Self-Regulated Learning And Academic Success


Self-regulation is a behavioural acquisition which constitutes an important factor of school adaptation. Self-regulated learning represents a synthesis of several – motivational, strategic and self-control factors of performance. This type of learning provide explanations for two main problems: the first is connected to pupils’ learning motivational resources and the second targets the specific behaviours which externalize pupils’ individual learning. Pupil’s abilities target his use of different cognitive and metacognitive strategies whereas the motivational orientation refers to aims, values and expectances. The option for one strategy or another in solving certain problems, no matter whether cognition, metacognition or motivation are implied, depend on pupil’s expectances and convictions, on the values and goals related to learning. Self-regulated learning implies a reciprocal construction relation between subject (the learner) and the object (what is learned), construction and reconstruction of meanings in an interative relationship. Knowledge is constructed and transformed during the interaction of the subject with the academic environment.The strict preservation of old meanings is replaced by the „discovery” of meanings and significances, able to trigger pupils’ dynamic, active own approaches of the learning material. The determinant factors in achieving self-regulated learning belong to the learner’s personality but also to the educational/academic context he is part of. Consequently, pupil’s instruction to approach the learning material in a dynamic and flexible way becomes very important. The aim of learning strategies is represented by a judicial management of the pupil’s cognitive and motivational resources in order to problem solving.

Keywords: Self-regulated learningmotivational factorsmetacognitiondevelopment strategies of self-regulated learning


Success in the academic learning activity is not only the result of some aptitudes and capacities, as

it is acknowledged that pupils with superior intellectual aptitudes do not always attain academic

performance. Then, the issue under debate is: what determines a pupil to attend a school, to learn, to meet

the academic requirements and hardness, to obtain performance and what determines another pupil not to

follow the same path?

In order to answer these questions and others related to the manner some pupils obtain

performance and others don’t, teachers directed their atention to pupils’ strategic efforts to manage their

own achievements through specific processes and convictions. Self-regulated learning, a recent concept in

the psychology of education lays the emphasis on the personal and learning environment, on

metacognitive, behavioural and motivational processes used to obtain academic performance.

This learning approach is distinct from previous models since it explains why pupils learn and

what kind of personal behaviour they develop, how they think about themselves and about school tasks,

obtaining results independently. Thus, the accent is not laid on pupils’ learning abilities and on the home

or school learning environments but on the strategies used individually to obtain academic performance.

In the traditional education activity, the learning process is guided and controlled to a large extent

by the teacher who sets the learning objectives, selects the contents, the didactic materials, structures the

learning environment, motivates pupils by giving rewards, qualifications, grades,etc. Pupils cannot

manage their cognitive, affective and motivational resources and mainly they cannot regulate their own

learning activity.

The development of self-regulation capacities, of guide and control of one’s own thoughts,

reasons, emotional experiences and behaviours contribute to the formation of one of the human capacities

vital for developing harmonious relations and psychical health. Self-regulated learning strategies acquired

in school (flexibility in problem solving, generation of dynamic, alternative, solutions, creative thinking,

team work) will be used mostly afterwards, on the labour market which is in a perpetual dynamics and

transformation. (Zimmerman, 1998)

We observe the fact that school is not yet prepared to meet pupil’ expectances and needs as they

are beset with a multitude of new information, either through the internet or through diverse massmedia

channels. Due to the conservatism of the educational process which ignores pupils’ potential and

capacities to operate with a huge volume of information simultaneously, school becomes an ominous

learning environment.

Educational objectives have to be reconsidered so that pupils should develop control abilities of

their learning behaviour and information and abilities about the processes and mechanisms with a role in

personal management should be provided. Self-regulated learning offers the opportunity to monitor

multiple informational processes and at the same time it constitutes the requisite of deep informational

processing. The development of self-regulated abilities can be achieved in the instructive process by

enhancing the activities which mediate the experiences through which the pupil learns to explore a

learning situation sistematically, to self-monitor cognitive processes, his learning activity and the way of

organizing information, to formulate hypotheses and to use strategies for testing hypotheses, to plan his

learning behaviour, to reflect upon his own way of learning/understanding and to generate personal


Theoretical Frame of Self-Regulation Learning

Generally, self-regulation can be defined as a characteristics of any biological or cybernetical

system, characteristics which allow the reception of information from the environment (from other

systems), their processing and the formulation of an adequate answer so that self-conservation could be

ensured in an environment which tends to unsettle the system. The answer mechanism becomes possible

due to the inverse connection (the feed-back) through which the answer of the system is communicated to

the control centre and compared to the given order.

