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Adult Learner > Factors > Self-regulation


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Self-regulation is the ability to alter and regulate our thoughts, behavioral responses, and emotions. Self-regulation is critical for achieving learning goals by helping adult learners manage their thoughts and behaviors.

Main Ideas

Self-regulation includes directing behavioral responses and aligning them with goals and standards, such as social and academic expectations. Learners who can successfully self-regulate their behaviors accomplish this by monitoring and inhibiting their actions or impulses. It is important to note that the perception of appropriate behavior in learning environments may be dictated 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.

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. 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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