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14 Dec 2018

Self – regulation: students or staff?

Self – regulation: students or staff?

After reading Daniel Willingham’s article ‘Can Teachers Increase Students’ Self-control’, I began asking myself some questions; are we right in focusing on the students, or firstly should we start with the teachers themselves?

Self-regulation is, in essence, the ability to prevent an automatic response to a situation and replace it with something else, thus controlling emotions, attention or cognitive processes. Within a school setting this motivates learners to engage and develop strategies to improve (EEF). With the EEF’s guidance report on Metacognition and Self-regulated Learning, these concepts are becoming more widely discussed within an educational environment; however, is it practised widely enough or are we still just talking about it?

Within a classroom situation it is incredibly common to find a pupil behaviour incident that has derived from their inability to self-regulate; this could be further enhanced to ‘boiling point’ if the teacher is unable to self-regulate and automatically responds in a negative way. Contrary to popular opinion, teachers are human. Sometimes, we are carrying a plethora of external factors on our shoulders and that student who retorts with a clever comment results in the sufferance of your bad day. Is this fair? Probably not. Is it common? Very.

So how do we rectify this? I propose that the EEF recommendations should firstly be applied to our staff; after all, they are the most important layer within the school jigsaw.

With regards to recommendation 1: ‘Teachers should acquire the professional understanding and skills to develop their pupils metacognitive knowledge’ – or their own? It is crucial that the comprehension of self-regulation is made explicit; through CPD, cross curricular learning and whole school policies we can develop skills to support all layers of the school community. ‘Adding-on’ self-regulation to a PSHE session or a tutor time will neither support students nor create an understanding of the importance thereof; opportunities must be explicit, and frequent – continuous professional development, which link to recommendation 7: ‘Schools should support teachers to develop knowledge of these approaches and expect them to applied appropriately’.

Jumping back to recommendation 4: ‘Set an appropriate level of challenge to develop pupils’ self-regulation’, I find myself considering the level of challenge we set ourselves and our teams as educators. Some of us are natural challenge seekers – knowing that the more we learn, and challenge ourselves, the more we can progress in our careers and professional lives; however, there are many members of staff who are content with ‘just getting by’. What is this teaching our pupils? If the bare minimum of feedback is given, and the exact allocation of CPD opportunities are attended, what happens when something new leaps into the education world? Panic. Defence. Withdrawal. Fastforward to the Spanish lesson where the child is given a modal grammar conjugation to challenge them: Panic. Defence. Withdrawal.

I am not suggesting this is going to re-write the story of education, nor will it create incomprehensible gains in results over 6 months. But if it teaches us to improve our own motivation and resilience, as well as that of the pupils, surely we should invest time and (self) awareness into it.

References:
Willingham, D. (2011) ‘Can Teachers Increase Students’ Self-Control?’ American Educator

EEF (2018) Metacognition & Self-Regulated Learning Guidance Report