While it is important to design the extrinsic environment so that it can support motivation and engagement (see guidelines 7 and 8), it is also important to develop students’ intrinsic abilities to regulate their own emotions and motivations. The ability to self-regulate – to strategically modulate one’s emotional reactions or states in order to be more effective at coping and engaging with the environment – is a critical aspect of human development. While many individuals develop self-regulatory skills on their own, either by trial and error or by observing successful adults, many others have significant difficulties in developing these skills. Unfortunately most classrooms do not address these skills explicitly, leaving them as part of the “implicit” curriculum that is often inaccessible or invisible to many. Furthermore, those classrooms that address self-regulation explicitly generally assume a single model or method for doing so. As in other kinds of learning, considerable individual differences are much more likely than uniformity. A successful approach requires providing sufficient alternatives to support learners with very different aptitudes and prior experience in learning to effectively manage their own engagement and affect.
9.1 Options that guide personal goal-setting and expectations
In learning to set goals for self-regulation, the goals are explicitly affective – learning to avoid frustration, learning to modulate anxiety, learning to set positive expectations. The actual goals that are optimum, however, will depend on the individual – some students need to dampen anxiety to succeed while others may need to elevate it somewhat. Consequently, it is essential that the models, prompts, guides and rubrics must also be varied enough to accommodate the full range of students who will need the support. Students need to see models, for example, that differ in the kinds of expectations and self-regulatory goals they set.
- Prompts, reminders, guides, rubrics, checklists that focus on:
- self-regulatory goals like reducing the frequency of tantrums or aggressive outbursts in response to frustration
- increasing the length of on-task task orientation in the face of distractions
- elevating the frequency of self-reflection and self-reinforcements
- Coaches, mentors, or agents that model the process of setting personally appropriate goals that take into account both strengths and weaknesses
9.2 Options that scaffold coping skills and strategies
Providing a model of self-regulatory skills is not enough for most students. They will need sustained apprenticeships with a gradual release of scaffolding Reminders, models, checklists, and so forth can assist students in choosing and trying an adaptive strategy – from among several alternatives – for managing and directing their emotional responses to external events (e.g. strategies for coping with anxiety-producing social settings or for reducing task-irrelevant distracters) or internal events (e.g. strategies for decreasing rumination on depressive or anxiety-producing ideation). Such scaffolds should provide sufficient alternatives to meet the challenge of individual differences in the kinds of strategies that might be successful and the independence with which they can be applied.
- Differentiated models, scaffolds and feedback for:
- managing frustration
- seeking external emotional support
- developing internal controls and coping skills
9.3 Options that develop self-assessment and reflection
In order to develop better capacity for self-regulation, students need to learn to monitor their emotions and reactivity carefully and accurately. Individuals differ considerably in their capability and propensity for such monitoring and some students will need a great deal of explicit instruction and modeling in order to learn how to do this successfully. For many students, merely recognizing that they are making progress toward greater independence is highly motivating. Alternatively, one of the key factors in students losing motivation is their inability to recognize their own progress. It is important, moreover that students have multiple models and scaffolds of different techniques so that they can identify, and choose, ones that are optimal.
- Recording devices, aids, or charts are available to assist individuals in learning to collect, chart and display data from their own behavior (including emotional responses, affect, etc.) for the purpose of monitoring changes in those behaviors
- These devices should provide a range of options that vary in their intrusiveness and support – providing a graduated apprenticeship in the development of better ability to monitor behavior and build skills in self-reflection and emotional awareness.
- Activities should include means by which students get feedback and have access to alternative scaffolds (charts, templates, feedback displays) that support them in understanding their progress in a manner that is understandable and timely.