Int. J. Technology Enhanced Learning, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2014 145
Copyright © 2014 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.
Self-regulated learning in formal education:
perceptions, challenges and opportunities
Alexander Mikroyannidis* and
Knowledge Media Institute,
The Open University,
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire MK7 6AA, UK
Effie Lai-Chong Law
Department of Computer Science,
University of Leicester,
Leicester LE1 7RH, UK
Institut für Deutsche Sprache,
R5, 6-13, 68161 Mannheim, Germany
RWTH Aachen University,
Cognitive Science Section (CSS),
Knowledge Technologies Institute (KTI),
Graz University of Technology (TUGraz),
Hyrtlstraße 45, 2340 Mödling, Austria
146 A. Mikroyannidis et al.
Centre for e-Learning Technology (CeLTech),
Alt-Moabit 91c, D-10559 Berlin, Germany
Department of Computer Science and Engineering,
School of Science,
Abstract: Self-Regulated Learning (SRL) is a term that can be used to describe
an individual’s ability to develop a skill set allowing him or her to learn in a
number of different ways. SRL can also relate to new pedagogical theories that
encourage teachers in formal education to motivate and support their students
into achieving a high level of self-regulation. This paper reports on the findings
of a number of surveys conducted with a wide variety of teachers in different
countries, regarding their perceptions of SRL. The results and analysis of these
surveys help inform not only the perceptions of SRL amongst teachers but also
examine the challenges and opportunities that arise from taking this approach.
Keywords: self-regulated learning; independent learning; formal education.
Reference to this paper should be made as follows: Mikroyannidis, A.,
Connolly, T., Law, E.L-C., Schmitz, H-C., Vieritz, H., Nussbaumer, A.,
Berthold, M., Ullrich, C. and Dhir, A. (2014) ‘Self-regulated learning in formal
education: perceptions, challenges and opportunities’, Int. J. Technology
Enhanced Learning, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp.145–163.
Biographical notes: Alexander Mikroyannidis is a Postdoctoral Researcher
in the Knowledge Media Institute of the Open University, UK. His research
areas of interest are related with knowledge management and applications of
semantic and social web technologies in technology-enhanced learning.
Recently, he has been investigating self-regulated learning and the challenges
involved in the adoption of personal learning environments by the lifelong
learner. He has also been working on the production of online courses and open
educational resources, delivered through various educational platforms, such as
Teresa Connolly has research and teaching experience in geographic
information systems, academic practice, educational technology and open
educational resources. She has worked as a Lecturer in the OpenLearn
project and on EU-funded technology-enhanced learning projects at the Open
University. She also has worked on the JISC/HEA funded Open Resource
Bank for Interactive Teaching (ORBIT) project at the University of Cambridge
and the EU FP7-funded BioFresh project at the University of Oxford. She has
also carried out a number of consultancies for UNESCO, the Imperial College
NHS Trust and the UK Higher Education Academy (HEA), where she is an
Self-regulated learning in formal education 147
Effie Lai-Chong Law is a Reader at the Department of Computer Science of
the University of Leicester (UK) and a Senior Visiting Researcher of ETH
Zürich (Switzerland). Her research domains are Human-Computer Interaction
(HCI) and Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) with a specific focus on
usability and User Experience (UX) methodologies. She has been chairing two
international HCI projects: MAUSE and TwinTide. She has also assumed a
leading role in a number of interdisciplinary EU-funded research projects on
various TEL topics such as game-based learning, CSCL and personalised
learning environments. She is an Editorial Board Member of Interacting with
Hans-Christian Schmitz is a Member of the Institut für Deutsche Sprache (IDS,
Institute for German Language) where he is responsible for text and data
mining for linguistic analysis. Before he joined the IDS, he was a researcher at
the Fraunhofer Institute of Applied Information Technology FIT. He conducted
research and development in data mining and technology-enhanced learning
and served as the Manager of the Responsive Open Learning Environments
(ROLE) project. He holds a PhD in Computational Linguistics. He has been
substituting for Professors at the universities of Bielefeld, Essen and Duisburg.
Helmut Vieritz studied Physics and Sociology at the Humboldt University and
Freie Universität of Berlin. Currently, the centre of his life is the very nice
town Aachen. His research is related to activity-centred design and model-
driven user interface development. He is interested in web and eLearning
technologies with focus on accessibility for all users. Over the last few years,
he has also become an expert in teaching large classes at the university in the
fields of mathematics and computer science.
