Self Regulation – What is it and how do we support its growth?

Self-regulation can be defined in various ways. In the most basic sense, it involves controlling one’s behavior, emotions, and thoughts in the pursuit of long-term goals. To be able to self-regulate one’s emotions means we can effectively manage disruptive emotions and impulses. In other words, to think before acting. It also reflects the ability to positively manage disappointments or setbacks and to act in a way consistent with one’s deepest held values.

Self-regulation is one of the school’s Learning Behaviours at the secondary campuses, a set of characteristics demonstrated by people that will support them in their learning and allow them to become better learners. In an academic setting, to be able to self-regulate means students have the ability to ‘own’ their learning; to foster positive work habits and commit to learning in order to meet the demands of their academic work.

Students who can self-regulate:

  • Have the ability to plan for learning
  • Keep to deadlines
  • Set realistic goals for future learning
  • Seek and use feedback to improve learning
  • Successfully manage distractions
  • Are able to control their behavior and emotional responses
  • React in positive ways to things that may be annoying /frustrating to the student
  • React in ways that are mindful of the context of the interaction
  • Have the ability to learn in collaborative or independent modes

Cognitive reappraisal is a strategy that can be used to improve self-regulation abilities. This strategy involves changing your thought patterns. In a 2017 study comparing mindfulness, cognitive reappraisal, and emotion suppression, it was shown that as we age, use of cognitive reappraisal is associated with lower negative affect and higher positive effect.

Specifically, cognitive reappraisal means thinking about a situation in an adaptive way, rather than one that is likely to increase negative emotions. For example, imagine a friend did not return your calls or texts for several days. Rather than thinking that this reflected something about yourself, such as “my friend hates me,” you might instead think, “my friend must be really busy.”

The first step to practice self-regulation is to recognise that everyone has a choice in how to react to situations. In every situation there are three options: approach, avoidance, and attack. Students who don’t do well in an assessment can sometimes want to defer responsibility to something or someone else. They are advised to consider how they approach their learning. Seek feedback from teachers rather than avoid the problem. Consider the long term rather than the short term and realise that transient emotional responses to any difficulties are not behaviours that support academic growth. What is currently working to improve their learning and what is not working? Sometimes, what students think is working, is actually not going to produce long term rewards in learning. If your child is continually doing poorly in assessments, talk to the class teacher about what they have noticed about how your child learns.

Further information is available here:

Ms Linda Shardlow
Director of the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching