When students get to university they’re expected to direct their own learning to a degree and not all of them are able to do it. It is a skill in of itself and should be taught as other skills are.
Good self-directed learners can reflect on their own areas of weakness and are able to address those shortcomings.
And the turn to online education during COVID-19 presents an opportunity for self-regulated learning to be developed.
“Learning can be improved,” Flinders University researcher Prof Stella Vosniadou says “and it is more effective when students can control their motivational states, use effective strategies to manage their thinking, and reflect upon their learning processes and outcomes.”
Vosniadou says that many school students do not know much about their own learning process and do not have strategies to manage it.
One problem is that schools do not have sufficient time or resources to devote to teaching learning skills. Rather, they are pressured to cover course content. Almost all (98.8 per cent) of Australian teachers said that self-regulated learning skills are important, but only 32 per cent included them in lesson planning.
Vosniadou points out that the teaching of content is deeply connected with the teaching of strategies about how to critically process this content and that the two should go hand in hand.
Another concern is the inadequate testing of students’ skills to regulate their learning. “Although students usually do difficult tests on their background knowledge in different subjects, they are very rarely assessed on whether they possess the skills necessary to manage their learning in an effective way,” she said.
Universities can address this by testing such skills at university entrance, Vosniadou says. This could prompt secondary schools to focus on these skills.
“Rather than focusing on just learning content for each subject, promoting self-regulated learning requires that teachers design constructive and interactive tasks that students can use to process content information critically. It also requires teaching students the strategies needed for the successful completion of such tasks.”
The author highlights the Australian Science and Mathematics School as an example of an institution that implements self-regulated learning skills into its curriculum through its Learning Studies Program.
A joint project between Flinders University and ASMS, supported by a discovery grant from the Australian Research Council, is currently investigating ways to help teachers from schools in the larger Adelaide area to learn how to promote independent and self-regulated learning in their classrooms.
“The students discuss the subjects they are doing, the difficulties they are facing, and articulate and revise their goals. The teacher provides information relevant to knowledge about learning and learning strategies, such as time management, goal setting, and positive mindset.”
There is evidence that such programmes can help teachers create learning environments conducive to self-regulated learning.
“These programmes require that educators give less emphasis to providing only subject content and more emphasis on helping students acquire the skills and strategies needed to understand content critically, to create independent learners.”
Stella Vosniadou. (2020). ‘Bridging Secondary and Higher Education: The Importance of Self-regulated Learning’, European Review