Alexander Nussbaumer is a Member of the interdisciplinary Cognitive Science
Section (CSS) at Knowledge Technologies Institute (KTI) of the Graz
University of Technology (TUGraz). Before that, he was a member of the same
group at the Department of Psychology of the University of Graz. Having a
background in Computer Science, his main research interests include cognitive
modelling and competence-based knowledge space theory, virtual learning
environments, personalisation and adaptation approaches, self-regulated
processes, visual analytics and evaluation support. He was involved in several
European research projects on technology-enhanced learning and cultural
heritage, such as iClass, GRAPPLE, MedCAP, ROLE and CULTURA.
Marcel Berthold has studied Psychology at the University of Graz. After
graduation, he worked for two years as a Research Fellow in two EU-funded
projects ROLE and ImREAL in the area of computer-based learning with a
focus on Self-Regulated Learning (SRL) and evaluation at the Graz University
of Technology. Since the beginning of 2013, he holds the position of a Test &
Training Consultant at Schuhfried, a test-and-training publisher company.
Carsten Ullrich is the Associate Director of the Centre for e-Learning Technology
(CeLTech) at the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI
GmbH), and an Associate Researcher at the e-learning lab of Shanghai Jiao
Tong University, China. His research covers technology-supported learning,
with a focus on personalisation and learner-support, applied in various domains
such as mathematics, language learning and smart manufacturing. He has
published numerous papers on adaptivity, (semantic) web-based learning and
mobile learning. His current projects include APPsist, which investigates
intelligent knowledge-based services in smart production. He is a frequent
speaker in conferences, innovation fairs and Barcamps.
148 A. Mikroyannidis et al.
Amandeep Dhir is a Researcher in the Aalto University, Finland. His
research areas of interest are related with human–computer interaction,
school psychology, technology-enhanced learning, educational technology,
psychometric validation and development of scales. He has organised several
quantitative and qualitative studies in India, Taiwan, the UK and other Asian
countries on various topics including ICT addiction, creative use of social
media platforms for learning, technology acceptance, digital imaging practices,
media gratification, flow experience and gamification of ICT platforms.
Self-Regulated Learning (SRL) is often associated with the goal setting process for
learning (Dabbagh and Kitsantas, 2004) which in turn enables “the goal (to) act as a
criterion against which to assess, monitor and guide cognition” (Pintrich, 2000). In other
words, the goal setting process of SRL encourages the learner to define the outcome of
his or her learning process as well as identifying strategies with which to reach those
goals. It is also said that by setting themselves learning goals students are motivated to
attain higher effort and persistence over the course of time in addition to influencing their
own learning through affective reactions such as improved or higher self-satisfaction
Zimmerman (1989) suggests that SRL is an active and constructive process where
learners set themselves goals that enable them to monitor, regulate and control their
cognition, motivation and ensuing behaviour within the contextual features of their
environment. Thus, SRL can be perceived to be, in rather more simplistic terms, learning
how to learn. Since the 1980s, a number of researchers, including Zimmerman, have
proposed a variety of theoretical frameworks and models that outline SRL in terms of
learning targets, guidance and potential planning mechanisms (ibid; see also Zeidner
et al., 2000; Mace et al., 2001). These, in turn, have led to the further study of such
variables in computer-based learning environments too.
In the field of SRL research, the role of learners’ strategic use of cognitive and
metacognitive strategies to regulate their learning is often pointed out (see Boekarts,
1999; Mandl and Friedrich, 2006; Winne and Hadwin, 2008). It appears that many
learners experience difficulties in using effective concrete metacognitive strategies
and, as a result, perform less successfully than would be expected (Bannert, 2006).
Consequently, much work has focused on the assessment of those students’ SRL
strategies and thus attempts to support and adapt their learning behaviour. More often
than not, this work is usually focused on highly controlled learning environments such as
intelligent (tutoring) systems (Bannert, 2006; Azevedo et al, 2010). Understanding,
scaffolding and/or facilitating students’ SRL skills, however, is especially important in
(responsive) open learning environments because goals are often less clear and obvious;
therefore, students might not necessarily be able to predict the outcome of the learning
activity or the optimal learning path.
It is argued here, however, that Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) environments
provide opportunities to enhance the necessary SRL skills, especially metacognitive
abilities, but that learners need additional help and guidance (Bannert, 2006) during the
learning process. In this regard, the concept of freedom and guidance comes into play.
Self-regulated learning in formal education 149
This is important, because highly motivated learners attain an improved learning
experience if they feel that they have more control over their learning (Issing, 2002).
