How to Support Self-Regulation in Students

Helping students increase self-regulation and self-directedness is one of the main goals in the New Learning Paradigm. Increased self-regulation in students is beneficial in many ways: it helps increase motivation, produces better outcomes, and generally makes for happier learners. Of course, as with any skill, it’s important to teach and support students in improving their self-regulation.

So, in today’s blog post, we’ll share some ways you as a teacher can support your students’ self-regulation skills.

What even is self-regulation?

Before we can address the question of how to help students in improving their self-regulation skills, we need to get clear on the meaning of the term.

In short, self-regulation means actively managing your learning process. It means taking responsibility and focusing on improving your knowledge and skills for their own sake.

Of course, the long version gets a lot more complex. Pintrich’s self-regulation theory characterises it as a matrix of different factors. There are four subjective categories: cognition, motivation and affect, behaviour, and context, in four distinct phases – planning, monitoring, controlling, and reflecting – which all interplay to create a complex and comprehensive overview of how self-regulation in the learning process works in students.

Start with empathy, then model

To be an effective teacher, you need to be empathetic towards your students. Emotions play a vital role in the learning process, and creating positive emotions in your students can help them improve in more ways than simply in the subject you’re teaching.

Once you’ve established a trusting relationship with your students, you can then start modelling certain aspects of self-regulating behaviour. Just be sure to draw their attention to what it is you’re doing. Otherwise, they might miss the point of your demonstrations.

Of course, modelling on its own probably won’t help your students improve that much. For that, you need to specifically focus on teaching them the skills that will help them improve their self-regulation.

Getting more explicit

One of the first things you can do is to simply understand and explain the usefulness of self-regulation in learning. Drawing your students’ attention to how learning these skills will help them study more effectively and get better results, will increase their motivation to improve their self-regulation.

But it’s important to keep in mind that self-regulation skills are fairly contextual. That means that teaching them requires a concentrated effort on all fronts of the school system. While you might be able to improve your students’ skills in the context of the subject you teach, these skills may not carry over to other classrooms or outside of the school.

Be aware, be competent

Of course, to effectively teach your students, you need to be aware of and comfortable adopting various self-regulation strategies yourself.

This starts with identifying the strategies you use yourself and understanding their place in self-regulation theory. For example, time management and focusing on your goals, keeping your motivation high, monitoring your own cognitive processes when learning (or teaching), and reflecting on your experiences are all ways self-regulation manifests.

Positive Psychology has put together an excellent guide for noticing and teaching various self-regulation skills that you can convey to your students.


Supporting self-regulation in students is an important educational goal in this day and age. This means giving students the tools they need to monitor and manage their own learning experience.

In order to do that, you first need to build a positive relationship with them and then introduce them to the benefits of adopting these strategies. Only then can you move to the more straightforward task of improving your students’ self-regulation skills through modelling and direct instruction.