About Dr. Marie C. White

Educational Psychologist, College Professor, Teacher Educator, Researcher, Author

Can an app help us self-regulate?

There are apps for everything! For those of us who are interested in help-seeking one app that has come to my attention is the one that provides real-time, instant responses to questions that move a task forward rather than leave the user in a quandary of questions. One of the key components of help-seeking is the available of a help-giver. There have been numerous studies using technology as a helper, including AutoTutor which incorporates strategies of human tutors that were identified in human tutoring protocols (Graesser et al. 2009, 1995), as well as ideal strategies derived from fundamental learning research (e.g., modeling- scaffolding-fading, learning progressions). The more “human’ the helper, the more successful the help-seeking outcomes.

It all begins with goal setting, Do I want to wander the mall looking for a gift or do I want to be intentional and enter the mall with a specific goal and outcome expectation, In the case of those who do not want to wander, there is an app that can help them improve time management and self-monitor intentions in search of a the appropriate gift.

From the book, Unleashing the Innovators, How Mature Companies Find New Life With Startups, a section entitled, Extending A Hand To Build Confidence, refers to Satisfi Labs location-based mobile app that allows consumers and brands to interact via Q & A. IBM Watson joined with Satisfi Labs to be the supreme help-giver at the  mall, in the stadium, the aquarium, Broadway theaters, and grocery chains.

The sequence of questions and responses begins with “What are you looking for?” Is this not the beginning of self-regulated learning? What is the goal? What is the intention? If one is not able to set a proximal goal then the following series of questions take the consumer through the process of self-regulating his or her behaviors so one is not haplessly wandering but intentionally making the correct steps towards a successful outcome, with less stress.

So… as Satisfi Lab has become “a shining light on the challenge of locating inventory and delivering the goods (Stengel & Post, 2017) so can educators investigate ways to train learners to shape their questions into manageable and proximal goals. As Don White a Satisfi Cofounder states….”I walk  into a mall where there are a lot of stores, and I am looking for a gift for my mom. There have to be some questions that narrow it down. ‘Can you name some brands your mom likes?……’Or some activities your mom likes to do?’ By the time you get own to it, we’re basically having a conversation through a digital experience that narrows to exactly what I want and need. And then, how do I get there?

Educators, consider the guiding questions that are required to move your learners to the place of saying “How do I get there?” and are both motivated and equipped to actually begin the process of learning knowing how to access the help required to perform the given task.


Where and how did he learn this?




If I ever observed the effects of cognitive modeling it is in the actions of this 20 month old swiping away on his mom’s iPhone with intention and outcome expectations. What does this tell us about the impact of observation and cognitive modeling? More to follow as we explore the impact of modeling on cognitive development and self-regulated learning!

Can the common core inspire self-regulated learning?


Taking a step back, educators need to focus on the value of standards to lesson planning, curriculum construction, and effective learning instruction and remove the politics from the discussion. When standards are set to consider raising self-efficacy, we will be on our way to connecting self-regulated learning with the common core state standards, or any other learning milestones that lead to life-long learning. Now, NYS realizes it set the goal to high, the forethought phase was exited too quickly and goals need to be reset if educational goals are to be realized. This often happens when a self-regulated learner reaches the performance phase, realizes that the goals has been set too high, and makes the decision to return to the planning phase to reset the goal. 

Recently we have heard that many states are “rolling back” their approach to the common core, but keeping standards based education. After much self-evaluation, New York State makes it very clear that it has rolled out the common core in error and I want to offer my applause for the task force drawing our attention to the difference between having standards and the manner in which they are implemented. The results of soul searching is evidence of what happens when those who implement policy become self-regulated in their approach to teaching, learning, and instruction.

An article that appeared in EdSource just two weeks ago (New York stumbles, California advances on Common Core implementation By Louis Freedberg , January 10, 2016) states the following when comparing the process in which two significant states made the common core available to their teaching and learning communities. One might say California had an SRL approach and at first, NYS did not, thus the confusion and frustration associated with the Common Core State Standards.