Conversely, less motivated learners appear to attain an improved learning performance
if they receive more guidance (ibid). Issing also noted that this phenomenon is also
applicable to hypermedia learning environments.
Within the Responsive Open Learning Environments (ROLE) project (http://www.
role-project.eu), SRL has been investigated in relation to TEL environments primarily in
formal education. In particular, ROLE has developed a Psycho-Pedagogical Integration
Model (PPIM) (Fruhmann et al., 2010) by adopting a cyclic SRL model (Zimmerman,
2002). The ROLE project has also developed bespoke widgets that guide learners
through the phases of the PPIM, as well as learning materials that raise awareness about
SRL and explain the use of the ROLE widgets (Mikroyannidis et al., 2013).
This paper presents an investigation of the SRL perceptions of teachers in formal
education, conducted in the context of the ROLE project. The role of the teacher is
essential in motivating SRL in the classroom, with or without the use of TEL.
Consequently, the teachers’ SRL perceptions and practices are of great value for
understanding the challenges of supporting SRL in formal education, as well as for
identifying potential opportunities for deploying TEL solutions in the classroom.
The overall intention of this work was to try and understand the teacher’s perception of
SRL. In order to achieve this aim, a Teachers’ Perception of SRL (TPSRL) survey was
designed and deployed to a number of international teacher communities. Whilst there
have been several questionnaires deployed previously by others, directly or indirectly,
their focuses are different from that of TPSRL. For instance, Lombaerts et al. (2009)
developed a 15-item instrument called ‘Self-Regulated Learning Teacher Belief Scale’ to
assess teachers’ opinions on the instruction of SRL. Similarly, Dignath-van Ewijk and
van der Werf (2012) addressed teachers’ knowledge and beliefs on how to foster
students’ SRL. Kramarski and Michalsky (2009) also investigated teachers’ metaphorical
understanding of teacher- and student-centred instructional strategies.
In contrast, the TPSRL used here aimed to explore which factors potentially influence
teachers’ assessment of their students’ SRL competence, how they see the relationship
between students’ SRL competence and performance, and which type of students in
terms of level of SRL competence they prefer to teach. These questions were considered
to be important to examine, especially as SRL could influence the balance between
teacher control and student autonomy (e.g. Eshel and Kohavi, 2003). As an inherent
limitation of all self-reported questionnaires/scales can be the validity of respondents’
subjective estimations and behavioural tendencies, the TPSRL was designed with this in
mind. Essentially it was a triangulation based on multi-method and method-source
empirical data may mitigate the issue. The rationale for each question is outlined Table 1.
It is important to clarify that the justifications for the individual questions of the survey
were not part of the survey itself. In other words, the respondents were presented only
with the questions in the left-hand column of Table 1. Please also note that some of the
questions are shortened forms of the original ones.
150 A. Mikroyannidis et al.
Table 1 Rationale of the TPSRL questions
Q1 What is the name of your institution?
Q2 Which subject area do you mainly teach?
Q3 What kind of classes do you mostly teach?
Answer options: Face-to-face, distance-based or
Q4 How many students do you normally teach
this subject area each academic year?
These background questions aimed to
contextualise the teacher’s responses. It is
intriguing to explore whether the three
variables, namely the subject area taught, the
type of classes and the number of students
with whom the teacher interacts, have any
effect on perceptions of the role of SRL in
Q5 Thinking about a typical student group, what
levels of SRL can you estimate that they have?
i High level: 10%, 20%, …, 100% (in steps of
ii Medium level: 10%, 20%, …, 100% (in steps
iii Low level: 10%, 20%, …, 100% (in steps of
This aims to identify a general picture about
the distribution of students’ SRL competence.
The limitation is that it relies on the teacher’s
personal estimation. It is intriguing to find out
how accurately a teacher can estimate the
SRL competence of his/her students. In a
subsequent study, we would like to estimate
this accuracy by correlating a teacher’s
ratings with those measured by a standardised
questionnaire on the SRL competence.
Q6 How challenging is it for you to teach students
with different SRL levels? Consider each
Answer options: 5-point Likert scale using ‘not
challenging at all’ to ‘very challenging’.
This is set to ascertain to what extent the
teacher perceives the level of difficulty of
his/her teaching task is related to the level of
student SRL competence.
Q7 Could you give an example from your
teaching experience of these groups
(i.e. students with low, medium and
high SRL competence)?
