Towards a social understanding of self-regulated learning.

Educational policy research in the last decade has placed increasing stress on the need for students to develop skills or competencies to compete in the knowledge-based economy, where production involves conceptual innovation, rather than routine manufacturing. The ‘Next Chapter’ of the IBO, a comprehensive alteration in the practice, if not the principles of the IBO framework, reflects the influence of these policy findings. Approaches to Learning (ATL), designed to help students “learn how to learn” (MYP: From Principles to Practice, p. 20), is now a core component of the curriculum. The ultimate aim of making these ATL an explicit part of the curriculum is to develop “self-regulated–independent and autonomous” learners (Ibid., p. 21).

In what follows I hope to expand on the definition suggested by the term “self-regulated” learning (SRL), and the “self-management” ATL that is meant to support its development. By placing the development of (SRL) in a social context, teachers can remain consistent in their constructivist approaches to instruction, and use collaboration as a scaffold to help the “self” better regulate its learning. First a bit on the relationship between (SRL) and metacognition.

What is the relationship between metacognition and self-regulated learning?

(SRL) has been defined as the control, management, monitoring, reflecting, and adapting one’s cognitive processes and learning activities for improvement. Examples of (SRL) occur when learners monitor and direct their own progress, asking questions such as “What am I doing now?,” “Is it getting me anywhere?,” “What else could I be doing instead?”

These definitions depend on the learner being aware of themselves as a learner, with the ability to notice strategies as they occur, to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, to reflect on and ultimately to adapt these strategies for future improvement. To monitor, control, regulate, reflect on, and adapt one’s learning, it is first necessary to be aware of learning as learning, an awareness of learning above the subject matter itself. A learner needs to have a metacognitive awareness of their own learning, before the self-regulatory processes mentioned above can be initiated. In How People Learn (click link for full text. It’s a synthesis of decades of educational research published by the the National Research Council in 2000) metacognition was identified as a key element for improving student learning.

The upshot for teachers, particularly those involved in implementing the ATL of the Next Chapter, is that it might be helpful to develop the metacognitive awareness of your students, before focusing on developing strategies for improving these processes. I found some great thinking routines for developing metacognitive awareness in Making Thinking Visible, though I’m sure there are plenty of other excellent sources available.

 Is it really up to the learner to “self” regulate?

Since the 1970’s when the notions of metacognition and (SRL) first gained prominence, (SRL) has been conceived as an individual, cognitive process. Our language continues to reflect the belief in an isolated ego, manipulating their thinking in a context-less void. We speak of “self-management,”and “self-directed” learners.  With the constructivist turn in educational theory initiated by Vygotsky, research into the processes of (SRL) are identifying the social factors supporting, and often driving the (SRL) process. These changes are also reflected in the language now used to describe the processes. There is talk now of ‘co-regulated’ learning (see the research being done by Allison Hadwin), socially-shared cognition, and distributed cognition (for more on this see ‘Cognition in the Wild‘.

As teachers, when we encourage our students to aim higher, ask for clarification of meaning, recommend apps for managing information, we co- regulate with our students. More significant and often overlooked in the literature is the co-regulating role played by peers during collaborative projects. I have experimented with different forms of social media to make the process of collaboration visible to my students. This enables me to identify effective collaboration, rather than vaguely defined “group work.” I could see students motivating their peers– ”maybe consider this..” “ I know it’s hard, maybe try reading this…”, “ …summative is in three days, we can do this!!”  Conversation threads also reveal students asking each other for clarification of meaning– “ what do you mean by ‘better’…  “can you explain this more, I don’t understand..” In other words, the affective and organisational traits we often associate with “self” management and “self” regulation occur within and are fostered by interactions, resulting in meaningful collaboration.

(I also show these conversations to students, so they can see and understand what co-regulation is, to see what it means to be a team-player, a collaborator in the deeper sense of the term.)

If there’s a “take-away” to speak of here, it’s to see metacognition, self-regulated learning, and collaboration as related and mutually reinforcing, and leveraging the power of ICT can support the development of all three by making the process visible to the teacher and student.

Thanks for reading…



21st C. learning: Defining, implementing, assessing

If you’ve attended a PD workshop within the last five years, you may have heard how ” we are educating children for jobs that do not yet exist, to use technologies that have not yet been invented, to solve problems that we don’t even know are problems yet. ” This is one of many messages from the viral video Did You Know?, meant to shake educators from our perceived dogmatic and regressive slumber. In the last five years, reports issued by Institutes such as ISTE, UNESCO, OECD, ATC21s,  and EnGauge, have responded to these challenges by placing ’21st Century Skills’ at the core of significant policy changes. These macro-level shifts are reflected in the recent ‘Next Chapter’ changes  of the International Baccalaureate and the ‘Common Core’  standards recently introduced in the U.S.

