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Self-regulation skills help students concentrate on learning. Self-regulation is the ability to alter and regulate our emotional and behavioral responses flexibly in order to meet a given goal. Self-regulation is a limited capacity resource meaning that it can become depleted over the course of the task or day, or can become drained when learners are spending much of their energy working to focus.

Main Ideas

Self-regulation includes recognizing our behavioral responses and aligning them with standards, such as social expectations. Students who can successfully self-regulate their behaviors accomplish this by flexibly monitoring and inhibiting emotions, attention, motivation, actions, or impulses in pursuit of a goal. It is important to note that the perception of appropriate behavior in learning environments may be influenced by dominant social norms in a culture and may not match learners' own cultural norms, attitudes, and beliefs.

Self-regulation can be broken down into three main components:

  • Cognitive regulation involves using Attention and executive functions (i.e., Working Memory, Inhibition, Cognitive Flexibility) to inhibit impulses, allocate effort, and attend to tasks.
  • Behavioral regulation refers to the ability to adjust one's behavior in order to meet the norms and goals of a particular context or task.
  • Emotion regulation (part of the Emotion factor) refers to the ability to manage emotional arousal and to maintain an emotional balance that allows for effective goal pursuit. It also allows for cognitive reappraisal such as re-framing events and thoughts to change one's emotional reaction to them. Adults with ADHD are more likely to have difficulty with emotion regulation and may need additional support in this area.

This type of self-discipline is a strong predictor of positive academic outcomes in adults who are typically in more self-directed instructional settings. These settings (e.g., online, college, community programs, workplace) may offer different levels of support or structure for learners. Adults with Learning Disabilities may experience difficulty with Self-regulation in certain contexts, including the classroom or workplace. The strategies learners employ for studying may also vary by learning context; for example, workplace learning may benefit from being built into employees' individual development plans.

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