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Positive Education: The Freedom of Self-Regulation

James McPherson —

Learning to self-regulate and prioritise the importance of tasks is a core skill to master in order to become an independent learner.

Time is a finite resource and making decisions around what is a valuable use of time or needs attention first can make all the difference in success of a project.

Students who are self-regulating receive a number of benefits. Foremost among these is the ability to be able to progress without guidance and external input. Being aware of the tasks that need to be completed, and understanding their value and importance allows us to determine by ourselves where our focus and effort is most effective. This independence in turn means that our precious time can be spent working on the problem at hand, without wasting time waiting for feedback or suggestions from others. It essentially allows us to make the most of our time, and any opportunities that present themselves.

In the classroom, the student who is self-sufficient does not need to wait for the teacher to have a free moment in order to move onto the next task or provide extension – they already have the skills to find their own resources and explore the topic at will. In turn, this builds confidence and autonomy, and develops the growth mindset – the idea that we are constantly growing and developing, and if something is currently out of reach all we can do is keep on working towards it.

At home, self-regulation can be developed through conversation. Have a discussion with your son about what they need to complete, or what they may need to prepare for. Ask them what they think they should do first and explain why they think that. The most important part of this process is always the evaluation at the end – was their choice the right one? Could they have done anything differently to improve how they did? Reflection on these questions informs better choices for next time and refines the entire process.

Take control over your own actions. If you can regulate yourself, then you have more agency in both your education and your future.