Most university students have a great deal of control over their own time management and academic work schedules as well as how they actually go about studying and learning. This could be problematical for those students that find it difficult to manage this freedom in terms of the quantity of time they devote to learning as well as the quality of cognitive effort they put into learning (Pintrich, 1995 p. 8).
Those Students who are able to control their study time and learning will better adapt to university academic demands and will better balance these with social demands of life (Zimmerman, 2001 p. 4-5). According to Zimmerman (1989), these students could be described as self-regulated learners, as they are meta-cognitively, motivationally, and behaviorally active participants in their own learning process (Zimmerman, 1989 p. 4).
Hence, the topic of self-regulated learning seemed to have emerged as a primary new construct in education and has been viewed by many educational psychologists as the key to successful learning at school and beyond (Boekaerts, 1999 p. 446). This paper will address some of the self- regulated learning issues encountered by an adult student [the author], undertaking an off-campus post-graduate university course, focusing on the social cognitive theory.
The paper will consist of a brief description of self-regulated learning and its importance in academic self-regulated learning; an overview of Bandura's social cognitive theoretical model and its significance in self-regulated learning; followed by a very detailed discussion on goal-setting and perceived self-efficacy and how these play a major role in assisting the student to become a more effective self-regulated learner, with supporting evidence from the literature. Self- regulated learning One of the major advances in the study of lifelong cognitive developments relates to the mechanism of self-regulated learning.
It emphasises the emerging autonomy and responsibility of students to take charge of their own learning. This concept can be a very significant and complex to understand and implement by adult learners or university students. Self-regulated learning occurs when students activate and sustain cognitions and behaviours systematically oriented toward attainment of learning goals (Zimmerman, 1989 p. 5-7). A self-regulated learner actively controls his/her learning environment, by scheduling appropriate amounts of time, finding appropriate physical environments for his/her effective study, has materials ready and plans human resources [eg. ducators, peer helpers and tutors] as needed.
These individuals work to control their motivation, find ways to deal with anxiety, select cognitive strategies that have productive results; they work on understanding ideas and materials rather than just memorise and recall (Brooks, 1997 p. 157). Although, definitions of self-regulated learning involving specific processes often differ on the basis of researchers' theoretical perspectives, a common conceptualization of self regulated learners has emerged as metacognitively, motivationally, and behaviorally active participants in their own learning (Zimmerman, 1989 p. ).
Given the description and definition of self regulated learning, it could be said that for an off-campus university student it would be essential and beneficial for him/her to engage in self-regulating learning by systematically implementing metacognitive, motivational, and/or behavioral strategies to enhance his/her learning outcomes. According to the literature, self-regulated learning is not a genetic characteristic, nor is it formed early in life, but it can be learnt regardless of age, gender, ethnic background, actual ability level, prior knowledge, or motivation (Pintrich, 1995 p. ).
One of the several, self-regulated learning models that has become significant in academic learning is the social cognitive model by Bandura, Zimmerman and Martinez-pons (Zimmerman, 1994 p. 11). According to this model, theorists believe, merely personal processes do not determine self-regulated learning, but these processes are assumed to be influenced by environmental and behavioral events in reciprocal fashion (Zimmerman, 1989 p. 320). Social-Cognitive Theory
The foundation of the social cognitive theory stems from Albert Bandura's social learning theory, who explored the social learning factors in self-regulation as a triadic formulation, where he described behaviour as product of both self generated and external sources of influence (Bandura, 1986 p. 454). In essence, he views human functioning as a series of reciprocal interactions between behavioral, environmental, and personal variables. He described self-efficacy, as an individual's confidence in his/her ability to organize and execute a given course of action in orders to attain/accomplish a specific goal (Schunk, 1989 p. 4).
Social cognitive theorists assume that self-efficacy is a key variable affecting self-regulated learning. In support of this assumption, previous research demonstrated, students with high self-efficacy have displayed better quality learning strategies and more self -monitoring of their learning outcomes than have students with low self-efficacy (Schunk, 1998 p. 140) Consequently, researchers also found that students' perceptions of self-efficacy are positively related to such learning outcomes as task persistence, task choice, effective study activities, skill acquisition, and academic achievement.
Students' c is assumed to influence their perceptions of self-efficacy, as well as the reverse (Hagen & Weinstein, 1995 p. 45). The Social cognitive theory would be applicable to an off-campus university student [the author], as it addresses some of his concerns on how his experience, environment, and behavior affects how and what he learns. This student normally has access to an interactive online web-ct learning tool, provision of recommended reading materials and lists of extra further readings, all provided by the university.
The student is required to complete a number of assignments [goals] based on the material presented and course content. The formal completion of these assignments, provide a mechanism that allows the student to apply his knowledge accurately and reliably, therefore increasing his/her confidence. For example, it is possible to read a whole book about self-regulated learning, but it is not until the student is actually able to disseminate the information or concepts learnt by successfully completing an academic assignment, that learning is complete to some degree.
The interactive online tool and educational reading materials can provide extensive, repetitive practice until mastery and thus self-efficacy could be achieved. Although low self- efficacy can be detrimental, effective self-regulation does not require that self-efficacy be enormously high, as previous research studies have shown that low self-efficacy can lead to greater mental effort and hence better learning (Garcia, 1995 p. 31). This notion could also be applicable to the off-campus post-graduate student who has been detached from the usual academic demands of university for quiet some time.
The student would probably experience a great deal of anxiety and concern, as well as the possibility of failure due to the fact that his academic writing skills may not be up to standards. However, rather than being paralyzed by his concerns, anxieties, and expectations of failure, he uses these to fuel up his efforts, working harder in order to achieve positive outcomes. Self-regulated learning from a social-cognitive perspective The importance to academic achievement of self-regulation in learning has been well established by the work of Bandura, Zimmerman, Schunk and Pintrich in the Social cognitive learning model.
As previously mentioned, the theory has provided the theoretical base for the development of a model, in self-regulated academic learning in which personal, contextual, and behavioral factors interact in such a way to allow opportunity for students to exercise control over their own learning, while at the same time setting limits to self-direction (Purdie, Hattie, & Douglas, 1996 p. 87). From the social cognitive learning theory, there is growing evidence, of three very important classes of self-regulatory processes on students' academic performance.
These are assumed to interact with each other in reciprocal manner and consist of self-observation, self-judgment, and self-reaction (Schunk, 1998 p. 140). Normally, at the commencement of learning activities/tasks, students have goals, such as, acquiring skills and knowledge, finishing assignments, and achieving good grades/results. During these activities, students observe, judge, and react to their perceptions of goal progress. In other words, as students observe aspects of their behaviors they judge them against standards and react positively or negatively, hence continuing their work or changing their task approach.
Consequently, their evaluations and reactions set the stage for additional observations of the same behaviors or others (Purdie, Hattie, & Douglas, 1996 p. 88). Self-observation is referred to students' responses, involving systematical monitoring of their own performance and it is believed to be it influenced by self-efficacy and goal-setting. Observing oneself can provide information about how well one is progressing toward one's goals. Behaviors can be assessed on such dimensions as quality, rate quantity, and originality, and hence allowing behavioral change to occur if necessary (Schunk, 1990 p. 2) there is extensive evidence that prompting students to self-record affects their learning motivation, and self-efficacy.
When students with poor study habits self-record, they are often surprised to learn they waste much study time on non-academic activities. Such knowledge can motivate students to improve their studying. Consequently, sustained motivation depends on students believing that if they change their behavior, they experience better outcomes, valuing those outcomes, and feeling they can change those habits will result in growth of self-efficacy and their motivation for continued learning is sustained (Schunk, 1998 p. 40).
From the perspective of the post-graduate university student, weekly recordings of how many problems he managed to successfully triumph over, in the course of extracting and understanding the main concepts from his reading materials will indicate his progress. Self- observation is needed but is considered insufficient for sustained self-regulation. A second class of student self-regulated response involves self-judgment. Self-judgment refers to students' responses that involve systematically comparing their performance with a standard or goal.
This definition assumes that self-evaluation depends on such personal processes as self-efficacy, goal setting, and knowledge or standards, as well as self-observed responses. Knowledge of standards or goals can be derived from a variety of sources including social norms, temporal criteria such as earlier performance levels, or absolute criteria such as mastery tests or goals (Schunk, 1994 p. 77). For the post-graduate university student, achieving an outstanding grade on his first assignment sets absolute standards for his next academic task. He will compare his performance with these standards, informing him of goal progress.
Making progress enhances self-efficacy and sustains motivation. Another example would be comparing the performance of his first assignment with those of others by viewing the overall class performance provided by his university lecturer. Finally, a third class of students' self-regulated response involves self-reactions to one's performance. As was the case with self-observation and self-judgment, learners' self-reactions involve such personal processes as goal setting, and self-efficacy perceptions, as well as behavioral outcomes. Self- reactions to goal progress may be evaluative or tangible.
The evaluative reactions involve students' beliefs about their progress. For example, the belief that one is making progress, together with anticipated satisfaction of goal accomplishment, enhances self-efficacy and sustains motivation to complete the task. On the other hand, negative evaluations would not necessarily decrease motivation if students believe they are capable of improving via enhanced effort or better use of strategies (Schunk, 1994 p. 78). Sometimes, students react in tangible manner to academic progress by purchasing something they want or taking time off studying.
Expected consequences of behavior instead of the consequences themselves are said to increase motivation. Rewards enhance self-efficacy when they are linked to student's academic accomplishments. An example would be, a student receiving free time based on their mastery of skills. Self-efficacy is validated as student's work and the task and note progress, and the actual reward further validates efficacy because it symbolizes greater competence (Schunk, 1989 p. 92 &93). From the above it could be said that Reward contingencies are important influences on students' self-efficacy and assist development of self regulated learning.