        It now appears that New York moved too quickly to implement the Common Core.     Cuomo went head to head against New York’s teachers unions, insisting on linking the scores of students on Common Core-aligned tests to teacher evaluations. New York was only the second state to do so. However, students took the tests before most teachers had a chance to fully implement the standards or had materials to support instruction, which they say contributed to lower test scores. By contrast, Brown expressed deep skepticism about using standardized tests for accountability purposes. An ally of teachers unions on many but not all issues, he resisted pressures from the federal administration to link test scores to teacher evaluations. That was a condition for applying for federal funds from the Race to the Top program, and for a waiver from some of the provisions of the No Child Left Behind law. It is easy now to forget that as both states began implementing the Common Core, New York received high praise in some quarters for moving more aggressively.

Like New York State, educators from other areas of the country should recognize the place for standards in achieving success in the global educational arena. We teach our future teachers to design learning objectives with unreachable outcomes for the diverse learning population in their future classrooms. Setting short term, realistic goals is the way to accomplish standards-based education, one goal at a time. If we set proximal goals linked to standards, we can focus on raising self-efficacy to accomplish the most difficult tasks.



Which comes first standards or self-regulation?

Goal setting concept - many uses in management seminars and training

Goal setting concept – many uses in management seminars and training

Actually they are compatible entities that should be activated simultaneously. If standards are transformed into goals the cycle begins when the student is in the forethought phase beginning to assess his/her strengths and weaknesses for a specific task. With all the chatter about the common core and other standards one wonders why many teachers and administrators are finding standards to be confining and not liberating.

When one has goals that can guide instruction and student performance he/she can operate within a system of goal attainment. Using Imogene King’s Theory of Goal Attainment designed for nursing students and practitioners, I adapted the theory for educators who are interested in developing self-regulated learners by emphasizing the forethought phase.

The following propositions are made in the Theory of Goal Attainment:

  • If perceptual interaction accuracy is present in teacher-student interactions, learning will occur.
  • If the instructor and student make transaction, the goal or goals will be achieved.
  • If the goal or goals are achieved, satisfaction will occur.
  • If transactions are made in teacher-student interactions, growth and development will be enhanced.
  • If role expectations and role performance as perceived by the teacher and student are congruent, transaction will occur.
  • If role conflict is experienced by either the teacher or the student (or both), stress in the teacher-student interaction will occur.
  • If a teacher with special knowledge communicates appropriate information to the student, mutual goal-setting and goal achievement will occur.

There are also assumptions made in the model. They are:

  • The focus of teaching is the learning process of the human being (student).
  • The goal of teacher is the education and development of both individuals and groups.
  • Human beings are open systems interacting with their environments constantly.
  • The teacher and learner communicate information, set goals mutually, and then act to achieve those goals. This is also the basic assumption of the learning process.
  • Learners perceive the world as a complete person making transactions with individuals and things in the environment.
  • Transaction represents a learning situation in which the perceiver and the task being perceived are encountered. It also represents a life situation in which a person enters the situation as an active participant. Each is changed in the process of these experiences.

One can find similarities in the way that King perceives human beings and Bandura perceives the learner. According to King, a human being refers to a social being who is rational and sentient. Which means, he or she has the ability to perceive, think, feel, choose, set goals, select means to achieve goals, and make decisions. According to Bandura, human agency is characterized by a number of core features that operate through phenomenal and functional consciousness. These include the temporal extension of agency through intentionality and forethought, self-regulation by self-reactive influence, and self-reflective ness about one’s capabilities, quality of functioning, and the meaning and purpose of one’s life pursuits (Bandura, 2001).

In teaching and learning experiences both the learner and teacher have fundamental needs that include the need to know how the learner sets well-informed proximal goals,  In addition, self-regulation begins with both the teacher and learner knowing how to apply it to a specific task; the need for instructional practices that seek to prevent failure.


