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Why is self-regulation important for learning? Monday, 21 August 2017

 

Why is self-regulation important for learning?

By Sonia Murray & Rachael Taylor

Self-regulation can be split in to two areas, behavioural regulation and affect (emotion) regulation.  Research suggests that self-regulation is necessary element of emotional well-being.  Emotional self-regulation is the ability to calm ourselves down and to pick ourselves back up when we are feeling low.  Behavioural regulation is the ability to control our actions and behave in appropriate ways.   Self-regulation incorporates both affect (emotion) regulation and behavioural regulation, both of which are necessary elements to function within groups and the school setting. 

Self-regulation begins in the first few months of life and continues to develop throughout childhood.  It is aided by positive attachment interactions with their primary care givers.  In early childhood, the baby is not equipped with regulatory skills and initially they require others to regulate their emotions.  When a caregiver soothes and calms a baby at time when they become distressed, they in the short term reduce the affect response, but if the caregiver repeats these actions, the baby begins to develop their own regulatory skills.  As noted by Wilson et al (1990) secure attachment facilitates the transfer of regulatory skills from caregiver to child.  Schore (2012) describes attachment as a mechanism to develop self-regulation.  Self-regulation incorporates both affect (emotion) regulation and behavioural regulation, both of which are necessary elements to function within groups and the school setting. 

Engaging purposefully in classroom learning activities requires a great deal of self-regulation. Classrooms are busy places, full of colourful distractions plus cosy book corners and inviting places to play. Carpet times are frequently disrupted as children reach out to play with a girl’s hair bobble or explore the Velcro fastenings on their shoes. Whilst this type of behaviour is common in the early years, many children find it difficult to develop self-regulation skills.

Behavioural difficulties can stem from a child’s difficulty to attend during teaching input times. As well as distracting others, the child will require adult support to move to the next activity. Moving through school, the gap can widen as children with attentional difficulties miss out on vital teaching input which provides the foundations for future learning. This can lead to a negative self-image with children writing themselves off as “stupid “and refusing to attempt tasks which they perceive to be “too hard”.

In addition to the impact on learning and self-esteem, children with high levels of impulsivity often annoy their peers, creating social tensions which can hinder their attempts to make and maintain friendships. Developing self-regulation is not only vital to learning, but also the wider social and emotional development of the child.

Small group interventions can be a great way to teach the skills needed for successful self-regulation. Children will need activities which practice and reward skills such as waiting and taking turns in a smaller setting. Talking about the links between our emotions, thoughts and behaviour can help children to “stop and think”. By explicitly praising the child when they take small steps towards regulating their behaviour, when they listen attentively or ignore a distraction, we can help to promote a more positive self-image.

References
Schore, A. (2012) Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self:  The Neurobiology of Emotional Development.  London:  Routledge

Wilson, A.,  Passik, S. D., & Faude, J. P. (1990) Self-regulation and its failures.  In J. Masling (Ed.), Empirical Studies in Psychoanalytic Therapy, Vol. 3 (pp. 149-213)  Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press.  Cited in Schore, A. (2012) Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self:  The Neurobiology of Emotional Development.  London:  Routledge


Interesting article: