When do I say change the color?


I was sharing with my class last week how we can know we are making the wrong choices, but persist anyway, and then live with the unwanted outcome. Self regulation is about realizing that we can change our direction before the task is completed; while engaged, we can start over, adjust our goals, and make new choices. Why don’t we do this at the nail salon?  How many of us have left with the wrong color, too embarrassed to ask if we can change it as it is being painted onto our nails? Even as we leave the salon, we know it was a bad choice and we will not make it again.  Yet if we had been asked “Do you like this color?” “Are you happy with your choice?” and spoken up after the first nail was polished, we would not spend weeks regretting the decision we made.


I likened this personal experience to helping our students to make the “right choice”, and then encourage them to stick with it even when it is not working. How they study, where they study, with whom they study are choices they often make Independently, and often regret when the homework is done incorrectly or the test is failed.

The common core standards encourage us to review and revise our teaching and our students’ learning strategies using formative assessments throughout units of study.  The staircase of complexity encourages us to check often to see if our students are increasing their skills, but it does not encourage us to investigate their study habits.  Investigating the psychological dimensions of self regulation is critical to our work as educators.  We don’t want them to wait until poor choices are made to change direction, rather, we want our students to self monitor their study habit to raise their awareness pertaining to their choices being made in real time regarding time management and social distractors.

It is like the nail polish color, sometimes students are too embarrassed to admit they made the wrong choice and will persist knowing the choice is not a good one.  Perhaps if the manicurist had asked me just once if I liked the red nail polish I had chosen, I would have chosen to change it, rather than leave knowing I had made a bad choice.  Educators can raise self-awareness if they ask the right questions while the task is in progress, not only at the reflection phase.

Self monitoring tools, such as study logs, are critical to noticing when we have made the wrong choice.  Instructors who integrate and model the consistent use of self monitoring tools into the structure of their lesson planning will increase the use of these tools in their students.

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