Self-regulation represents those personal natural answers, often automatized, which aim at

reducing the existing disparities between an individual’s expectances and the perceived reality. At human

level, it implies cognitive and/or behavioural processes and is always accompanied by emotional control.

An efficient self-regulation which presumes the control of thoughts, feelings and behaviour constitutes

the foundation of a healthy psychical functioning. Synthetically, self-regulation refers to thoughts,

emotions and actions which are planned and adapted to personal goal attainment (Zimmerman, 2000).

Self-regulated learning refers to pupils’ capacity to exert an active, metacognitive, motivational

and behavioural control over their own learning activity and over its results.

From the perspective of the operant learning theories, the basic processes of self-regulation are

self-observation (monitoring own behaviour through recording its duration and frequency), self-

instruction (stimuli which guide the answer), self-evaluation (comparison of own behaviour with the

standards of its development) and self-improvement (Zimmerman, 2001).

Constructivism emphasized the fact that the development of the learning capacity conforms with

cognitive deveopment and acts upon individuals’ beliefs about their own competence, upon the learning

control and academic performances and upon the used learning strategies. (Paris, Byrnes și Paris, 2001 in

Cazan, 2013)

The socio-cognitive approach of self-regulated learning is considered to have a cyclic nature.

Zimmerman (2000) elaborates a cyclical triadic model: forethought period for goal setting and social

modelling, volitional control period which include processes taking part during learning (social

comparison, instruction strategies, verbalization of action for oneself) and self-reflection which implies

self-monitoring and self-evaluation processes. This model suggests that self-regulation can be improved

through practice (individuals with a high level of self-regulation will start from previous experiences to

build new strategies which will support efficient learning.

From this perspective Pintrich (2004) develops a similar model of self-regulated learning which

includes four phases of self-regulation in four domains – cognitive, motivational, behavioural and

contextual. The first phase implies planning and goal setting, the second phase includes monitoring the

learning process which implies perception of own cognitions, motivations and emotions, elaboration of

metacognitive expertise about the task and about own abilties and competences, the third stage includes

the effort to control and regulate different aspects related to the self, to the task and context and the fourth

stage contains elaboration of reflections about the self, about the task and the context.

According to the cyclic model, self-regulated learning is an active, constructive process through

which cognition, motivation and behaviour are monitored, regulated and controlled, based on one’s own

goals and on contextual characteristics of the learning environment.

These models of self-regulated learning include in the system of factors which determine the

development of self-regulated learning not only self-regulation strategies but also the motivational

factors. Self-efficacy, learning goals, interests, intrinsic motivation are implied in the regulatory

processes, as conditions of self-regulated learning. Along with cognitive factors, motivational factors can

influence the development of self-regulated learning through the modification of the learning goals and

the optimization of the regulatory processes (Pintrich, 2004). The goals oriented towards performance or

towards learning are associated with the use of self-regulated learning strategies (pupils who set goals

oriented towards optimizaton and learning monitor their progress, control and regulate their learning

effort, use efficient learning strategies and obtain performances in learning).

To learn how to learn presumes the cognizance of the learning needs, the identification of

opportumities and the ability to persevere in learning, to organize personal learning with a view to

overcome obstacles for successful outcomes. The learning motivation and a positive self-image,

incremental beliefs about one’s own intellectual and physical possibilities are determinant in forming this

capacity during school years (Negovan, 2004).

Self-directed learning (self-directed learning, autoformation, selbstgesteuertes Lernen) designates

an extremely complex process in/through which the individual has the initiative of learning, sets his own

learning needs (with or without others’support), formulates his goals, the learning objectives, identifies

the necessary human and material resources, chooses and applies adequate strategies and evaluates his

own results. (Siebert, 2001)

Self-directed learning or self-instruction must not be mistaken for independent learningwhich is

achieved outside an organization and without the support of an educator or of an educational institution

despite the fact that the learning responsibility is transferred from the institutiton/educator to the learner

(pupil, student).

