Self-Regulation in Learning: The Role of Language & Formative Assessment
reviewed by Lottie Baker — July 12, 2018
Title: Self-Regulation in Learning: The Role of Language & Formative Assessment
Author(s): Alison L. Bailey & Margaret Heritage
Publisher: Harvard Education Press, Boston
ISBN: 1682531678, Pages: 160, Year: 2018
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In Self-Regulation in Learning: The Role of Language & Formative Assessment, Alison Bailey and Margaret Heritage deliver a highly-accessible text aimed at new and veteran teachers as well as administrators and teacher educators. As Bailey and Heritage state, their volume will interest those committed to ensuring that students are ready for colleges and careers and have acquired the skills of learning how to learn for future success (p. 5). In just over 100 pages, the authors offer a fresh take on seminal work in self-regulation, shifting the focus beyond individual cognitive processes to the social interactions that surround regulatory behaviors. Bailey and Heritage pay particular attention to the mutually supportive role of language, demonstrating how regulatory processes rely on a robust linguistic repertoire and, in turn, contribute to language learning (p. xiii).
The examples in the text are especially relevant for U.S. preK-12 teachers charged to teach college- and career-ready standards to students from a range of backgrounds, including English learners who speak more than one language. The authors make explicit connections between the regulatory processes they discuss and ideas prevalent in todays schools, such as competencies for deeper learning (NRC, 2012) and communities of practice (Wenger, 1998). Anyone familiar with Bailey and Heritages scholarship will recognize their trademark emphases on English learners, academic language, and formative assessment. Indeed, much of the wisdom to be gleaned in the current volume draws on their prior collaborations (e.g., Bailey & Heritage, 2008)
The text is divided into five chapters, with the meat of the content occurring in the middle chapters that delve into the regulatory processes. In Chapter One, The Essentials, the authors argue convincingly for why todays students need to develop critical competencies of self-regulation and shared regulation. They then thoroughly introduce the three regulatory processes on which they expand in later chapters. Perhaps the most well-studied construct of the three, self-regulation, involves processes of individual students working alone. In contrast, social regulation involves behaviors of students working together. The authors distinguish between two types of social regulation: socially-shared regulation, in which students work in groups or pairs to accomplish a joint goal, and co-regulation, in which a teacher or peer temporarily assists a student who is en route to independent learning (p. 6). Tables and figures help the readers visualize what could easily become nebulous concepts, and student discourse samples demonstrate the regulatory processes in action. These classroom samples hail from a variety of content areas and grade levels; we hear the voices of students in high school English language arts, first grade math, and preschool bilingual art classes, to name a few.
Chapters Two, Three, and Four each take a deep dive into three regulatory processes: self-regulation, socially-shared regulation, and co-regulation, respectively. These middle chapters are all structured similarly, which contributes to the accessibility of the volume as a whole. Each of these chapters opens with a detailed description of the regulatory construct and its features, replete with citations of seminal and recent research. The authors then illustrate the processes with discourse samples from classroom interactions and discuss the mutually-supportive nature of regulatory processes and language development. Each chapter also attends to considerations for English learners and,in the case of chapters on shared and co-regulation, formative assessment. While clearly delineating the unique features of each type of regulation, the authors do not miss opportunities to emphasize the interconnected nature of the processes, sometimes even using the same discourse examples to illustrate different processes.
A strength in these chapters is the abundance of classroom discourse samples. Each chapter opens with a quote from a student or teacher in the classroom, a persistent reminder of the nexus between research and practice. When advocating for regulatory behaviors in the classroom, the authors dont shy away from presenting actual data, a refreshing change from many practical texts that subsume all findings under terms such as research-based practices. More than simply presenting data as supporting evidence, Bailey and Heritage invite us to join them in the data analysis process; they pose questions in order for us to notice particular regulatory behaviors before presenting the dialogues, and then annotate the dialogue with features of regulatory processes.
A second area of strength is the list of Questions and Suggestions for Teachers at the end of Chapters Two, Three, and Four. These questions are deeper than open-ended general discussion prompts. They push educators to apply specific concepts in the chapter to their own situations by engaging in activities such as listening to student dialogue or identifying students who might benefit from the strategies mentioned in the chapter. These questions and suggestions might facilitate teachers engagement in their own regulatory processes and could serve as study guides for teachers wishing to explore this text in a group.
The authors also provide a student observation protocol for each of the three regulatory processes. I found these observation protocols to be somewhat redundant and less helpful for teachers. The instructions for the protocols are vague (e.g., jot down any descriptive notes that may be helpful), and it is unclear exactly how teachers might use these notes to inform their instruction. A more useful tool may be a checklist for teachers to use in planning for instructional situations that would stimulate regulatory behaviors. Alternately, given the importance of language that the authors rightfully emphasize, a list of prompts that teachers could intentionally integrate into their discourse might be helpful for new teachers.
The conclusion is a relatively brief final chapter that discusses the integration of all three processes, again drawing on examples from classroom discourse. This final chapter also turns to teacher professional development and ways to transform classrooms. The authors highlight general research-based practices in teacher change, such as ongoing, job-embedded professional learning. These recommendations are nothing new to many of us in the field of professional development and teacher education, and the connection to regulatory behaviors is vague at best. Rather than cataloging general best practices in professional development, the authors could describe the teachers instructional moves that set the scene for the dialogues captured in the preceding chapters, and then propose specific professional learning experiences that they see as necessary for supporting teachers. As is, the concluding recommendations leave leaders and administrators with little actionable steps to realize Bailey and Heritages vision for transformative practice (p. xiv).
I note one final area for improvement. In my opinion, the text would be greatly enhanced with the addition of details on research methodology. Bailey and Heritage repeatedly refer to student and teacher interviews and observations but provide little information about the context of data collection. They carefully document citations for all examples in the footnotes, but busy teachers and administrators cannot be expected to identify and read each source in the notes. An appendix with research methodology notes to explain the larger studies (e.g., goals of the research, instruments used, and context for the schools where data was collected) would add rigor to the text.
Despite these limitations, Bailey and Heritages text promises to be a source of inspiration for teachers and leaders interested in promoting regulatory processes in the classroom. The classroom discourse samples they provide pave the way for future applied research and will hopefully be the first among many examples of students engaged in regulatory behaviors.