The quantitative response in Q6 can be
justified by the qualitative response here
enabling further insights into the reasons
underlying the teacher’s rating
Q8 Which type of students do you prefer to teach?
Please explain your preference.
Answer options: Students with a high or low SRL
or independent learning level.
The response here is presumably correlated
with that of Q6. If the teacher finds it
challenging to teach students of low SRL,
they may tend to prefer teaching those with
Q9 Please express your level of agreement with
the following statements.
Students with a high SRL or independent learning
Perform better in general than those
with a low SRL
Reach their learning goals more
efficiently than those with a low SRL
Reach their learning goals more
effectively than those with a low SRL
Reach their learning goals more
satisfactorily than those with a
Answer options: 5-point Likert scale from ‘strongly
disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’.
The statements examine how the teacher
compares the level of performance of students
with high and low SRL competence, and
how the teacher assesses the ways the
students with different level of SRL
competence achieve their learning goals.
Whereas effectiveness (e.g. in terms of
mistakes/errors) and efficiency (e.g. in terms
of task completion time) are the pragmatic
aspect of the goal attainment, feeling satisfied
(e.g. pride, confidence) is the hedonic aspect.
Fulfilling both aspects of the learning goal is
considered significant for students,
irrespective of their SRL competence
Self-regulated learning in formal education 151
Table 1 Rationale of the TPSRL questions (continued)
Q10 Do you encourage SRL or independent
learning in the courses that you teach?
This is to assess the teacher’s behaviour
in promoting SRL in actual practice, the
reasons for implementing or not, as well
as the methods used.
Q11 Do you think you should encourage more
SRL or independent learning in the courses
that you teach? Why?
This is set to evaluate the consistency
between behaviour assessed by Q10 and
attitude or behavioural intention here.
In order to communicate the context of the survey to participants, we provided them
with a short introduction to SRL, which included examples of SRL assessment, as well
as a short explanatory video (http://youtu.be/jTa1vOH6JjA) and a link to a free online
course (http://tinyurl.com/role-srl-course), both developed by the ROLE project. The
introductory material and the survey were translated and deployed in six countries inside
and outside Europe, namely the UK, Greece, Germany, Austria, China and India. The
next sections examine each of the completed surveys, their outcomes and analysis
3 The surveyed communities of educators
Table 2 provides an overview of the respondents for each country, based on their
responses to the background questions of the survey (Q1–Q4). In particular, the majority
of the UK respondents were teachers either associated with the Open University or
engaged with teaching in other UK Higher Education Institutes (HEIs). The second group
of participants were teachers in primary, secondary and HE in Greece. These teachers
were recruited while undertaking vocational training in the School of Pedagogical and
Technological Education (ASPETE, http://www.aspete.gr). This HEI provides concurrent
technological and pedagogical education and training at the tertiary level.
In Germany, the TPSRL survey was circulated among teaching staff of the Institute
of Information Management in Mechanical Engineering (IMA) in RWTH Aachen. The
survey was conducted in two rounds: in April 2012, at the beginning of the semester, we
asked the teaching staff to answer the TPSRL questionnaire. Ten teachers filled out the
questionnaire. During the semester, a selection of ROLE widgets was deployed within a
course that offered an introduction to computer science in mechanical engineering. The
results of this evaluation have been published by Vieritz et al. (2013). In November 2012,
after the semester had finished, we used the TPSRL questionnaire to interview the three
teaching assistants and the lecturer who used the ROLE widgets in their course.
Participants in Austria were principally a variety of teachers and higher educators
who were drawn from elementary, middle and high schools, as well as those from
Institutes of Further Education. The survey was conducted in conjunction with a
workshop organised for the EU-funded Next Generation Teaching, Education and
Learning for Life (NEXT-TELL, http://www.next-tell.eu) project during winter 2011.
The TPSRL survey was deployed in the School of Continuing Education (SOCE),
within the Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU), China. SOCE primarily offers a
152 A. Mikroyannidis et al.
blended learning approach in its teaching delivery. Students are, in general, mostly adult
learners who have a job, attend classes in the evening or weekend, either in person in the
classroom or by watching the classes live over the web.
Finally, the TPSRL survey was deployed across the state of Punjab, North-western
India. In this case, the respondents were primary, high and senior secondary school
teachers from nine different institutes.
