Self regulated learning

This page provides guidance on supporting the high-ability student to develop their self-regulated learning skills.

The importance of self-regulated learning

Self-regulated learning is crucial for high-ability students. This is because it helps them as they strive for excellence. Achieving excellence requires practice. This takes planning, effort, and persistence over time. Self-regulated learning supports this process. It allows students to become autonomous learners who can pursue their own interests.

What we know

Research (see reference list below) shows that teaching self-regulated learning skills enhances student learning. Self-regulated learning is:

  • a goal driven process
  • encompasses skills that can be learned through observations or modelling.

Self-regulation skills include:

  • goal setting
  • reflection
  • self-management of on/off task behaviour.

Self-regulated learners are aware of:

  • their strengths and weaknesses as a learner
  • the learning strategies that they can manage and use
  • strategies they can use to motivate their learning and stay on task.

From theory to practice


Teaching self-regulated learning means giving students more control over their learning. Teachers should encourage students to understand their own motivations for learning and their strengths and weaknesses as learners. It also involves supporting students to understand the reasons for using particular learning strategies. Self-regulated learners can adapt their strategies to meet the demands of different tasks.

High-ability students can engage with complex activities. These activities may demand higher levels of self-regulated learning. There may be a gap between the ability of a student in a subject area, and their self-regulation skills. You may have to teach more advanced self-regulated learning skills to these students. This will help them to be successful with tasks that challenge them. This might mean:

  • setting more advanced goals
  • using more advanced self-monitoring tools
  • modelling more advanced learning strategies, and/or
  • posing more advanced reflection questions.

For high-ability students to have the opportunity to develop their self-regulation skills, they must be given activities with a high level of challenge.

Strategies and tools

Strategies that teachers may use in their classes to encourage self-regulated learning include:

  • modelling self-regulated learning techniques such as:
    • goal setting
    • reflection
    • managing on/off task behaviour where students are aware of when they become distracted or unfocused
  • providing corrective feedback on learning strategies
  • helping students to adapt learning strategies
  • helping students to link new experiences to prior learning through using KWHL charts
  • using self-monitoring tools
  • having students reflect on effective learning strategies. For example, using reflective
    • questions such as: 
    • why is this done?
    • how is it done?
    • when should it be done?
    • what are its limitations?
  • asking students to compare the effectiveness of learning strategies for a given problem
  • including self-regulation techniques in the lesson scaffold, such as:
    • planning tools
    • goal setting tools
    • checkpoints
    • reflection points
  • supporting students to understand their own learning strengths and weaknesses. For example, students may complete a 'grit ' scale and use this to inform self-regulation goals. 'Grit ' is a term used in psychology to describe the amount of persistence a person has when faced with challenges. Students can use the results of a 'grit ' scale to set goals around improving their persistence levels when provided with difficult work.
  • ensuring the self-regulated learning techniques taught to high-ability students match their learning needs.

Tools that teachers may use in their classes to encourage self-regulated learning include:

Focus questions for professional learning

  • How can you plan for self-regulated learning in your lessons?
  • How can you support high-ability students to link their new experiences with prior learning?
  • How can you ensure high-ability students have the skills to complete more complicated tasks?


Boekaerts, M., & Corno, L. (2005). Self‐regulation in the classroom: A perspective on assessment and intervention. Applied Psychology, 54(2), 199–231.

Zimmerman, B. J. (2002). Becoming a self-regulated learner: An overview. Theory into practice, 41(2), 64–70.

Zimmerman, B. J., & Schunk, D. H. (1989). Self-regulated learning and academic achievement: Springer Science & Business Media.