Self-Regulation (Zimmerman & Schunk – 1989)

The concept of self-regulation did not originate with Schunk or Zimmerman, but their three volume series (Schunk & Zimmerman, 1994; Schunk & Zimmerman, 1998; Zimmerman & Schunk, 1989) provided a forum for the exchange and elaboration of ideas regarding self-regulatory activities in learning, and promoted the application of these ideas in practical use. The first volume in the series, Self-Regulated Learning and Academic Achievement: Theory, Research, and Practice (Zimmerman & Schunk, 1989), presented self-regulated learning according to several different theoretical views, including: operant theory (p. 27), a phenomenological view (p. 51), social cognitive theory (p. 83), a volitional analysis (p. 111), a Vygotskian view (p. 143), and a constructive approach (p. 169). The second, Self-Regulation of Learning and Performance: Issues and Educational Applications (Schunk & Zimmerman, 1994), presented a conceptual framework for studying self-regulation. The third, Self-Regulated Learning: From Teaching to Self-Regulated Practice (Schunk & Zimmerman, 1998), provided “suggestions for teaching self-regulatory skills that are firmly derived from principles of self-regulation…[and discussed] detailed applications of self-regulation principles in classrooms and other learning settings” (p. ix). These three volumes facilitated, at least in part, the transition of self-regulation from its study as a set of subfunctions or component mechanisms of cognition to an emergent theory of learning, building predominately on the foundation established by Bandura in social cognitive learning (Bandura, 1986), in particular, Bandura’s review of self-regulatory mechanisms (pp. 335-389).[1]

Inasmuch as there is not one theory or model of self-regulated learning (Puustinen & Pulkkinen, 2001; Zimmerman & Schunk, 1989, p. 1), I have chosen to identify here the common conceptions among them, as described by Zimmerman in the first chapter of each of the three volumes. First is the shared belief that “students’ perceptions of themselves as learners and their use of various processes to regulate their learning are critical factors in analysis of academic achievement” (Zimmerman & Schunk, 1989, p. 1).  Second are the assumptions that students can (a) “personally improve their ability to learn through selective use of metacognitive and motivational strategies” (p. 4), (b) “proactively select, structure, and even create advantageous learning environments” (p. 4), and (c) “play a significant role in choosing the form and amount of instruction they need” (p. 4). Third, is the definition of self-regulated learners as being “metacognitively, motivationally, and behaviorally active participants in their own learning process” (Zimmerman, 1986, as cited in Zimmerman & Schunk, 1989, p. 4).

Zimmerman’s conceptual analysis of the dimensions of academic self-regulation (Schunk & Zimmerman, 1994, p. 8) includes four task conditions, four attributes of self-regulating learners, and four self-regulatory processes. The first task condition is that students must be able to choose to participate. “Schools or research procedures that externally compel students to participate prevent them from self-regulating their motivation” (p. 8). The second task condition is that students must be able to choose their method of learning. This includes choosing both learning strategy and use of time (p. 9). The third task condition is that students must be able to choose their performance outcomes. This condition implies that self-regulation involves self-monitoring. The fourth task condition is that students must be able to choose or control their physical and social environment.

Zimmerman’s conceptual framework also included four attributes of self-regulating learners. First, they are intrinsically or self-motivated. Second, they utilize planned or automatic methods of learning that enable them to function “at an automated level” (Schunk & Zimmerman, 1994, p. 12). Third, they are self-aware of performance outcomes. And fourth, they are environmentally and socially sensitive and resourceful, “significantly more likely to organize or restructure their place of study than regular learners” (p. 13).

Finally, Zimmerman’s conceptual framework included four self-regulatory processes. The first is the self-motivation derived from setting academic goals, a sense of self-efficacy, and values (p. 13). Second is the use of metacognitive strategies (p. 13). Third are the processes of self-monitoring and self-recording. Fourth is the structuring of one’s environment and the self-selection of exemplary models to observe (p. 15).

One additional concept presented by Zimmerman in the third volume (Schunk & Zimmerman, 1998, pp. 2-10) is his model of self-regulated learning cycle phases (p. 3):

Most self-regulation theorists view learning as a multidimensional process involving personal (cognitive and emotional), behavioral, and contextual components (Zimmerman, 1986, 1989). For an academic skill to be mastered, learners must behaviorally apply cognitive strategies to a task within a contextually relevant setting. This usually requires repeated attempts to learn because mastering involves coordinating, personal, behavioral, and environmental components, each of which is separately dynamic as well as jointly interactive. (p. 2).

Zimmerman further described self-regulation theorists view of learning as “an open-ended process that requires cyclical activity on the part of the learner that occurs in three major phases: forethought, performance or volitional control, and self-reflection” (Schunk & Zimmerman, 1998, p. 2). The forethought phase accounts for “five types of forethought processes and beliefs [that] have been studied in research on academic self-regulation” (Schunk & Zimmerman, 1998, p. 2). They are: goal setting, strategic planning, self-efficacy beliefs, goal orientation, and intrinsic interest. The performance or volitional control phase accounts for three processes that have been studied in research on academic self-regulation, namely: attention focusing, self-instruction and imagery, and self-monitoring. The self-reflection phases accounts for four types of self reflection. They are: self-evaluation, attributions, self-reactions, and adaptivity.

Based on my own review of various models of self-regulated learning (McCombs & Marzano, 1990), Zimmerman’s common conceptions of self-regulated learning, conceptual framework for academic self learning, and self-regulated learning cycles model is a fair abstraction of the common ground they share. However, as should be expected, looking at only the abstracted model one is deprived of the more rich detail in the individual models. To the reader interested in detail that could not reasonably covered in this brief summary, I recommend reviewing the models presented in Zimmerman and Schunk’s three volume series, plus the model presented in McCombs and Marzano (1990, pp. 54-63) and Schunk’s (2005) summary of Pintrich’s model.


[1] In the first of the three volume series mentioned, Schunk (1989) reviewed self-regulated learning in social cognitive theory and continued to refer to Bandura in subsequent publications (Schunk, 1990, p. 72; Schunk, 1994, p. 76)

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