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Introduction to a Special Issue on Social Aspects of Self-Regulated Learning: Where Social and Self Meet in the Strategic Regulation of Learning

by Allyson Hadwin & Sanna Järvelä - 2011

This paper introduces the special issue.

The role of social context in self-regulation has evolved since the 1980s, when researchers began to describe and research self-regulated learning (SRL) as a sophisticated process related to academic achievement (e.g., Corno, Collins, & Caper, 1982 as cited in Corno & Mandinach, 2004).

Zimmerman (1989) proposed that SRL involves personal, behavioral, and environmental processes. Therefore, the successful completion of tasks is triadic, involving personal perceptions, efficacy, and environmental conditions such as support from teachers and feedback on previous problems. Although self-regulation research has historically focused on an individual perspective, there is increasing interest in considering these processes at the social level with reference to concepts such as social regulation, shared regulation, or coregulation. What do researchers mean by social influences? To what extent do they believe that self-regulation is socially embedded? What are the interactive processes of self and social context in SRL? How do perspectives of social influence data collection and analysis about SRL? These are the emerging issues that, however, are still missing empirical evidence and theoretical clarifications.

Conceptualizing SRL as a dual psychological-social phenomenon calls for the integration of SRL, as an individual psychological concept, within the social, shared, and interactive processes of learning. Such an approach is critical for understanding productive engagement and participation in real-life social learning environments. It is essential to investigate how individuals benefit from the interactions during shared regulation because of a concurrent focus on active learning and collaborative competence required during complex tasks in changing learning contexts. Despite the centrality of social context in models of SRL, a need has emerged to become clearer in (a) explaining precisely the role of social and contextual influences on a variety of phases of SRL, (b) exploring the critical phases of self and social in the strategic regulation of learning, and (c) developing more precise language to describe what we mean by social in theory and empirical research about SRL (cf. Corno & Mandinach, 2004). Articles in this special issue share the common goal of grappling with the social nature of SRL. In addition to contrasting theoretical and empirical approaches to understanding SRL as social, papers collectively clarify terminology commonly used and misused to describe the social aspects of self-regulation and motivation.  

Hadwin and Oshige’s (2011) article provides a theoretical frame for considering social aspects in the regulation of learning. Specifically, the article  contrasts (a) the role of social influence across models and perspectives, (b) the emerging language for describing self-regulated learning (self-regulation, coregulation, or socially shared regulation), and (c) empirical methods for researching social aspects of SRL at various points along a social continuum. An important contribution of this article is that it lays groundwork for adopting a shared language or terminology for positioning ourselves along a social continuum in research about self-regulation, coregulation, and socially shared regulation of learning, motivation, and metacognition.

Wolters’s (2011) article reviews and extends understanding of regulation of motivation within academic contexts.  After situating  the significance of regulation of motivation across three current models of self-regulated learning, the article overviews empirical support for the existence and importance of motivational regulation across tasks and developmental trajectories. Finally, Wolters introduces the role of social and environmental influences on the development of skills and strategies for regulating motivation. This article lays important foundations for researching the role of social aspects in the regulation of motivation. From Wolters’s perspective, social aspects influence and contextualize regulatory activity.

Kaplan, Lichtinger, and Margulis (2011) introduce an integrated-situative perspective of motivation in task specific contexts. They propose that motivation and regulatory strategies are integrated in the situated, meaning that a student constructs for engaging in the task. Constructing situated meaning produces a sociocognitive scheme or framework for task purpose and actions toward the pursuit of purpose because it frames (a) reasons for task engagement, (b) objectives for task engagement, and (c) actions for task engagement. From this perspective, regulatory strategies are inseparable from situated task contexts. In the article, Kaplan et al. conducted an in-depth multimethod examination of one Grade 9 student engaged in a specific writing task. Triangulations methods across multiple data sources were used to construct the dynamic and situated flow of purpose of engagement and strategies. From Kaplan et al.’s perspective, social context and influence are inseparable from self-regulatory intent and activity.

McCaslin and Burross (2011) used a multimethod approach to empirically examine the utility and potential of a coregulation model for understanding teacher and student adaptation to the press of cultural and social demands for student achievement. They adopted a coregulation perspective that stresses the “multiple, simultaneous, and reciprocal press among personal, cultural, and social influences that coregulate—challenge, shape, and guide—emergent identity.” From this perspective, potential is experienced by individuals, expected by culture, and validated or retracted through social influence and context. Importantly, McCaslin and Burross distinguish between (a) social influences that influence what is practicable and shape regulatory actions and resilience, and (b) cultural influences that define what is probable for learners, teachers, and institutions and arise in the context of norms and rules. This empirical study makes an important contribution by examining coregulation tensions and presses and in the context of schools engaged in school reform and serving students of families living in poverty. From McCaslin and Burross’s perspective, social and cultural opportunities in schools afford and constrain opportunities for learning and are in turn shaped by coregulatory interaction and activity itself.