Table 2 Overview of the surveyed communities of teachers
Country No. of
respondents Subjects taught Type of classes
No. of students
taught per year
Life sciences, marketing,
Wide variety of topics,
ranging from theoretical
subjects, such as mathematics,
literature and history, to
applied ones such as
mechanical engineering and
7% blended Up to 100
Germany 13 Computer science. 100% face-to-face Up to 300
Computer science, language,
Computer science, language,
drawing, physical education,
100% face-to-face 20–750
4 Analysis of responses
1 Thinking about a typical student group, what levels of SRL can you estimate that
Q5 of the TPSRL survey asked the participants to estimate the SRL levels of a typical
student group that they teach. As shown in Figure 1, participants from all countries
estimated the percentage of their students with a high SRL level to be quite low
(14–33%). In the UK and Greece, respondents perceived the majority of their students
(55%) to have a low level of SRL, while in Germany, Austria and India the estimated
percentages of students with medium SRL level were much higher (50%, 42% and 43%,
respectively). In China, the estimated percentages of students with low and medium SRL
levels were more balanced (48% and 38%, respectively).
Self-regulated learning in formal education 153
Figure 1 Responses to Q5 of the TPSRL survey (see online version for colours)
2 How challenging is it for you to teach students with different SRL levels? Could you
give an example from your teaching experience of these groups?
Q6 invited participants to indicate how challenging it is for them to teach students with
high and low levels of SRL. Responses were recorded on a scale from 1 (not challenging
at all) to 5 (very challenging). Figure 2 depicts the Arithmetic Mean (AM) and Standard
Deviation (SD) of the recorded responses. The results show that in almost every surveyed
country, teachers find more challenging teaching students with a low SRL level than
students with a high SRL level. The only exception was India, where responses
were balanced between students with high SRL level (AM = 3.1) and low SRL level
(AM = 3.3).
Participants were also asked to give an example from their teaching experience of
these groups, i.e. students with low, medium and high SRL competences (Q7). Responses
were illustrated by statements like the following, originating from a UK participant: “The
first group are more ‘mature’ and more interested in learning than the second group
which is more childish and less prepared to assume a responsibility and put in some
effort to their education.”
On the other hand, two respondents from Germany indicated that teaching students
with high SRL level can be challenging: “Students with a high SRL level ask questions
that go beyond the scope of the course.”
154 A. Mikroyannidis et al.
Figure 2 Responses to Q6 of the TPSRL survey (see online version for colours)
It appears, however, that if the students are forced to do so, they are able to learn in a
self-regulated way: “Most students refrain from taking the initiative and learning
autonomously. However, if they are forced to do so, because tutors refuse to help too
much, they are able to learn in a self-regulated way. That is, it might be difficult to
distinguish between SRL-competence and SRL-willingness.”
During the RWTH course in which ROLE widgets were used, the students seemed to
become more self-regulated, which might, however, rather be an effect of knowledge
acquisition than of an increased SRL level: “The course has supported self-regulation.
While in the beginning a lot of trivial questions were asked, the students were able to find
the answers to such simple questions themselves soon.”
3 Which type of students do you prefer to teach? Please explain your preference.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of respondents from all countries declared that they prefer to
teach students with a high SRL level (see Figure 3). One UK respondent further justified
this declaration by saying that “It is more intellectually stimulating and less routine”
to teach students with a high level of SRL. Another stated that such students “are
more involved in learning, they ask more serious questions and thus it is also a challenge
All respondents in Austria and China stated that they prefer to teach high-level SRL
students, with the exception of one teacher in Austria. Their premise being that these
students know how to learn, know what to learn, are more active and motivated, and thus
understand content more quickly. Again this is illustrated by some of the qualitative
responses, such as the following:
“They are more motivated and interactive, and it is easier to have an understanding
of the students’ progress and needs regarding the curriculum.”
“These students can quickly understand what I talk about in class.”
Self-regulated learning in formal education 155
However, one teacher from Greece expressed some concerns regarding the existing
education system: “We are not trained (to teach students with high SRL) perhaps
because our education-examinations system does not favour it.” Another Greek teacher
differentiated their opinion from the rest: “(I prefer to teach) students with low level of
SRL because there exists the raw material to develop the dynamic of a student regarding
the regulation of their learning ability, while it is difficult sometimes to regulate a student
with high SRL and coordinate them with the learning goal.”
Figure 3 Responses to Q8 of the TPSRL survey (see online version for colours)
German participants gave more balanced responses between the two options of this
question. Some of them remarked that students with a high SRL level appeared to
understand faster, learn more, ask deeper questions, were better motivated and could
work for themselves. They did, however, suggest that when a group of students moves
forward very fast, they might need much more help later, with more complex problems.