From a psychological point of view, in the systemic and constructivist theory (Siebert, 2001) self-

directed learning lays the emphasis on the acquisition of knowledge and not on its transfer. „To instruct”

becomes equivalent with „to support”, „to assist” the one who wishes to learn structures of essential

knowledge. The educator must organize the educational space only, so that this responsibility could be


Development Strategies of Self-Regulated Learning

Self-regulated learning consists in acquiring, processing and assimilating new information and

capacities/skills but also in asking and using guidance/counselling. It presumes the implication of the

learners in the making of knowledge, starting from thier previous experience, in order to be able to apply

their expertise and capacities in diverse contexts: at home, at the working place, in education and

individual professional training.

The traditional perspective upon self-regulated learning, which analyzes the development of self-

regulated learning in connexion to maturity, advocates that at early ages, children are not capable of self-

regulated learning, due to the fact that they do not have mechanisms of regulating their own behaviour.

Maturity allows the acquisition of information, the develoment of representations and then development

of learning strategies and of metacognition.

In a recent perspective, the emphasis is laid more upon learning and less upon development and

the individual’s capacity to face more and more difficult challenges becomes essential. Self-regulated

abilities are necessary for the acquision of knowledge and the improvement of abilities but they do not

lead implicitly to an enhancement of performances. (Zimmerman, 2000)

Self-regulating abilities begin as early as childhood which develops functions with a major role in

self-regulation - attention, working memory when the individual becomes capable of inhibiting certain

behaviours. One can identify self-monitoring learning abilities at 4-5 years but they begin to be used

scarcely around 11-12 years. During early schooling, pupils can acquire specific strategies for the study

of mathematics and the strategies of understanding texts are used during the middle school period.

Recent research demonstrated that some preschoolers are capable of regulating the learning

processes and the abilities formed at early ages predict academic competences and performances in the

learning activity. (Perry, 2004). Pupils’ voluntary effort and academic self-efficacy condition academic

performances at fundamental disciplines in the primary cycle.

Whereas pupils with high academic performances use a series of strategies specific for self-

regulated learning – self-evaluation, organization and elaboration of information, monitoring of learning,

the structuring of the learning environment, the use of efficient memorizing techniques etc., pupils with

low academic performances use non-regulating learning strategies. Researches showed that the combined

use of self-regulated strategies determine academic performances but also performances at a standardized

test of knowledge. (Ley și Young, 2006)

The specialty literature registers a series of studies which also take into consideration other

variables that intervene in the relation between learning strategies and academic performances. Thus, they

emphasized the existence of an indirect relation between motivational learning strategies and academic

performances. (Aniței, Chraif, Papasteri, Neacșu, & Pioarcă, 2010). Researches assert the hypothesis that

intelligence influences academic performances not only directly but also indirectly through the agency of

self-regulating learning strategies. It is considered that persons with a high intelligence quotient uses self-

regulated strategies more efficiently, in that intelligence includes self-regulating capacities as a central

element.(Grigorenko&Sternberg, 2001 in Cazan, A.M., 2013).

Many children have a low level of self-regulated learning capacities, although they begin to

develop as early as preschool years which advocates the use of didactic strategies which would contribute

to the development of these abilities since the primary cycle.

Self-regulated learning (to lear how to learn) can be achieved either through an independent

approach, based on the learning of the study techniques, methods and strategies, independent in relation

to traditional disciplines, or through specific teaching activities of the disciplinary or interdisciplinary


Since the abilities of self-regulated learning improves as their development strategies are practised,

they need the use of efficient learning methods, the stimulation of self-efficacy, self-monitoring and self-

evaluation abilities of the learning outcomes.

Self-regulated learning implies the embracement of efficient learning strategies and techniques

which improve as they are practised. There are efficient learning strategies specific for a certain field of

study (mathematics is learned differently from history or geography) and strategies that have a general

character which can be used for learning in any field and can be transferred from one field to another.