Järvelä and Järvenoja (2011) empirically examined students’ socially constructed motivation regulation in a collaborative learning context. Utilizing multiple methods of data collection, they examined students’ experiences of situation-specific social challenges in collaborative learning groups as well as what students did to overcome those challenges. This study makes an important contribution because it assesses individual- and group-level perspectives of challenging group situations to reveal opportunities for the activation of joint regulation of motivation. From this perspective, regulation, and motivation regulation in particular, is viewed as a socially constructed activity.

Together, these articles reveal the challenges, affordances, and possibilities inherent in theory and research that strategically situates social context, social influence, social interaction, and social embeddedness in study of regulatory strategies and motivation. We acknowledge that articles included in this special issue represent only a snapshot of the kind of work emerging in the field. However, our intent is to stimulate a dialogue, and perhaps a debate, about the ways in which social is positioned in our theory and research. Rather than espousing self-regulatory, coregulatory, or socially shared perspectives for understanding the regulation of learning, we instead present these snapshots to reveal the potential of bringing to together works and perspectives that systematically examine (a) individual regulation in social context, (b) the situated nature of regulatory activity and motivation, (c) the ways in which individual, culture, and community influences work together to inform possibilities and practicalities in the regulation of learning, and (d) socially shared regulation of motivation and learning.

Finally, this special issue concludes with a thorough and thought-provoking commentary by a leading researcher in the field of self-regulation and motivation. Throughout her commentary, Boekaerts (2011) reveals areas of insight, opportunity, excitement, inconsistency, and challenge in the perspectives espoused by each article. Her commentary opens opportunities for continued dialogue and debate as researchers in the field struggle to become clearer in explaining and exploring as well as developing conceptual clarity in social nature of SRL: (a) explaining precisely the role of social and contextual influences on a variety of phases of SRL, (b) exploring the critical phases of self and social in the strategic regulation of learning, and (c) developing more precise language to describe what we mean by social in theory and empirical research about the regulation of learning.


Boekaerts, M. (2011). What have we learned about the social context–student engagement link? Teachers College Record, 113(6).

Corno, L., & Mandinach, E. B. (2004). What we have learned about student engagement in the past twenty years. In D. M. McInerney & S. Van Etten (Eds.), Big theories revisited: Vol. 4. Research on sociocultural influences on motivation and learning (pp. 299–328). Greenwich, CT: Information Age.

Hadwin, A., & Oshige, M. (2011). Self-regulation, coregulation, and socially shared regulation: Exploring perspectives of social in self-regulated learning theory. Teachers College Record, 113(6).

Järvelä, S., & Järvenoja, H. (2011). Socially constructed self-regulated learning and motivation regulation in collaborative learning groups. Teachers College Record, 113(6).

Kaplan, A., Lichtinger, E., & Margulis, M. (2011). The situated dynamics of purposes of engagement and self-regulation strategies: A mixed-methods case study of writing. Teachers College Record, 113(6).

McCaslin, M., & Burross, H. L. (2011). Research on individual differences within a sociocultural perspective: Coregulation and adaptive learning. Teachers College Record, 113(6).

Wolters, C. A. (2011). Regulation of motivation: Contextual and social aspects. Teachers College Record, 113(6).

Zimmerman, B.  J. (1989). A social cognitive view of self-regulated academic learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 81, 329-339.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 113 Number 2, 2011, p. 235-239
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15975, Date Accessed: 10/21/2021 11:27:41 PM

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About the Author
  • Allyson Hadwin
    University of Victoria
    E-mail Author
    ALLYSON HADWIN is an associate professor at the University of Victoria and is a codirector of the Technology Integration and Evaluation (TIE) research lab. Her research focuses on the social aspects of self-regulated learning, as well as the ways that technologies can support self-regulation, shared regulation, and coregulation. Dr. Hadwin uses multiple methodologies to explore the dynamic and social nature of self-regulation as it evolves over time and through interaction with others.
  • Sanna Järvelä
    University of Oulu
    SANNA JÄRVELÄ is a professor in education and a head of the Learning and Educational Technology Research Unit (http://www.let.oulu.fi/) in the Department of Educational Sciences, University of Oulu, Finland. Her main research interests deal with motivational processes in learning and self-regulated and computer-supported collaborative learning.
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