If you’re the leader of an educational program, department, or institution, you know how important it is to help learners develop self-regulated learning (SRL) skills. We all have a vision of educating learners who will engage in lifelong learning effectively and efficiently. In language learning in particular, class time is never enough to develop proficiency in the target language – students need to manage their classwork and engage in learning beyond the classroom. How can we then help students to be more self-regulated? How can everyone in the organization work together towards a shared vision and goals?
The starting point for leaders is to keep in mind the need to facilitate collaboration and learning at all levels in an organization in order to successfully implement SRL across the organization (See figure). Therefore, organizations that aim to promote self-regulated learning must engage different stakeholders in the regulatory process themselves. This includes understanding wants and needs, identifying strengths and weaknesses, forming and communicating the vision and mission, setting goals, creating plans for implementation, monitoring progress, and evaluating outcomes. Here are ideas of what leaders can do in each step.
Understanding wants and needs
Leaders may facilitate the process to identify the policies and regulations related to SRL at the national, state, and local levels. This will offer a rationale for why the organization wants to mobilize everyone in this particular area of teaching and learning. However, look for terms such as lifelong learning, active learning, self-regulation, and learner autonomy, not only SRL. Leaders may also look into their organization to identify whether SRL and related concepts are mentioned in their mission statement and other documents. To gather more information, they may survey teachers and students..
Forming and communicating vision and mission
Once a strong desire to develop SRL is confirmed, organizations will need to verbalize the vision and mission and communicate this clearly to all stakeholders, especially teachers in the organization. These should be written in official documents and communicated in meetings and other communication channels. In my organization and others that I have observed, not everyone thinks about and understands what SRL means. It is, therefore, important to clarify what the concept means, why it is important, and the organization’s commitment to develop it among learners. To clarify the concept and bring everyone onboard, leaders may bring in experts to facilitate this process.
Understanding strengths and weaknesses
Many institutions may have already integrated SRL instead of starting from a blank slate. Therefore, it is important to gather information on resources that the organization can build on. These resources may include:
- Prior experiences and insights
- Successful practices
- Particularly experienced and/or motivated staff
- Useful teaching and learning materials
- Sources of time and funding
- Sources of inspiration and good practice outside of the school
Setting goals and measuring progress
As in any project and initiative, it is important to set goals and develop metrics to measure progress. These goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound). Measuring progress involves assessment of SRL and assessment of learners’ development in the content and skill areas. Comparisons among groups of learners or between learners in one term and another will provide evidence of development and progress.
Developing implementation plans
Specific implementation plans are necessary to drive action. This step involves the consideration of the curriculum, instructional practices, materials, resources, and so on. As in any other steps, involvement from teachers and different stakeholders in the organization will lead to better outcomes. In addition, leaders may ask the following questions helpful for continuous improvement:
- What practices and resources worked particularly well?
- What didn’t work?
- How well have teachers supported SRL? What further support for teachers is needed?
- What obstacles do teachers identify?
This is when leaders can engage stakeholders in the organization to learn from experiences by reporting and sharing assessment data related to learners’ SRL, evaluations of past practices, best practices and insights, and useful resources; discussing and making recommendations for improvement; as well as sharing insights to the wider professional communities through conference presentations and publications.
Other considerations for systematic integration of SRL across the organization
Overall, the role of leaders in this process includes getting everyone in the organization to work toward shared vision, mission, and goals. Therefore, their main responsibilities include:
- Communicate the organization’s needs and wants
- Coordinate systematic integration of SRL
- Encourage and support teachers (by providing feedback, professional development, and resources) and report best practices and insights
Leaders may also ask the following big and small questions during the implementation process.
What is the impact of SRL on our curriculum?
Are the materials used suitable?
Should there be more supplemental materials?
How can we guide students to use materials they identify?
What is the impact of SRL on our assessment practice?
How can we assess learners’ SRL?
How can we improve the assessment of SRL?
How can we integrate learners’ self-assessment (seen as facilitative of SRL) into the bigger assessment scheme?
What are the qualities we seek in our staff?
What knowledge and skills do we seek in our staff?
How does this affect hiring choices?
What is the impact of our changing practices on parents?
How have parents reacted to SRL teaching practices?
What is the impact of teachers’ experiences on organizational policies and practices?
How do we create a learning organization where everyone is willing to share?
How do we create forums for sharing knowledge and experience?
How can experiences from across the organization be elicited and shared?
How can we get people together to consolidate findings and make recommendations?
How can we engage in the larger professional communities to share and gain more knowledge in this area?
Do our experiences and insights from implementing SRL encourage us to reconsider our vision and aspirations?
Have we been successful?
Should we reconsider our vision and make SRL a core value?
In summary, successful implementation of SRL requires the collaboration of all stakeholders at all levels of an organization. What happens at one level or classroom affects activities in other areas and classrooms. Leaders in an organization play an important role in orchestrating the collaboration and learning.
If you want more best practice tips to promote independent, lifelong learners, you can download our position paper on The Key to Self-Regulated Learning.
Dr Linh Phung (www.eduling.org/teaching) is Director of the English Language Program at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, USA. She is also Director of Eduling International (www.eduling.org), which offers English materials and online instructional services to students in any location. She has peer reviewed articles published in a variety of education and language journals, and is a co-author of the book Studies in English: Strategies for Success in Higher Education (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). Passionate about creating bilingual materials and opportunities for language learning beyond the classroom, she recently published a children’s book and an app called Eduling Speak. She currently serves as Chair of the Affiliate Network Professional Council of TESOL International (2022–2023), which allows her to work with TESOL organizations around the world. Linh is a consultant on this paper.