In the simplest terms, self-regulation can be defined as the ability to stay calmly focused and alert, which often involves – but cannot be reduced to – self-control. Students with learning disabilities and/or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often have difficulty recognizing, channeling, and controlling their frustrations, excessive physical energy and impulsiveness that may result from their difficulties. They need to be taught strategies to manage their thoughts, behaviours, and emotions in order to successfully navigate their learning experiences and life after school.

Students without strong self-regulation skills are more likely to become increasingly resistant to school work, school in general, and self-investment in school, resulting in a greater likelihood of dropping out [1].

Developing self-regulation skills in students is not easy. It requires that teachers help students learn how to actively monitor their own thinking, to pause and check when needed, and to make their own decisions as they are engaged in their learning activities [2].

Four Phases of Self-Regulated Learning

Researchers introduced a model for self-regulated learning that included four phases. In a successful example of self-regulated learning, individuals would progress through each of the following four stages:

  1. Task definition
  2. Goal setting and planning
  3. Enacting of strategies
  4. Adaptations based on evaluations of progress [3]

Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD)

One model for cognitive strategy instruction is known as SRSD and it has garnered strong empirical support [4]. This model addresses the cognitive, motivational, and academic characteristics of students, and can be used effectively with students with LDs in all types of classrooms. The SRSD model can be applied to general learning strategies that support students with LDs (e.g., studying or memorizing) as well as content-specific strategies that support learning and performance (e.g., mathematics).

Six Steps of SRSD

Six steps are involved in the SRSD model:

Identify: Define the skills that an individual needs to perform a strategy and assess whether the individual has the required skills. A lack of the required skills places a heavy load on working memory and can make it difficult for an individual to acquire a new skill.

Discuss: Discuss the value of the strategy with the student. Explain what the strategy can be used for, why the student needs to learn a new strategy (usually current achievement is low), and how the strategy is used to help.

Model: Explicitly teach how and when the strategy is used, and think-aloud as you are using it to show the student exactly how it is used.

Memorize: The student must practice and commit the steps for using the strategy (as well as when the strategy can be effectively used) to memory.

Support: The student uses the strategy with support from the educator. It is important for the educator to monitor the student's use of the new strategy to ensure that it is being used effectively, before releasing responsibility entirely to the student.

Independence: The student has effectively retained the strategy and can use it effectively without support. [5]

[1] Blair & Diamond, 2008

[2] Westwood, 2003

[3] Winne and Hadwin, 1998

[4] Harris, Santangelo, & Graham, 2010

[5] Reid, Lienemann, & Hagaman, 2013