Self-regulated learning skills

Learn to learn better

Study skills are at the core of academic education and as such, they deserve explicit attention. One of the reasons why this is important is that for most students, the way they have to study at the university is fundamentally different from how they have studied in e.g. secondary school, where they had clearly defined materials to study.

Learning and PBL

Students’ strategies are known to differ widely and many students (reports differ from 60-90%) largely use ineffective strategies, such as highlighting and rereading textbook materials. Within the context of problem-based learning (PBL), which advocates active and constructive knowledge development, there is a need for incorporation of learning strategy training to optimize students’ learning process. Step 6 of the PBL seven-step approach (self-study) is a blind spot for educators not only at Maastricht University but at universities throughout the world.

Everyone can do it

Learning strategies are in fact procedural skills that can be practiced and perfected through instruction and training. Given its predicted effect on the effectiveness of students’ self-study, this will likely affect grades and student study success in the long run. Over the last decade, the cognitive psychology of learning has provided insight into learning strategies that clearly relate to improving student learning success. These strategies show a certain diversity but are all based on principles of active retrieval of information from memory and distributing study sessions over time. Evidence also exists on how to implement these two principles in different learning environments. The study smart training aims at helping students to learn effective learning strategies and develop self-regulated learning skills.

Self-regulated learning describes a process in which students plan, monitor, and reflect on their understanding, study behaviour, and motivation to achieve their learning goals (Zimmerman, 2002). Most models state that self-regulated learning includes three stages: planning, performance, and reflection. 

  1. In the planning phase, students analyze the learning task and set goals on what and how to learn, they prepare their study environment, choose study strategies and become motivated to get started.
  2. In the performance phase or performance phase, students apply a set of learning strategies, check on their progress towards the goal, monitor their understanding and eventually adapt their study strategies accordingly if needed. 
  3. In the reflection phase, students evaluate their goal achievement and performance, and reflect on whether they were satisfied with the process and results to eventually adapt the next steps. 

During this cyclical process, students can use a variety of learning strategies, which are, however, not all equally effective for stimulating long-term learning and understanding. Below, we present an overview of the most commonly used learning strategies and also discuss shortly whether these are effective (or not), and how to make the most out of each strategy (based on Dunlosky et al., 2013).