Self-Regulated Learning


Learning taking control of their own learning

Principal Metaphors

Self-Regulated Learning does not align with a particular theory of learning, which means that almost any theory of learning can be aligned with it. Consequently, the theory makes just as much sense whether invoking the Acquisition Metaphor or the wildly incompatible Radical Constructivism. That said, on close analysis, the metaphors and images most often invoked within Self-Regulated Learning appear to fit most closely with two Mentalisms – firstly, the Attainment Metaphor
  • Knowledge is … a territory/area/domain/field (typically involving challenge)
  • Knowing is … attaining a goal
  • Learner is … a seeker
  • Learning is … journeying (arriving at, reaching, progressing, accomplishing, achieving)
  • Teaching is … leading, guiding, directing, facilitating
… and, secondly, Brain-as-Computer Discourses
  • Knowledge is … information
  • Knowing is … using information
  • Learner is … a computer
  • Learning is … inputting (and associated computer-based notions, such as processing, storing, and retrieving)
  • Teaching is … transmission (of information)




Self-Regulated Learning, as the name suggests, is about one’s control of one’s own learning, which entails an awareness of strengths and weakness, a repertoire of learning strategies, and a growth Mindset or high sense of Self-Efficacy. Self-Regulated Learning is concerned with processes to develop such control, strategies to direct it, means to monitor it, and tools to evaluate it. Associated discourses and constructs include:
  • Action Control Theory – an umbrella category that includes any theory that emphasis the role of personal volition in learning
  • Self-Schema – one’s sense of one’s own abilities, willpower, and agency – typically considered against the backdrop of one’s interest and aspirations
  • Volitional Style – a personality trait associate with using one’s will to attain desired ends
The literature around Self-Regulated Learning is peppered with models, some of which include (listed chronologically, by decade):
  • Multi-Level Model of Self-Regulated Learning (B.J. Zimmerman, 1980s) – a four-state model: observation; emulation; self-control; self-regulation
  • Active and Dynamic Self-Regulated Learning Processes (A. Iran-Nejhad & B. Chissom, 1990s) – a model positing three sources of SRL: active/executive; dynamic; interest-creating discovery
  • Structural Model of Self-Regulated Learning (M. Boekaerts, 1990s) – a six-component model: domain-specific knowledge and skills; cognitive strategies; cognitive self-regulatory strategies; motivational beliefs and theory of mind; motivation strategies; motivation self-regulatory strategies
  • Dual Processing Self-Regulation Model (M. Boekaerts, 1990s) a model positing two parallel-processing modes: mastery or learning mode; coping or well-being mode
  • Winne Self-Regulated Learning Model (P. Winne & A.F. Hadwin, 1990s) – a four-phase, recursive model: task perception; goal setting and planning; enacting; adaptation.
  • Cyclical Phases Model of Self-Regulated Learning (B.J. Zimmerman & A.R. Moylan, 2000s) – a three-phase, cyclical model: forethought; performance; self-reflection
  • Metacognitive and Affective Model of Self-Regulated Learning Model (A. Efklides, 2000s) – a model in which SRL is parsed into two levels: Person/Macrolevel (cognition, motivation, self-concept, affect, volition, metacognition); Task ´ Person/Microlevel (cognition, metacognition, affect, regulation of affect and effort)
  • Pintrich’s Self-Regulated Learning Model (P.R. Pintrich, 2000s) – a four-phase linear model: forethought, planning and activation; monitoring; control; reaction and reflection.
  • Meta-Analysis of Self-Regulated Learning Models (E. Panadero, 2010s) – most SRL models comprise three phases: preparatory (analysis, planning); performance (doing, monitoring); appraisal (reflecting adjusting)
  • Socially Shared Regulated Learning Model (S. Jävelä & A.F. Hadwin, 2010s) – a model positing three modes of regulation in collaborative settings: self-regulation; co-regulation; shared regulation


The most obvious criticism of Self-Regulated Learning is, as signalled above, its lack of attendance to defensible theories of learning. Consequently, research on Self-Regulated Learning is overwhelmingly focused on proving the obvious – namely that people who see themselves as competent and engaged learners tend to do better at school-like tasks than those who don’t.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Diffuse. See above.

Status as a Theory of Learning

Self-Regulated Learning is not a theory of learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Self-Regulated Learning is a theory of influencing learning, which pushes it into the space of pedagogy. Indeed, the discourse tends to have lots of advice for educators – but, ultimately, it’s most focused on learners influencing their own learning. It might thus be best characterized as a theory of self-teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

With regard to research, educational researchers associated with Self-Regulated Learning tend to lean in the direction of the rigorously empirical. However, while they are generally explicit about their models and reasonably careful in their calculations when doing factor analyses, they are rarely attentive to assumptions on the complex dynamics of learning – and, consequently, most of the research is associated with uncritical and/or untenable characterizations of the phenomenon. That shortcoming means that Self-Regulated Learning does not meet our criteria for a scientific theory.


  • Action Control Theory
  • Active and Dynamic Self-Regulated Learning Processes
  • Cyclical Phases Model of Self-Regulated Learning
  • Dual Processing Self-Regulation Model
  • Metacognitive and Affective Model of Self-Regulated Learning
  • Multi-Level Model of Self-Regulated Learning
  • Pintrich’s Self-Regulated Learning Model
  • Self-Schema (Working Self-Concept)
  • Socially Shared Regulated Learning Model
  • Structural Model of Self-Regulated Learning
  • Volitional Style
  • Winne Self-Regulated Learning Model

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2021). “Self-Regulated Learning” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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