A potential dilemma arose because the high-level SRL students may then request/expect
attention at a time when the other students actually need help more urgently.
4 Please express your level of agreement with the following statements: Students with
a high SRL or independent learning can perform better and reach their learning
goals more efficiently/effectively/satisfactorily than those with a low SRL.
In line with their previous responses, the majority of participants from all countries
registered an agreement with the statements that students with high SRL can perform
better and reach their learning goals more efficiently (i.e. in a shorter period of time),
more effectively (i.e. with fewer problems/mistakes) and more satisfactorily (i.e. with
less frustration/discomfort, higher pleasure) than those with a low SRL. Responses were
recorded on a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Figure 4 illustrates
the Arithmetic Mean (AM) and Standard Deviation (SD) of the recorded responses.
Some of the explanations participants provided for their agreement with these statements
were the following:
156 A. Mikroyannidis et al.
“I generally observe that students with high SRL level have statistically a
higher percentage of success in exams, approaching 100%.”
“Based on my experience, SRL is rather related with studiousness and holistic
way of thinking, as well as with the level of experience in learning and in life it
is more usual to older and more conscientious students.”
“For example, in literature the students with high SRL can understand more
quickly the main concepts, the storytelling techniques, and the symbolisms.”
Figure 4 Responses to Q9 of the TPSRL survey (see online version for colours)
5 Do you encourage SRL or independent learning in courses that you teach?
The vast majority of teachers from all countries indicated that they encourage SRL in
their courses (see Figure 5). In particular, the UK respondents said that they simply
signpost learning materials that they think are relevant, plus they direct students to
appropriate institutional services that offer help in developing SRL skills. The following
comments summarise their overall thoughts:
“We have plenty of material on our website that students can use to enhance
their SRL. Problem is that they don’t always use it – sometimes because they
are so out of their depth that they have no time to do anything else but study the
“(I) direct them to our academic skills centre which runs personal sessions and
workshops on study skills.”
“I usually give a question or context for projects and then organise with them
an agenda and goals … from this point they are free to find the best direction
and we work together all the time revising the project goals and agenda.”
Self-regulated learning in formal education 157
Figure 5 Responses to Q10 of the TPSRL survey (see online version for colours)
Respondents in Greece use empirical methods or materials they find on the web and in
scientific repositories to encourage SRL. None of them, however, reported any bespoke
learning materials or services being provided by their institutions for this purpose. Some
of their responses were:
“SRL can follow one throughout their lifetime and contribute to the
understanding of new concepts. After all, lifelong learning is connected to most
aspects of our life nowadays.”
“It (SRL) helps my job and reinforces the self-esteem of my students.”
“I believe learning should be a matter of the student and not teacher-centric as
today’s education system dictates.”
In Germany, there was 100% agreement with this question, thus suggesting that the
teachers thought that their students should reach their own learning goals themselves.
This is, of course, not only a typical didactic attitude but also reflects the approach to
learning taken in most programming courses, i.e. that the students are encouraged to do
exercises on their own in order to gain experience. It was also suggested by the teachers
that self-dependency is an important competency for the students’ future professional
career. Thus, the teachers perceived that SRL made learning flexible. Additionally, it
enables different learning paces possible too.
Some teachers from Austria stated that they administer experiments or project work
where students solve problems on their own. One teacher also mentioned that the there
was an extraordinary student who when given more difficult tasks learned with an
additional course book in order to increase her capabilities. Participants, however,
pointed to the fact that they are limited to the available resources and sometimes struggle
with a large number of classes with heterogeneous SRL level of the students.
In China, three teachers gave explanations and stated that SRL stimulates the
students’ active thinking, improves interaction and helps students to learn more quickly.
Once again, this was underlined in the following quotes: “In my courses on data
158 A. Mikroyannidis et al.
structures, students often have to collaboratively solve experiments. There, I specify the
goal and then the students find the solution. This process can stimulate students’ active
thinking, access to other resources, and they can take the initiative to seek various ways
of problem-solving team collaboration.”
Further examples of how to direct students, in order that they improve their SRL,
were also shared. One teacher said that he/she uses collaborative activities, especially
those using experiments, where students have to find solutions on their own. Most
teachers recommended selected websites too. Additional information was also offered:
“In my course, I use collaboration to stimulate students SRL. When doing
experiments, the student groups do joint teamwork, while I encourage them to
seek a solution to the problem through a variety of ways.”
