Learning is promoted when pupils and students progressively self-regulate their learning.

  • How can I promote self-regulation of learning in pupils and students?
  • How can I support self-regulation of pupils and students without directing it?
  • What can I expect about self-regulation in pupils and students and does it differ between age groups?
  • How do I find out which self-regulation strategies pupils and students use?
  • How much self-regulation is effective and does this differ for pupils and students at different stages of their educational careers?
  • What strategies for promoting self-regulation are effective in my teaching?

What does it mean and why is it important?

The professional field is constantly changing. Current developments, including technology and globalisation, cause professions to change, appear or disappear. This requires professionals to be flexible, agile and able to deal with uncertainties. They need to be able to keep learning, take on new roles and tasks and anticipate changing circumstances. Early in an educational career, it is highly relevant that students learn to plan, monitor and evaluate their own learning. If pupils and students can manage their own learning process, they can make optimal use of the opportunities offered by learning environments and teachers in particular. Last but not least, self-regulation is increasingly demanded in both secondary and higher education, partly due to the advancing digitalisation of education. In short, pupils and students must learn to regulate their own learning process so that they can continue to develop in a way that suits them best.

Self-regulation often distinguishes three phases in the learning process in which pupils and students can regulate their learning:

  1. a preparation phase in which pupils and students set goals and plan how to achieve them, motivating themselves and assessing whether they can achieve the goals;
  2. an execution phase in which pupils and students carry out the learning tasks, monitor their progress, and motivate themselves to stay engaged in the learning task and;
  3. an evaluation phase in which pupils and students reflect on their learning process and its outcomes, assess whether they have met their goals, attribute causes to their performance and evaluate whether they are satisfied with it.

Incidentally, it is not the case that pupils and students always take charge of everything themselves; regulation in different phases and in different parts of education can range from being entirely determined by the pupils and students to entirely by the educational environment (teacher or ICT tools). Teachers can support pupils and students in self-regulation by, for instance, gradually decreasing their customised help (also called scaffolding), by organising group assignments and collaborative learning where pupils and students have to regulate their learning in a group, or by deploying certain prompts, questions or feedback that directly ask pupils and students to reflect on their learning (before, during and after). The concept of self-regulation is closely related to the broader concepts of autonomy, agency, and self-efficacy, but focuses specifically on regulating one’s own learning process.

Practical implications

The following elements seem to form the core of what works when using technology for regulation of learning: immediate and positive feedback, prompts and scaffolds, explicit attention to self-regulatory skills, clear representation of information, meaningful context and meaningful purpose. Preconditions for effective implementation are: professionalisation of teachers, clear explanations to pupils, regular use of ICT application integrated into daily teaching practice and involvement of teachers and pupils.

  • SpeakTeach

The SpeakTeach approach is a teaching-learning method of using feedback to improve students’ language skills. It focusses on how to tailor feedback, explanations, and exercises to individual learners to improve their conversational skills in regular classes with limited time and resources. It includes tools for your teaching practice and teaching materials and ideas for improving speaking and conversation skills in Modern Foreign Languages.

Research projects

  • Breakthrough ICT and Education (NRO)

National project at 90 primary and secondary schools on how they use educational technology to support personalised learning of pupils. Effects of interventions on personalised education were mapped for motivation for learning, self-regulation skills, and cognitive learning outcomes. Interventions can be more under the control of learners (adaptive education), teachers (differentiated instruction), or technology (adaptive practice programmes).

  • Technology for regulation of learning overview study (NRO)

This overview study investigated the regulation of student learning from a teacher-pupil and technology perspective, in which:

    • the teacher drives the regulation and technology supports the teacher;
    • the pupil regulates his own learning process and technology supports the pupil in self-regulation;
    • the regulation happens jointly and technology supports both actors (teacher and pupil);
    • the pupil’s learning process is regulated by technology.
  • Haenen, Janine (2021 – 2025). How can student agency be stimulated in higher education? Supervisor: Prof W.F. Admiraal. Co-supervisors: Dr E. Sjoer & Dr S. Vink.
  • Kusters, Max (2020 – 2024). They understand what it takes: Teacher agency and educational change in university education. Supervisor: Prof W.F. Admiraal & Prof R.M. van der Rijst.
  • Lai, Yuzhi (2019 – 2023). Integrating educational apps in teaching in secondary education. Supervisors: Prof W.F. Admiraal & Prof N. Saab.
  • Liu, X. (2020 – 2024). Chinese teachers’ professional identity and its impact on teaching Chinese as a foreign language in an intercultural context. Supervisor: Prof W.F. Admiraal. Co-supervisor: Dr T.L. Mearns.
  • Schoots, Anja (2021-2025). The development of student agency in secondary schools. Supervisor: Prof W.F. Admiraal. Co-supervisor: Dr D. Tigelaar.
  • Vrind, Esther de (2020). The SpeakTeach method. Towards self-regulated learning of speaking skills in foreign languages in secondary schools: Am adaptive and practical approach. Supervisors: Prof F.J.J.M. Janssen & Prof J.H. van Driel. Co-supervisor: Dr N.H. de Jong.

Scholarly publications

  • Admiraal, W., Nieuwenhuis, G., Kooij, Y., Dijkstra, T., & Cloosterman, I. (2019). Perceived autonomy support in primary education in the Netherlands: Differences between teachers and their students. World Journal of Education, 19(4), 1-12.
  • Blankenstein, F. M. van, Saab, N., van der Rijst, R. M., Danel, M. S., Bakker-van den Berg, A. S., & van den Broek, P. W. (2019). How do self-efficacy beliefs for academic writing and collaboration and intrinsic motivation for academic writing and research develop during an undergraduate research project? Educational Studies, 45(2), 209-225.
  • Hendriks, R. A, Jong, P. G. M., Admiraal, W. F., & Reinders, M. E. J. (2020a). Uncovering motivation and self-regulated learning skills in integrated medical MOOC learning: a mixed methods research protocol. BMJ Open, 10(10), e038235.
  • Kamp, M-T., van de, Admiraal, W.,  Drie, J. van., & Rijlaarsdam, G. (2015). Enhancing divergent thinking in visual arts education: Effects of explicit instruction of meta-cognition. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 85, 47-58.
  • Keijzer, R., Admiraal, W, Rijst, R. van der, & Schooten, E. (2020). Vocational identity of at-risk emerging adults and its relationship with individual characteristics. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 20(2), 375-410.

Contact person for this principle
Roeland van der Rijst