Can standards be practical?

standards_goals     In most countries, such as Australia/NewZealand standards are practical and don’t set impossible goals. In the case of products, they are based on sound industrial, scientific and consumer experience and are regularly reviewed to ensure they keep pace with new technologies. Standards can cover everything from consumer products and services, construction, engineering, business, information technology, human services to energy and water utilities, the environment and much more. However, it seems when standards are applied to educational arenas the chaos begins because the standards are often designed in an impractical way and set impossible goals. Without SRL standards are chaotic and can discourage both the teacher and learner. SRL encourages proximal goal setting, one that can be attained in a specific amount of time. When the goal is being set paths to goal attainment are explored to be sure the goal is realistic and that goal achievement will increase self-efficacy.

goal too high  The chaos suggested around the recently launched common core standards in the USA can be alleviated if teachers apply a SRL approach and use the standards as guidelines to set proximal goals aligned with each students individual learning needs. This can be easily done by becoming managers of standards based classroom instruction who implement how they are reached using SRL. Instructors who see the standards as guidelines to educate all students fairly have been able to use the standards to set classroom goals and learning objectives to reach those goals. In addition, these teachers employ self-regulated learning strategies to encourage students to take charge of setting individual goals, monitor their performance for attempt to attain their goals, and STOP and REDO the goal if they have set the goal too high. The standard remains the same, how to get there is what makes all the difference!

Can self-regulation promote growth mindsets?

path to goals

I recently watched a Teaching Channel video which encouraged teachers to help children develop growth mindsets by providing challenging work. I had an aha moment, growth mindsets can be developed through teaching self regulation when faced with challenging tasks and developing self-efficacy. The research is readily available but more can be done to raise our awareness that classroom teachers daily use these tools from educational psychology in classroom practices.

According to Carol Dweck, in a growth mindset , people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. When teachers focus students on learning from set backs and praise their efforts rather than how smart they are, increased learning and greater self efficacy are often the results.

In the video, the teacher presents challenging problem solving tasks and then works with her students to find the correct strategy to solve the problem. This is where SRL becomes the managing agent of the challenging task. In order to work successfully the students are reminded to ask for help when they are “stuck”, and to justify their need for help by stating where they are in the process.  One of the statements made by the teacher featured in the video reveals her goal to have her students work through challenges by persevering to solving the problem, not necessarily arrive at the correct answer. As they work through the problems the teacher guides them by modeling and calling attention to strategic choices that can be used by the students to refine their thinking and responses.

Growth mindsets, self-regulation, and self-efficacy are researched based theoretical frameworks for educating all students. Our diverse classrooms will benefit from strategic approaches to learning using these tools in conjunction with standards based education.

Links: The lesson responded to Common Core Math Standards that require students to “Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them” (Math Practice Standard 1). Teaching Channel video (https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/persist-through-challenges-perts?utm_campaign=digest&utm_medium=email&utm_source=digest)


Teaching tool or testing tool?


Assessment is the mother of good planning, The common core emphasizes formative assessment, the act of taking measurement of skill development at specific checkpoints over a time frame. The formative outcomes are evidence of weaknesses and strengths during the learning process rather than at the end (summative) when it is too late to intervene.

The CCSS encourage educators to know the status of each student’s learning by deepening the assessment process. The following link to Education Week is an example of how two teachers provide differentiated instruction through their methods of formative assessment. Deepening Assessment is described as a clear vision of the progress each student is making. Using the methods described by teacher researchers at the UCLA Lab School, teachers can adjust their lesson plans and provide necessary interventions to improve individual achievement. As described by Nancy Gerzon, a researcher who specializes in formative assessment , “It’s differentiation with more evidence as to why you’re differentiating.”

The article in Education week is an excellent example of how applying self-regulation to assessment increases the teacher’s ability to differentiate instruction. Observing and measuring students’ behaviors during the planning, performance, and reflection phases of self-regulation can be a significant factor in formative assessment and successful outcomes.

What SR teachers do – page 17