“I recommend the Human Resources Development Portal, as well as some
foreign original books.”
“I raised a question at the end of each course, and told the students where they
can find the answer, but let the students figure our the answer by themselves.”
Finally, it was found in India that 78.62% of the teachers responded positively, with only
3.08% saying ‘No’ and 18.76% abstaining. They also shared some of their methods for
encouraging SRL among their students:
“Directing students towards resource centres, library, reference books and
“Internet is the best example to learn independently.”
“Frequent discussion with teachers.”
“Parents are best source of help as they have experience in different spheres
6 Do you think you should encourage more SRL or independent learning in the
courses that you teach? Why?
Again, the vast majority of participants from all countries indicated that they agree with
this statement (see Figure 6). In Germany, however, some teachers implied that students
might stop working when they hear that they are free to regulate their own learning:
“A lot of students stop working as soon as they hear the words ‘voluntary’ and
‘optional’.” “The actual level is good enough. In order to convey the ‘right’ knowledge,
one must not give too much freedom.”
In Austria, all but one respondent agreed that they should encourage SRL more. They
mentioned a number of potential strategies, for example, increasing the possibilities and
freedom in the individual learning tasks, by administering more project work as well as
allowing students to make mistakes, which they can learn from and so on.
In China, all teachers but one agreed with the premise of this question. The teacher
that disagreed feared it would take up too much time, which is then not available for
teaching the subject of the course. The other answers, in fact, stated similar reasons to
those described before, namely that there was improved interaction and increased interest
and that students learned more effectively when SRL was encouraged. They also felt that
the introduction of SRL improved the quality of their teaching too.
Self-regulated learning in formal education 159
Figure 6 Responses to Q11 of the TPSRL survey (see online version for colours)
In India, 74.82% of the respondents agreed, 4.03% disagreed and 21.37% did not
respond. They supported their responses with statements like the following:
“To me teacher's moral duty is to do all round development of child. So as a
teacher I will show them a right path.”
“I would advise medium SRL to increase their independent learning because
this would make them able to learn independently. This will enhance their
capability to learn, built up confidence in them overall it will improve their
“I’ll direct a student to improve their SRL because at every step of life teacher
will not there with them. They've to learn all the things by their own.”
“I would direct my students to avoid going to coaching institutions and believe
in their own skills and abilities. Some would need more efforts than others but
independent learning i.e. studying with the help of technology or may be any
other source which would make their learning interesting.”
The TPSRL survey set out to explore which factors potentially influence teachers’
assessments of their students’ SRL competence, how they see the relationship between
students’ SRL competence and performance, as well as which type of students in terms
of SRL level the teachers prefer to teach. The following sections summarise the themes
emerging from the analysis of the TPSRL survey responses within the different cultural
settings of the investigated communities of educators.
160 A. Mikroyannidis et al.
5.1 The overall SRL perceptions of teachers
In all the countries where the survey was circulated, the majority of the teachers that
responded had an awareness of SRL and independent learning. Most of them
also recognised the important function of SRL alongside its significance to them as well
as to the students. Some respondents in the UK and in India related SRL to increased
maturity and, therefore, an acceptance of responsibility for one’s own learning. They
also stated that SRL helps increase the students’ ability to learn independently and
build up confidence leading to better results. Greek respondents also related SRL
with “studiousness, a holistic way of thinking … level of experience in learning and life
… more usual (for) older and more conscientious students”. Several teachers in Greece
and China regarded SRL as a joint venture, i.e. learning together with students “discovery
together”. SRL was also seen by Chinese respondents to influence students’ ability to
learn faster: “stimulates the students active thinking, improves interaction and (they)
learn more quickly”. However, some Chinese and German respondents consider teaching
a subject of higher priority than teaching SRL. Various teachers in India recognised that
SRL could improve their students’ reasoning or questioning abilities as well as their
concentration power and, therefore, their capacity to learn. Some alluded to a teacher’s
moral duty to guide/show the ‘right’ path using SRL techniques, thus adding to the all
round development of students, i.e. suggesting that this is an implicit responsibility for all
The question remains though whether most teachers really develop a proper
understanding of a strong form of SRL and its implications – in particular, that students
develop their own interests and choose both their goals and their means to reach these
goals according to their interests. Such a form of SRL does not exclude that the students’
interests diverge from the contents of the teacher’s course and, thus, result in a conflict
with what the teacher is expected to teach. It is suspicious that the teachers strongly
correlate high SRL levels with high learning performances (regarding the course
contents) in general. If the teachers do appreciate SRL, do they really want their students
to act autonomously, or do they just want them to do the ‘right’ thing – i.e. the thing
wanted by the teacher – on their own, in anticipatory obedience? None of the participants
has mentioned the potential of SRL as a means of resistance against an authoritarian
pedagogic regime. Therefore, one can get the impression that teachers appreciate SRL
within the limits of their course, correlating SRL with motivation and intelligence.
