Phases of Self-Regulation

Three cyclical phases seem to emerge in the acquisition of self-regulation skills.

phase1Phase 1. Forethought/preaction—This phase precedes the actual performance; sets the stage for action; maps out the tasks to minimize the unknown; and helps to develop a positive mindset. Realistic expectations can make the task more appealing. Goals must be set as specific outcomes, arranged in order from short-term to long-term. We have to ask students to consider the following:

  • When will they start?
  • Where will they do the work?
  • How will they get started?
  • What conditions will help or hinder their learning activities are a part of this phase?

Maria, for example, must be helped to think about her algebra homework and reflect on what she can do to be more successful. Is there a better time or place to do her homework? Should she begin it in school with her friends who are doing better than she is in algebra? Should she plan to spend at least five minutes on a problem before giving up and moving on? Should she have a friend standing by to help either in person or on the phone (a study buddy)? Should she ask for a tutor?
phase2Phase 2. Performance control—This phase involves processes during learning and the active attempt to utilize specific strategies to help a student become more successful.

We have to ask students to consider the following:

  • Are students accomplishing what they hoped to do?
  • Are they being distracted?
  • Is this taking more time than they thought?
  • Under what conditions do they accomplish the most?
  • What questions can they ask themselves while they are working?
  • How can they encourage themselves to keep working (including self-talk—come on, get your work done so you can watch that television show or read your magazine!)

Maria, for example, has to consider her performance in math as opposed to other content areas. When frustration increases, should Maria stop and take a break? Should she do her math homework first in the afternoon, rather than putting it off until later in the evening? Should she have background music or work in silence? She is supposed to be using and considering the success or failure of some of the strategies she has thought about in phase 1.
phase3Phase 3. Self-reflection—This phase involves reflection after the performance, a self-evaluation of outcomes compared to goals.

We have to ask students to consider the following:

  • Did they accomplish what they planned to do?
  • Were they distracted and how did they get back to work?
  • Did they plan enough time or did they need more time than they thought?
  • Under what conditions did they accomplish the most work.

Maria might ask, “What did I do differently?” “Did it work” Was a change in time or work habits effective at solving more algebra problems? Did calling a friend who was doing algebra homework at the same time (by prearranged planning) make a difference? Did setting a minimum time frame help? Did praising oneself aloud during this time have a positive impact? (All right, I did it!! Yes, I solved that problem!!)

The development of good self-regulation usually involves the following:

  1. Self-observation—systematically monitoring own performance; keeping records is a big part of this!!
  2. Self-judgment—systematically comparing performance with a standard or goal (e.g., re-examining answers; checking procedures; rating answers in relation to answer sheet, another person’s)
  3. Self-reaction—engage in personal processes (i.e., goal-setting; metacognitive planning; behavioral outcomes); self-administering praise or criticism; rehearsing, memorizing; proximal goal-setting; structuring environment (e.g., change the academic task’s difficulty; change the academic setting, the immediate physical environment; create a study area); asking for help.

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