For educators, these are exciting times, as we are situated in the midst of a paradigm shift, which affords both opportunity and risk. Adjustment, it seems to me, needs to begin with a clear and shared understanding of the key terms involved in ’21st century learning.’ We need to also recognise potential challenges to implementation, to avoid the cynicism that often arrives in the wake of failed initiatives. We also need to develop a framework for formatively assessing these skills, a framework that enables teachers to provide specific feedback to students for developing these skills, but that also enhances student agency by allowing for self and peer-based assessment. Or so it seems to me. Below is a brief sketch highlighting the ambiguous state of ’21st century education,’ and current efforts to address these concerns.

A 2012 study comparing international frameworks for 21st century learning (Voogt, J. and Roblin, N.P., 2012), suggests the skills required for success in our era are a matter of some dispute. All frameworks (P21, ATC21S, EnGauge, OECD, EU, ISTE, NAEP, and UNESCO) agree that developing skills related to collaboration, communication, ICT literacy, social skills, and citizenship, should be core objectives. However,  self-direction and adaptability were only mentioned by a few, and risk-taking was only mentioned by EnGauge:

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Comparative analysis of of international frameworks for 21st century skills

As a teacher practicing within the IBO framework, I’ve been prescribed a set of skills to learn and teach called ATTL (Approaches to Teaching and Learning). This framework aligns nicely with the competences identified above, in the far-left row, which all eight policy institutes agreed were essential. However, each skill contains multiple–in some cases infinite (‘social-skills’?!) strands. Though the IBO provides a list of strands related to each, it is also recognised that these strands should be context-specific, to meet the needs of learners in specific locations, at particular stages of development. This links to a second challenge for successful integration.

A key issue identified by all frameworks concerns the role of teachers and their professional development (Voogt, J, and Roblin, N.P., 2012, p. 311). Teaching 21st century skills rests on the assumption that teachers possess the competences to be taught, and have a clear understanding of the mission before them. The IBO has provided indicators for teachers to identify and assess most of the core skills mentioned above (and a more comprehensive treatment will be available on the OCC soon). Yet, discussions I’ve had recently with IBO teachers and coordinators from Canada, Japan, Australia, and the U.S., suggest a lot of work needs to be done to support effective implementation. It seems that a policy to make sure teachers understand the rationale behind these changes, strategies to implement them authentically in the classroom, and a rubric to promote precise and constructive feedback from teachers and between students would be a useful phase one. For those fortunate enough to have strong learning support or curriculum development teams in place, perhaps the transition will be less rocky. For the rest of us, re-imagining PD, with an emphasis on developing a shared discourse and a community of shared practices, and using ICT to support more effective feedback, would go some distance in addressing the challenges ahead. As teaching practices often inform a teacher’s sense of professional and personal identity, strategies to encourage staff “buy-in” to unfamiliar methods might prove the most formidable challenge of all. Facilitating a growth mindset amongst the staff would be another key component of successful implementation.

Of the frameworks mentioned above, Melbourne based ATC21S is actively pursuing models for assessing 21st C. skills. The focus thus far has been on rubrics for assessing ‘ICT literacy’ and ‘collaborative problem solving.’They prefer the term ‘collaborative problem solving’ over ‘collaboration,’ as effective team-work is typically aimed at reaching a specific goal–setting collaborative tasks that align with the insights of ‘problem-based-learning’ could therefore create the conditions for effective collaboration?

Collaborative problem solving is broken down into three components. ( ‘Perspective-taking’ may be a useful strategy for developing ’empathy,’ and ‘social-regulation’ provides a constructivist twist on ‘self-management.’):

  • Participation Skills
  • Perspective – Taking Skills
  • Social Regulation

Here is a selection of skills related to collaborative-problem-solving, with three developmental stages:

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Source: ATC21S

As 21st century learning inches ever further to the core of our teaching practice, it is crucial educators reflect on both the opportunities and challenges. Developing a shared understanding of the rationale and skills involved, inter-disciplinary strategies for meaningful integration, and a rubric to empower both teachers and students capacities for assessment, seem to be necessary components for success. Attention to the psychological stress placed on teachers in the process of transforming their practice, and an awareness of the link between a teachers practice and their sense of self, could also promote a more sustainable integration.

Would be great to exercise our own skills of ‘collaborative-problem-solving’ and continue this discussion here or elsewhere…  Thanks for reading!



Jake Voogt & Natalie Pareja Roblin (2012): A comparative analysis of international frameworks for 21st century competences: Implications for national curriculum policies, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 44:3, 299-321.

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