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Self-Regulation: Getting Our Students To Care

I think all educators can agree that we want our students to become better self-regulated learners. However, this is a daunting task for teachers. I've spent a great deal of time trying to teach my grade 6 students various self-regulation skills such as planning, goal-setting, self-monitoring, time management, self-control, and reflection, but in past years it hasn't quite "taken" the way I hoped it would. I talk about how important this skills are until I'm blue in the face and I usually get collective eye rolls and exaggerated exhales from my kids. In an article written by B.J. Zimmerman titled Becoming a Better Self-Regulated Learner: An Overview. (2002), he notes that learning is "an activity that students do for themselves in a proactive way rather than as a covert event that happens to them in reaction to teaching". As such, learning to self-regulate implies that we need to find a reason for our students to care and motivate themselves so they aren't simply going through the motions and not internalizing these ideas. 

My response to this is to begin a portfolio program that my students can be proud of. Through various types of portfolio entries, students will be asked to think critically about their own learning - their strengths, weaknesses, strategies they use, potential roadblocks, progress they're making, resources they can rely on, etc.

My major challenge is this: How will I get my students to buy in to the portfolio processI think the best way to get students to care about their work is to make it a public product. Someone who they value needs to see what they've created. As such, I will be running student-led conferences where my kids will be presenting their portfolio entries to their parents and walking them through certain entries at the end of the school year. This has the added benefit of students needing to know the language associated with self-regulation to present effectively. My hope is that students will care about what their parents think of their portfolio entries. If they care about what their audience thinks, they will naturally want to put more effort into their work. Even if these student-led conferences don't go well for some, there is a debrief opportunity to discuss what went wrong and why it went wrong. That in-and-of-itself has value from a self-regulation standpoint. 

As I embark on this process, I would definitely appreciate hearing any ideas other educators who have done something similar to this before might have!

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