Self-Monitoring Definition

Click the play button to listen to Dr. Gendron's definition of self-monitoring:

Sound bite transcription:

Self-monitoring is the ability to evaluate our own behaviour in order to determine when a different approach would be more appropriate. So it’s about noticing and fixing our mistakes, knowing when to ask for help. In a learning environment, a student with good self-monitoring will reread his work, make sure he does the checks and balances to make sure that their answers make sense. The student who is challenged with self-monitoring will not engage in such tasks, and of course the quality of their work will suffer.

Self-monitoring is different from self-regulation and self-control, although these concepts are often confused. According to the Ministry of Education of Ontario's research monograph #63, the term self-regulation “emphasizes the influence of states of arousal and the ways in which students cope with and recover from ongoing stress” (p. 2). Self-control, on the other hand is more closely related to impulse control, an executive functioning skill that will be covered later in this module.

Click here to access research monograph #63, Understanding Self-Regulation: Why Stressed Students Struggle to Learn.

For more information on self-regulation, click here to access the article An Introduction to Self-Regulation.


Students with self-monitoring difficulties may:

  • require prompts to complete tasks and stay on track;
  • have inconsistent performance on tests and evaluations;
  • be easily distracted;
  • be surprised by poor grades, and lack a sense of their progress or ability;
  • get “stuck” easily or perseverate on a task for too long;
  • struggle to set realistic goals and monitor their progress toward attaining them.

Three teenagers working at their desks


Below is a list of possible strategies to support students with self-monitoring issues.

  • Verbalize your observations to make students aware. For example, “I hear lots of chatting”, or “I see a few people off task”.
  • Explicitly teach self-monitoring skills to students.
    • In math, this may take the form of rechecking one’s responses systematically (perhaps using a checklist) or using the answer to reverse the procedures and arrive at the original numbers in the question.
    • In writing tasks, it might include a visual aid with a checklist prompting the student to re-reading their work and check for certain criteria (e.g., respecting writing conventions, checking grammar, verifying spelling, etc.). Click here to access the mnemonic PLAN&WRITE. Click here to access the mnemonic COPS.
  • Use mindfulness strategies to develop students’ self-awareness and self-monitoring abilities. Click here to access the recording of the webinar An Introduction to Mindfulness for Educators, Classrooms, and School Communities.
  • Help students recognize when they need a break, and establish a signal for them to ask for one.
  • Allot time for mental breaks for the entire classroom. This will help all students reduce anxiety and reactivity of the nervous system, creating better conditions for effective self-monitoring.
    • For example, relaxation techniques can be used in the classroom regularly during periods of transitions (beginning of day, before or after recess, etc.). This can take the form of guided visual imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, or listening to music for a few minutes before a transition.
    • Encourage the whole class to practice physical exercises, which will also help reduce stress levels for everyone.


Image of PLAN&WRITE handout

Click here to access the mnemonic PLAN&WRITE.

Image of COPS Strategy

Click here to access the mnemonic COPS.