Problematics of Study

Our observational study proposes to identify pupils’/students’ opinions about self-directed

learning, about the competence to learn how to learn obtained during schooling years with a view to be

prepared for the learning for life.

Hypothsesis of Research: We asume that pupils / students with poor acaemic performances

have poorly structured self-directed learning.

The Sample: The target group in our research is represented by 50 high-school pupils (17 – 18

years) and 80 students, I-st and II-nd year of study, with academic results below average.

Methodology: The diagnosis had been achieved through a questionnaire with open-ended and

closed-ended answers and through structured interviews about the strategies they use in the learning

activity. The results had been analyzed on the basis of subjects’ annual mean.

Analysis and Interpretation of Results

In the analysis and interpretation of results we intended to emphasize: if the subjects hold and use

operational and scientific information about the self-directed abilities; if they have knowledge and

administration capacities of the internal resources of personality involved in self-directed learning; if they

have projecting/implementation/evaluation competences of some personalized learning strategies: if they

have metacognitive elements specific for learning; how necessary and beneficial is to create self-

reflection sequences in the learning activity.

Concerning the importance given by subjects to the necessity to know how to learn as well as to

the modalities in which self-directed learning abilities are used, the answers are different between the two

categories of subjects. Most pupils does not consider it is important to know how to learn independently

in the sense of choosing the learning contents and strategies, as they are offered by teachers to the utmost

extent. Instead, students considered it to be very important because „we will not have a teacher near us to

guide us how to overcome social problems”. They also affirm the fact that for achieving self-directed

learning is important to know your own needs, aspirations and chiefly to know how to obtain what you

need, namely the self-directed strategies (goal setting, cognizance of own necessities, motivations and of

modalities of attaining objectives).

As compared to pupils, students largely ponder over the problem of setting clear learning goals,

but they consider it as a very difficult problem, which determines a rise in the level of awareness and

resposibility in relation to academic results.

Among the methods used to a large extent they indicated: the use of helping schemes, the

structuring of contents in learning units and time intervals, repetitions, revisions, accentuation of

keywords, association of words, main ideas. Among the less used strategies we noted: assignation of the

study steps, early preparation of homework, the use of questions, clear goal setting, ensuring ambient

conditions, avoidance of external influences.

Pupils indicate as dominant learning strategies those based on memory while students use besides

these, metacognitive, motivational, of cognizance and use learning styles, too. This thing demonstrates

that students, unlike pupils, have a certain self-directed learning experience but it must be diversified to

overcome the memorizing situation of a material.

As concerns the subjects’ motivation in the matter of participation to training courses in the field

of development of self-directed learning competences, they offered a list containing the following

reasons: it would train me to cope in every learning situation and at any age; it allows me to acquire some

efficient learning methods and techniques; I will become a good manager of my own learning activity; I

will know my learning style better; it would help to improve my academic performances; it would offer

the opportunity to know the learning methods of many persons; I would obtain a bigger number of


Most pupils consider that they would participate to such a course in order to obtain academic

performances, being less motivated by certain perspectives in using these forms of learning.

Instead, students wish to attend such a course in order to obtain high grades through little effort

and to know and use the learning style efficiently but also to use these strategies in other situations

outside the learning environment. Another lot of students consider that such a course can contribute to

their own formation mainly because after graduation they have to continue the learning activity without

external guidance. Although they affirm that teachers’ and school contribution is important, they mention

that the interest for their own developement is also very important, by studying some independent

learning guides but the bases of such learning must be built during schooling.


To learn how to learn constitutes one of the primary, permanent but difficult challenges of the

whole didactic activity.

Most educators affirm that efforts invested in study, as systematic academic learning and even the

quality of pupils’ and students’ learning styles are inferior to their results obtained in school. The

inefficiency of the learning activities and academic failures implicitly arise from the fact that both pupils

and students do not use the strategies of self-directed learning.

The sense of modern education is to transfer not only information but to train pupils and students

for learning for life, to familiarize the learner with the strategies of self-directed strategies, to transform

the human who is educated and trained by others in the human who can educate and train himself.

Both pupils and students need training in the matter of the self-directed learning strategies in order

to achieve the learning for life.


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