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Zimmerman, B. J. (1990). Self-regulated learning and academic achievement: An overview. Educational Psychologist, 25(1), 3–17.



the importance of individuals assuming personal responsibility and control for their own acquisition of knowledge and skill. (p. 2)

Gardner (1963), former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, who suggested that (p. 2)

“the ultimate goal of the education system is shift to the individual the burden of pursuing his own education” (p. 21). (p. 3)

how students become masters of their own learning, a topic that has become known as self-regulated learning (Zimmerman & Schunk, 1989). (p. 3)


Although definitions of self-regulated learning involving specific processes often differ on the basis of researchers’ theoretical orientations, a common conceptualization of these students has emerged as metacognitively,motivationally, and behaviorally active participants in their own learning (Zimmerman, 1986). In terms of metacognitive processes, self-regulated learners plan, set goals, organize, self-monitor, and self-evaluateat various points during the (p. 3)

Feature 1
a common conceptualization of these students has emerged as metacognitively, motivationally, and behaviorally active participants in their own learning. (p. 3)

process of acquisition (Corno, 1986, 1989; Ghatala, 1986; Pressley, Borkowski, OE Schneider, 1987). These processes enable them to be selfaware, knowledgeable, and decisive in their approach to learning. In terms of motivational processes, these learners report high self-efficacy, selfattributions, and intrinsic task interest (Borkowski et al., in press; Schunk, 1986; Zimmerman, 1985). To observers, they are self-starters who display extraordinary effort and persistence during learning. In their behavioral processes, self-regulatedlearners select, structure, and create environments that optimize learning (Henderson, 1986; Wang & Peverly, 1986; Zimmerman 8 Martinez-Pons, 1986). They seek out advice, information, and places where they are most likely to learn; they self-instruct during acquisition and self-reinforceduring performance enactments (Diaz & Neal, in press; Rohrkemper, 1989). (p. 4)

Self-regulated learning strategies refer to actions and processes directed at acquisition of information or skills that involve agency, purpose, and instrumentality perceptions by learners. Undoubtedly, all learners use regulatory processes to some degree, but self-regulated learners are distinguished by (a) their awareness of strategic relations between regulatory processes or responses and learning outcomes and (b) their use of these strategies to achieve their academic goals. Systematic use of metacognitive, motivational, and/or behavioral strategies is a key feature of most definitions of self-regulated learners (Zimmerman, 1989a). (p. 4)

Feature 2
A second feature of most definitions of self-regulated learning is a “self-oriented feedback” loop (Carver & Scheier, 1981; Zimmerman, 1989b) (p. 4)

A second feature of most definitions of self-regulated learning is a “self-oriented feedback” loop (Carver & Scheier, 1981; Zimmerman, 1989b). This loop entails a cyclic process in which students monitor the effectiveness of their learning methods or strategies and react to this feedback in a variety of ways, ranging from covert changes in selfperception to overt changes in behavior such as altering the use of a learning strategy. (p. 4)

Phenomenological theories of self-regulated learning (e.g., McCombs, 1986, 1989) depict this feedback loop in terms of covert perceptual processes such as self-esteem and self-concepts, whereas operant theories (e.g., Mace, Belfiore, & Shea, 1989) favor overt descriptions in terms of self-,recording,self-instruction, and self-reinforcement responses. Social cognitive theorists (e.g., Bandura, 1989) caution against viewing this control loop in terms of only negative feedback (Le., seeking to reduce differences between one’s goals and observed outcomes); they report a positive feedback effect as well (i.e., seeking to raise one’s goals based on observed outcomes). (p. 4)

A third feature of definitions of self-regulated learning is an indication of how and why students choose to use a particular strategy or response. Because self-regulated learning involves temporally delimited strategies or responses, students’ efforts to initiate and regulate them proactively require preparation time, vigilance, and effort. Unless the outcomes of these efforts are sufficiently attractive, students will not be motivated to self-regulate. They may choose not to self-regulate their learning when the opportunity arises-an outcome that requires a comprehensive accounting of their academicmotivational processes. (p. 5)

Feature 3

A third feature of definitions of self-regulated learning is an indication of how and why students choose to use a particular strategy or response. (p. 5)

An important aspect of theories of self-regulated learning is that student learning and motivation are treated as interdependent processes that cannot be fully understood apart from each other. (p. 5)

Thus, self-regulated learning involves more than a capability to execute a learning response by oneself (i.e., self-control) and more than a capability to adjust learning responses to new or changing conditions from negative feedback. It involves proactive efforts to seek out and profit from learning activities. At this level, learners are not only self-directed in a metacognitive sense but are self-motivated as well. Their skill and will are integrated components of self-regulation (see McCombs and Marzano, this issue). (p. 5)

In summary, definitions of students’ self-regulated learning involve three features: their use of self-regulated learning strategies, their responsiveness to self-oriented feedback about learning effectiveness, and their interdependent motivational processes. (p. 5)


