Theories for the digital age: Self regulated learning

Informal and self regulated learning are defining characteristics of 21st Century education. Various commentators suggest that as much as seventy percent of learning occurs outside of formal educational settings (Cofer, 2000; Dobbs, 2000; Cross, 2006). If these are accurate statistics, they present a significant challenge to schools, colleges and universities. One challenge for education providers is to decide whether they will support the desire of students to self regulate their learning activities using personal technologies. Institutes that discourage the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement may be perceived by their students as anachronistic. Those who do support BYOD for students and staff will need to invest significant time and resources into ensuring cross platform operability and seamless delivery to students’ personal technologies.

Self regulation of learning is thought to be a characteristic of individual students (Beishuizen, 2008) but increasingly can be contextualised within social learning environments. A number of collaborative and social networking tools regularly play a role within the average student PLE. Self regulation has been shown to enhance and improve learning outcomes (Paris & Byrnes, 1989; Steffens, 2008), enabling learners to achieve their full potential (Delfino et al, 2008).  Personal technologies are thought to enable self-regulation at a number of levels, including the ‘object’ and ‘meta’ levels of learning, supporting maintenance, adaptation, monitoring and control of a variety of higher level cognitive processes (Nelson & Narens, 1990). By using personal devices as ‘mindtools’ to offload simple cognitive tasks, students can extend their own memories (Jonassen  et al, 1999), build their confidence, and increase their motivation levels (Goldsworthy et al, 2006). Further, personal devices enable individuals to gain access and to participate at many levels within their communities of practice, from ‘entering by learning’ through to ‘transcending by developing’ (Ryberg & Christiansen, 2008). All of this is often achieved by students outside the formal surroundings of school or university, with no time or location constraints.

Moreover, there is a sense that personal technologies encourage learners to be self-determined in their approach to education. Hase and Kenyon’s (2007) conceptualisation of self determined learning - or heutagogy - places the emphasis on non-linear, self-directed forms of learning, and embraces both formal and informal education contexts. The central tenet of heutagogy is that people inherently know how to learn. The role of formal education is to enable them to confidently develop these skills, encouraging them to critically evaluate and interpret their own personal reality according to their own personal skills and competencies. The ethos of heutagogy extends to learner choice, where students can create their own programmes of study, a feature often seen in the loose and unstructured aspects of some Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). In many ways, heutagogy is aligned to other digital age theories, in that it places an importance on ‘learning to learn’, and the sharing rather than hoarding of that knowledge. It is not difficult to see that such sharing of knowledge can be easily achieved through social media and the use of personal digital technologies. 

[This is an excerpt from a forthcoming publication entitled: Personal Technologies in Education: Issues, Theories and Debates]

Beishuizen, J. (2008) Does a community of learners foster self-regulated learning? Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 17 (3), 183-193.
Cofer, D. (2000) Informal Workplace Learning. Practice Application Brief No. 10, U.S. Department of Education: Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education.
Cross, J. (2006) Informal Learning: Rediscovering the natural pathways that inspire innovation and performance. London: John Wiley and Sons. 
Delfino, M., Dettori, G. and Persico, D. (2008) Self-Regulated Learning in Communities. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 17 (3), 195-205.
Dobbs, K. (2000) Simple Moments of Learning. Training, 35 (1), 52-58.
Goldsworthy, S., Lawrence, N. and Goodman, W. (2006) The use of Personal Digital Assistants at the Point of Care in an Undergraduate Nursing Program. Computers, Informatics, Nursing, 24 (3), 138-143.
Hase, S. and Kenyon, C. (2007) Heutagogy: A Child of Complexity Theory, Complicity: An International Journal of Complexity and Education, 4 (1), 111–118.
Jonassen, D. H., Peck, K. and Wilson, B. G. (1999) Learning with technology: A constructivist approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Nelson, T. O. and Nehrens, L. (1990) Metamemory: A theoretical framework and new findings. In G. H. Bower (Ed.) The Psychology of Learning and Motivation, New York, NY: Academic Press.
Paris, S. G. and Byrnes, J. P. (1989) The constructivist approach to self-regulation and learning in the classroom. In B. J. Zimmerman and D. H. Schunk (Eds.) Self Regulated Learning and Academic Achievement: Theory, Research and Practice. New York, NY: Springer.  
Ryberg, T. and Christiansen, E. (2008) Community and social network sites as Technology Enhanced Learning Environments. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 17 (3), 207-220. 
Steffens, K. (2008) Technology Enhanced Learning Environments for self-regulated learning: A framework for research. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 17 (3), 221-232.  

Drawing Hands by M C Escher 

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Theories for the digital age: Self regulated learning by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Fabrizio said…
Very Nice article :-)
A great project in this direction is:
Steve Wheeler said…
Thank you for sharing, Fabrizio - this is a useful link
Wonderful article! I can relate to this as I believe all this theory is relevant to the way that I achieved what I have I life thus far.
Steve Wheeler said…
Glad you found it useful Naithen. Cheers.

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