Supporting the Development of Cognitive Regulation

cognitive regulationCognitive regulation is the ability to help oneself learn by being an active participant in the learning process. Students need the opportunity to develop and practice a variety of skills in order to become self-regulated learners.

In their book All Learning Is Social And Emotional: Helping Students Develop Essential Skills for the Classroom And Beyond, authors Nancy Frey, Douglas Fisher, and Dominique Smith identify skills related to cognitive regulation and provide information regarding classroom supports for each (pp. 69-87):

  1. Metacognition – Students learn to think about their thinking when they are asked to summarize, ask questions, dialogue with peers, and provide predictions. Teachers can model metacognition by thinking aloud and modeling questions, dialogue, and prediction.
  2. Attention – Sustained directed thinking is an important part of cognitive regulation. Teachers can help students improve their attention by reducing distractions (remember, there really is no such thing as multi-tasking in the brain), teaching them what to do when with ideas that interrupt thinking and cause a loss of focus and how to regain focus. Teachers can use timers and intentional brain breaks to help students sustain their thinking.
  3. Goal setting – Setting goals related to classroom activities helps students maintain motivation. Mastery goals positively impact student learning. Teachers can model mastery by articulating their own goals to students and encouraging students to articulate their goals.
  4. Recognizing and resolving problems – Students sometimes need help recognizing and resolving problems. Teachers can help students solve problems by asking questions, restating problems, helping students write down steps, and making plans of action. Teachers can also assist students with help seeking and decision-making as they relate to seeing and solving problems.
  5. Organization – Charts, checklists, folder systems, and routines all help students manage the information necessary for learning.

As you prepare for next week, think of ways that you can help students further develop the skills necessary for cognitive regulation. You and your students will be glad you took the time to do so.

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