

The definition of the self can be based on the historical analysis by Baumeister (1987), who claims that it changed with time. In Medieval times, self-definition processes were relatively straightforward and easy as it was referred to some single-event accomplishments and a status from birth. While the self was regarded as stable earlier, it is considered as a complex and dynamic issue today. Among the factors that define one’s self, there are values, both internal and those that are guided by family and society in a larger scope. In the course of self-identification, which seems to be a life-long process, a student engages in self-knowledge, and it can lead to the discovery of the inner self (Baumeister, 1987). This is one of the key goals of SRL in education, which can be stimulated by teachers, but it is also critical that students are ready for such encouragement.

The techne of psychology implies that there are some areas requiring a structural approach, including education, reforms, efficiency, et cetera. According to Rose (1996), it examines the “ways of combining persons, truths, judgments, devices, and actions into a stable, reproducible, and durable form” (p. 88). However, it is important to note that the word techne is not used by the author as something inhumane, but it aims to integrate diverse practices and extend the understanding of psychology used in education. In turn, Baumeister (1987) adds that the problem of the self is complicated by the existence of various aspects, including but not limited to hidden, inner, and changing. The extent to which a student identifies his or her self also depends on the awareness of these aspects. However, the idea that a student can understand what is the best education for him or her is debated in the literature as well.

The problem of the self in educational settings is also associated with a variety of definitions. Martin and McLellan (2008) attract readers’ attention to the conceptual confusion: for example, some scholars refer to the regulation of the self, while others study the regulation by the self. Currently, there are two approaches to addressing this problem, of which the first seems to be more appropriate. An empirical, also known as observational, research is the first strategy to avoid the conceptual confusion, and it can also be prevented by the integration of diverse conception (Martin & McLellan, 2008). Regardless of definitions, scholars agree on the fact that becoming a self is not an internal or individual event. Reasonably, the role of the external environment should be taken into account, along with students’ internal choices.

Those students who are likely to miss the assignments and daydream during lessons do not practice SRL, while those who regulate, adjust, and monitor their goals are SRL learners (Paris & Paris, 2001). In this regard, SRL can be viewed as an individual’s ability to self-regulation of the educational process, which should be manifested in students at all stages of the educational process. Learners integrate knowledge and skills that have been acquired in the education process. In other words, they take responsibility for learning new material. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the self-control of the learning process is created directly under the guidance of the teachers (Paris & Paris, 2001). The learners need to introduce the skills and competences of self-management and autonomous learning, in addition to planning an individual educational trajectory.

Psychological and Sociological Perspectives

The role of psychology in society is largely determined by its applicability. As stated by Rose (1996), such an approach should be clarified since psychology research cannot be considered separately from practice. Instead, they go in line to generate psychological ideas based on social environment and personal experiences. The above author assumes that the social role of psychology should be regarded in terms of such a concept as expertise. It refers to a social authority, truth, and humane ethical virtues, which combines techniques and knowledge (Rose, 1996; Rose,1998). This approach seems to be viable as it places educational psychology in the context and considers it as a way to better understand how to teach students effectively.

The Western society is riven by neoliberalism that is a prevailing way of governing economies. According to the discussion of governing enterprising individuals by Rose (1996a), the enterprising self is a term that is associated with an analytical framework of governmentality of Foucault. In this connection, understanding the self is a key to a political value. The human nature is regarded as entrepreneurial, including such features as creativity, innovation, flexibility, activeness, and self-reliance (Rose, 1996a). The latter seems to be especially important for SRL as it needs a person to be able to supervise personal actions and decisions on education. The process of governing the enterprising self, thus, can be identified as the one that leads to the transformation of a student based on the reconsideration of earlier values and beliefs.

The enterprise culture can be created by teachers who understand the significance of SRL. For example, one can assume that the connections between the critical perception of the reality and a seductive ethics of the self should be promoted (Rose, 1996a). Speaking more precisely, the social arrangements of schools should be adjusted to inspire students and support the enterprise culture. As this culture is an integral component of the mentality of learners, it can also be applied to problematize organizational issues and transform the political atmosphere in schools. The attempts to govern the self from the point of the enterprise may be initiated to address the weaknesses of schools as institutions (Vassallo, 2011). For instance, a technological form can be used to rebuild relationships between teachers and students, as well as between many other elements of the education system.

The evidence also presents a thought-provoking idea that contemporary children are digital natives, who inherently perceive learning as playing. Kirschner and van Merriënboer (2013) also note that these children are expected to have some skills to master the necessary knowledge and create a meaningful view of the world. They are often referred to as Homo Zappiens, which means that modern children are emerged in technology from their childhood, and it happens through video games, social media, and mobile applications. It is possible to suggest that various applications and games develop children’s discovery-based learning and SRL. However, another side of this idea is that many children become excessively immersed in the digital world, while school-based learning becomes boring for them. School education is often perceived by today’s students as something formal and lacking the link to the real world.

Another impact of the social environment is noted regarding the multitasking of students. They usually do their homework and combine it with searching the Internet and instant messaging, which may seem as that they can do it simultaneously. In fact, this is a legend since a human brain construction implies tasks requiring information processing lead to switching between them (Kirschner & van Merriënboer, 2013). In other words, a multitasking student distracts his or her attention from one task, which is not effective in terms of SRL. On the contrary, to become a successful SRL learner, it is critical to remain focused during the entire work on the assignment. The above point is also supported by Baumeister (1987), who uses the historical perspective to track the social impact on learning. Namely, this author states that self-definition is composed not only of a person’s inner condition, but also the relevant and time-related social environment characteristics.

Based on the discussed evidence, one can conclude that that the implementation of self-regulatory learning strategies in the practice of education requires the definition of its current levels. Namely, the development of the sphere of self-regulation and self-actualization among students and the types of accentuation of their personalities should be explored (Vassallo, 2011). Whether this category of students has the ability to SRL, as well as the degree of their readiness to carry out self-regulated educational and cognitive activities compose the focus of studies. At the same time, when determining the latter, it is essential to distinguish between its general pedagogical and professionally-oriented components (Tomlinson, 1997). The means of implementing self-regulated learning can be an information environment, which can be either specially organized or designed for learning, or be part of the global environment of scientific and everyday interaction and learning.

Student Perspective

From a student perspective, it seems to be critical to pose the following question: do learners understand what is the best for their education? While the majority of the articles link SRL to the autonomy of students, the above question is addressed only by several of them. For example, the biological model of Rousseau and Spencer views the mind as something that can grow (Egan, 2005). In turn, Spencer developed the scientific theory based on the evolution stated that a beneficent necessity lies in the foundation of learning, not human control (Egan, 2005).

The issue of human potential, especially when it comes to school-age students, is controversial. On the one hand, Martin and McLellan (2008) assume that an individual approach to education should be adopted by educators to make sure that students receive what exactly they need. This approach refers to the statement that students inherently know what information they should gain and what skills they should develop. On the other hand, Kirschner and van Merriënboer (2013) argue that the nature of SRL is not suggested to think that students are the best managers of their education. In spite of the widespread viewpoint that they study in specific ways, it was not confirmed in an empirical way. This argument of Kirschner and van Merriënboer (2013) seems to be quite convincing since the value of academic evidence cannot be underestimated. Most importantly, it should be stressed that the studies should not only clarify whether one or another method works or not but also identify the factors that drive or impede changes. In this case, research-based theories would be formulated and implemented in practice.

Modern teachers need to realize that self-regulation of educational action is the basis for the formation of the ability to learn. It is not an independently emerging phenomenon, but a metaprocess governing regulatory learning actions and underlying the development of SRL (Smeyers & Depaepe, 2012). These constructs can be developed through targeted teaching of strategies in a variety of educational contexts. One of the main conditions for effective training in self-regulation strategies is the modeling of these processes. For instance, a teacher should be aware of the need to use scaffolding strategies in the work. Their use allows increasing both the academic result and the level of autonomy of educational activities. A high level of autonomy in completing assignments and changes in the roles of a teacher requires competent and time-consuming methodological support of the education process (Smeyers & Depaepe, 2012). The effectiveness of teaching strategies in terms of their positive impact on the development of self-regulatory activity is the expected result.

Thus, the development of students’ abilities to independently acquire competencies in self-government, self-organization, self-determination, and self-control learning produces positive emotional states. Self-regulation contributes to the greater understanding of the role of education in their lives. The close connection of competence with the educational situation determines the analysis of this situation, clarification and comprehension of the task formulation, and the actualization of information. The productive performance of these actions requires identifying the self in the context of a certain task. The psychological components of SRL are self-organization, independence, self -control, reflection, and self-determination. The mental mechanism of self-realization is self-regulation, which is understood as an internal mental activity to initiate, build, maintain and control various types of educational actions directed by goals.


To conclude, one should emphasize that SRL is a relevant educational topic that is extensively explored in the academic literature. The ability of a student to self-control and autonomy are the key components of SRL, while teachers are responsible for creating such an environment that would stimulate the independent completion of tasks. Most importantly, the ideas of governing the enterprising self and the techne of psychology imply that the identification of a student’s self is a complex and continuous process that is impacted by political, social, relationship, and inner factors. The practical significance of research on this issue lies in the fact that mastering various SRL strategies allows students to use them not only for studying disciplines, but also for autonomous advanced development as professionals in the future.


Baumeister, R. F. (1987). How the self became a problem: A psychological review of historical research. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52(1), 163-176.

Egan, K. (2005). Students’ development in theory and practice: The doubtful role of research. Harvard Educational Review, 75(1), 25-41.

Kirschner, P. A., & van Merriënboer, J. J. (2013). Do learners really know best? Urban legends in education. Educational Psychologist, 48(3), 169-183.

Martin, J., & McLellan, A. M. (2008). The educational psychology of self-regulation: A conceptual and critical analysis. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 27(6), 433-448.

Paris, S. G., & Paris, A. H. (2001). Classroom applications of research on self-regulated learning. Educational Psychologist, 36(2), 89-101.

Rose, N. (1996). Expertise and the techne of psychology. In Inventing Our Selves: Psychology, Power and Personhood (pp. 81-100). Cambridge University Press.

Rose, N. (1996a). Governing enterprising individuals. In Inventing Our Selves: Psychology, Power and Personhood (pp. 150-168). Cambridge University Press.

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Smeyers, P., & Depaepe, M. (2012). Educational research: The attraction of psychology (Vol. 6). Springer.

Tomlinson, S. (1997). Edward Lee Thorndike and John Dewey on the science of education. Oxford Review of Education, 23(3), 365-383.

Vassallo, S. (2011). Implications of institutionalizing self-regulated learning: An analysis from four sociological perspectives. Educational Studies, 47(1), 26-49.

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