5.2 Ways of motivating and supporting students to become self-regulated
The strategies the respondents to the survey use in order to motivate and support students
in becoming self-regulated are quite varied. A popular strategy in Germany and the UK
consists of providing specific academic study skills facilities outside the classroom,
available face to face or online from their institution. Additionally, several teachers direct
students to online and/or library-based ‘learning to learn’ resources. Respondents from
Greece and India said they introduce SRL to their students as a skill for life not just
university, so that their students continue to learn in a practical and continuous way
outside the classroom too. Some teachers in Germany prefer to offer less help to their
students, thus encouraging them to take more initiatives and learn for themselves.
‘Leading by example’ is a popular strategy among Austrian respondents: the teacher
Self-regulated learning in formal education 161
indicates or offers different approaches to resolving subject-based problems but leaves
the students to choose their own learning path. Teachers in China seem to stick closer to
the curriculum and the range of learning activities that the curriculum prescribes.
Finally, the majority of the respondents from all countries agreed that encouraging
active learning through peer collaboration helps motivate SRL in their students. In
particular, some teachers promote working together with their students, e.g. through
semi-directed projects, or they encourage group work. It is noteworthy though that very
few of the participants from all the surveyed communities of educators gave examples of
motivating their students for planning or reflection, although these are considered
essential SRL phases (Fruhmann et al., 2010).
5.3 Challenges in motivating SRL
The survey was also quite revealing with regard to some of the challenges in motivating
students in formal education to become self-regulated learners. Several respondents from
the UK stated that many students are simply not equipped to learn at an HE level:
“sometimes students are so out of their depth that they have no time to do anything else
but study the course material”. Greek respondents also mentioned that their students are
reluctant to accept new methods of learning or change their outlook on learning. On the
other hand, most students expect to be provided with precisely defined learning materials
and strategies by their teachers, so that they can pass the tests and acquire the desired
One of the themes that emerged from all the surveyed countries was that inspiring
groups of students that have mixed learning skills is challenging in itself. Students with
fewer SRL skills require more time to assimilate information or discover new methods of
learning. This has implications for the teacher in terms of the effort required to meet the
needs of the entire spectrum of learning skills in the classroom. Even more important is
the fact that the teacher may not have enough training, experience or personal confidence
to motivate SRL. Additionally, educators from all countries reported that the curriculum
is often quite restrictive in terms of what will be taught within a course and how.
The premise of this paper was to investigate SRL in formal education whilst examining
the perceptions of educators, classify any challenges they reported and identify
opportunities for promoting SRL within different cultural settings. For this purpose, a
survey was developed as an instrument of collecting quantitative and qualitative data
from educators in a number of countries inside and outside Europe. The analysis of these
data has helped us acquire a better insight into the perceptions of educators about SRL,
their strategies for motivating SRL among their students as well as the challenges they
face in motivating SRL.
Overall, the received responses mostly reflect established cultures both in respect of
national traits and in relation to a learning and teaching culture. In most cases, educators
recognise the value of SRL both in the short term (helping their students with their
current studies) and in the long-term (helping their students with lifelong learning
objectives). However, in several cases teachers have no support from their respective
institutions, for example in the form of bespoke learning resources and facilities. This
162 A. Mikroyannidis et al.
signifies an opportunity for the development of bespoke TEL solutions and learning
materials targeted to explaining and motivating SRL to teachers and students in formal
An even greater challenge lies in the fact that most national curricula do not
recognise the need to foster SRL and are not flexible enough to allow the teacher to
incorporate SRL in their teaching. It is therefore important that SRL becomes one of the
priorities within curricula at a national and European level, so that formal education leads
to self-regulated students that have the skills to continue to learn and acquire new
qualifications throughout their lifetime.
The research work described in this paper was partially funded through the ROLE
Integrated Project, part of the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and
Technological Development (FP7) of the European Union in Information and
Communication Technologies. The authors would like to thank Stefanos Armakolas from
ASPETE for his valuable help in recruiting survey participants in Greece.
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