A variety of metacognitive, motivational, and behavioral strategies have been studied at a number of universities and laboratories throughout the world (see reviews by Pressley et al., 1987; Simons & Beukhof, 1987; Weinstein & Mayer, 1986; Zimmerman, 1989b). Contributors t o this journal issue have been extensively involved in research on strategy training, including such strategies as self-instruction, verbal elaboration, text comprehension monitoring, goal setting, and selfrecording, and describe their research and its implications in their respective articles. (p. 6)

His or her responses were recorded and later scored for the presence of 1 or more of 14 self-regulxted learning strategies, namely, self-evaluation, organization and transformation, goal setting and planning, information seeking, record keeping, self-monitoring, environmental structuring, giving self-consequences, rehearsing and memorizing, seeking social assistance (peers, teacher, or other adults), and reviewing (notes, books, or tests). (p. 6)

In our first investigation (Zimrnerman & Martinez-Pons, 1986), we correlated high school students’ strategy reports with their achievement track placement in school. Forty of the students were drawn from the advanced academic track in their school, and the remaining 40 were drawn from lower tracks. Compared to students in lower tracks, youngsters from the advanced track reported significantly greater use of all strategies but one, self-evaluation. (p. 7)

Factor analyses of these two sets of scores reveal a single, Self-Regulated Learning factor that accounts for nearly 80% of the variance. All the items of the teacher rating scale loaded highly on this Self-Regulated Learning factor, and the students’ verbal and mathematical achievement scores loaded partly on this factor and partly on a second General-Ability factor as expected. (p. 8)


Initial optimism that teaching students’ various learning strategies would lead to improved self-regulated learning has cooled with mounting evidence that strategy use involves more than mere knowledge of a strategy (Schneider, 11985). (p. 8)

Together these studies suggest that multicomponent training involving self-monitoring and related decision making is necessary in order to teach students to interpret feedback from their academic learning optimally; however, it is not yet clear in this research which specific components of self-regulation are most essential. Finally, it should be noted that Harris and her colleagues found that self-regulation training not only improved students’ learning, but it also improved their perceptions of efficacy, a widely studied measure of students’ motivation to self-regulate. (p. 9)


In their view, self-regulated learning requires more than cognitive skill; it requires a will or motivational component as well. When students understand that they are creative agents, responsible for and capable of self-development and self-determination of their goals, their self as an agent will provide the motivation necessary for self-regulation. (p. 10)

In contrast to this phenomenological emphasis on global self-system structures as the source of personal agency, social cognitive approaches to self-regulated learning (e.g., Bandura, 1986; Schunk, 1989; Zimmerman, 1989b)have focused on perceptions of self-efficacy as the ultimate source of students’ motivation. (p. 10)

Mahoney (1974) noted that problems in self-regulation typically arise when discrepancies occur between short-term outcomes and long-term outcomes. For example, during academic studying, students must sacrifice immediate recreational time for the possible eventual rewards of high marks. (p. 11)

Schunk argues convincinglythat a reciprocal relationship exists between students’ goal setting and their perceptions of self-efficacy. When students set intermediate goals for themselves that are specific and proximal in time, they can perceive their learning progress more readily, and this in turn enhances their self-efficacy. Increased self-efficacy can lead students reciprocally to set even more challenging ultimate goals for themselves. (p. 11)


Most theorists assume that young children cannot self-regulate their learning in any formal manner (Zimmerman, 1989a). (p. 11)

In their article in this journal issue, Paris and Newman summarize research on developmental changes underlying children’s capability to regulate their own learning. (p. 12)

Young children rarely reflect on their performance (Skinner, Chapman, & Baltes, 1988), and they believe that trying hard is sufficient to ensure success (Dweck & Elliott, 1983). However, as children approach adolescence, their academic self-perceptions become more accurate (Harter, 1985). They develop an increasingly differentiatedunderstandingof academictasks(e.g., Brown&Smiley,1977),and their monitoring of the differential effectiveness of cognitive strategies for learning grows with age (e.g., Pressley et al., 1984). They gradually realize effort alone will not guarantee success (Nicholls, 1978, 1984). (p. 12)

Paris and Newman hypothesize that these changes depend on children’s building personal theories of self-competence, academic tasks, cognitive strategies, motivation, and social cognition in the classroom. (p. 12)


Self-regulated learning theories of academic achievement are distinctive from other accounts of learning and instruction by their emphasis (a) on how students select, organize, or create advantageous learning environments for themselves and (b) on how they plan and control the form and (p. 12)

amount of their own instruction. Undoubtedly, all learners are responsive to some degree during instruction; however, students who display initiative, intrinsic motivation and personal responsibility achieve particular academic success (Zimmerman & Martinez-Pons, 1988). These self-regulated students are distinguished by their systematic use of metacognitive, motivational, and behavioral strategies; by their responsiveness to feedback regarding the effectiveness of their learning; and by their self-perceptions of academic accomplishment. (p. 13)

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