Self Regulated Learning in Kindergarten through Student-Centered Learning Environments

Self Regulated Learning in Kindergarten through Student-Centered Learning Environments


5 year old children entering a vast school building for the first time can be overwhelming.

Add the demands of kindergarten, (demands? YES, believe it or not), and you could have a child who is not successful due to anxiety and stresses placed upon them. The first few months of school for a 5 year old is a life-changing experience. They are expected to show self-control by sitting quietly as the teacher speaks, take turns when speaking, raise their hand when they want to share, and self-regulate to ensure their work is finished properly and on time. Center time during kindergarten is a time where students are given options and expected to self-regulate in order to be successful learners. In order to instill virtues such as self-regulation, integrity, and persistence, students need to be taught time management, orderliness, and responsibility. The center activities must be engaging and meaningful in order to promote motivation in students.

Self-Regulated Learning Environment

In a self-regulated learning environment, students navigate freely throughout the environment. In addition, students are required to analyze their learning situation, set meaningful learning goals, and choose the best learning strategies based on the assignment (Azevedo, Behnagh, Duffy, Harley, and Trevors, 2012, P. 172). In order to promote self-regulated learning, the hour of center time in a kindergarten class can be set up in a “Must Do/May Do” format. In this format, the teacher assigns at least three activities for each group of students to accomplish. Each group has one assignment that they “Must Do”, when or if they finished that assignment, then they can choose a “May Do” to work on. During this time, the teacher would be pulling small groups of students to work on specific content and skills that is tailored to their learning needs. This format is set up to differentiate learning based on student achievement. While the teacher is working with a small group of students, the rest of the class is expected to self-regulate and take ownership of their learning by completing their “Must Dos” and “May Dos” independently. This may seem like a great idea, but in reality, expecting a classroom full of 5 year olds to follow directions and complete work without an adult can be quite challenging. Many students rely on the teacher to redirect them and assist them with activities. Students need to learn how to use cooperation and leadership to self-regulate their learning and to help others self-regulate. Motivation for students will be that if they complete all “Must Do” assignments throughout the week, they may choose any “May Do” activities of their choice on Fridays.

Guidelines for Designing a Self-Regulated Learning Environment

“Self-regulated learning (SRL) involves actively constructing an understanding of a topic or domain by using strategies and goals; monitoring and regulating certain aspects of cognition, behavior, and motivation; and modifying behavior to achieve the desired goal”  (Azevedo, Behnagh, Duffy, Harley, and Trevors, 2012, P. 174). In my “Must Do/May Do” design, kindergarten students will first be taught how to monitor their progress towards a goal and time monitoring. These two metacognitive monitoring processes will allow students to begin the process of self-regulated learning.

The first month of school, the teacher will NOT pull small groups of students during center time. Instead, the teacher will begin centers with teaching students how to self-regulate with time management. The teacher will display a visual timer, if using Active Inspire a sample timer can be found here. Visual timers are an important aspect in time management, especially for young learner who do not yet grasp the concept of time. Throughout the day, the teacher will use the visual timer during class activities so students can monitor their completion of tasks. After the timer goes off, the class will have a group discussion about whether or not they completed the task in the time allotted. The teacher will use a large piece of chart paper to chart ways students can be successful in completing assignments in the allotted time. Practice makes perfect, therefore the class will continue to practice using a visual timer during assignments. After a few weeks of practicing time management, the teacher will make observations during classwork to identify students who need time management intervention. The teacher will work with those students, specifically, during timed activities to assist them with time management.

Next, monitoring progress towards goals will be introduced to students. Before center time, the teacher will set goals for the “Must Dos” for the week. For example, on Mondays the teacher will introduce the “Must Do” centers for the week. There will be 5 in all, one “Must Do” per group per day. The content will be modified based on each group’s ability level, but the overall goal will be the same. The teacher will chart with the students, the goals of each “Must Do”. Throughout the week, the students can refer to the chart to ensure that they met the goal before moving onto the “May Do”. “In monitoring progress towards goals (MPTG) learners assess whether previously set goals have been met (+) or not met (-), given time constraints” (Azevedo, Behnagh, Duffy, Harley, and Trevors, 2012, P. 178). The teacher will monitor students as they work, observing when students move onto their “May Do”. The teacher will require students to use the class made chart to check off that they completed the goal of the center. The teacher will evaluate completion and either require students to go back and complete work correctly or give praise and send them to the “May Do”. This model will build in more metacognitive monitoring processes such as, feeling of knowing, judgment of learning, monitoring use of strategies, self-test, content evaluation, and adequacy of content throughout the year to establish metacognitive processes in young learners (Azevedo, Behnagh, Duffy, Harley, and Trevors, 2012, P. 178-9).


Student centered learning environments (SCLE) are, “particularly difficult because it requires students to monitor and regulate several aspects of their learning” (Azevedo, Behnagh, Duffy, Harley, and Trevors, 2012, P. 171). My design relates to SCLE and SRL because students are expected to complete work according to set goals within time constraints without the teacher monitoring their every move. In order to hold students accountable for their work, the teacher will have students turn in documentation of “Must Do” completion and the teacher will review all student work the same day. The following day, the teacher will pull small groups of students to discuss “Must Do” artifacts turned in by students and give verbal feedback to each student. This is timely, but it will benefit students in the long run. In addition, once the standards are set and students are capable of self-regulating their learning during center time, the teacher has more flexibility to pull small groups of students that need re-teaching of concepts or extensions. Putting in the time and effort in the beginning will eventually lead to a classroom of self-regulated learners that will instill character strengths that will follow the students throughout their schooling.

Azevedo, R. Behnagh, R. Duffy, M. Harley, J. and Trevor, G. (2012). Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning in Student-Centered Learning Environments. In Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments (2nd ed., pp. 142-170). Abingdon, Oxen: Routledge.

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About the Author
Author: Heather SwinderWebsite:
Heather Swinder is the assistant principal at Dundalk Elementary School in Baltimore County, Maryland. She is a current doctorate student in the Instructional Technology department at Towson University. She married her best friend in 2011 and they have one amazing son.

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