Students Self-Regulation: Should You Teach It During A Pandemic?

Should I teach my students self-regulation? What value does it possess for my students? Is it even appropriate to do so while we’re experiencing this pandemic?


Self-regulation is extremely important to produce high-quality students. It teaches students to be accountable for their actions and education. This essentially creates a meeting point between teachers as educators and students as recipients of that education.

One of the things people don’t immediately connect with teachers is that they are essentially one-man management teams. Teachers assess students, gather data, create a forecast, and create lessons accordingly. This is a constant cycle that repeats day in and day out for their students’ benefit.

But this shouldn’t just be the teachers’ responsibility alone.

In order for this to work, they have to bring everyone in and lead them to commit to getting a better education. The most effective teachers are those that adopt a growth mindset helping students to excel on their own through instilling self-regulation.

This is where making students accountable through self-regulation becomes evidently important to their own success.

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But How Do You Make Students More Accountable For Their Education?

Education is extremely important to everyone involved. More so with the students. Education is something no one else can lay claim to other than themselves. Not the teachers. Not the parents. And definitely not other people within the society.

Students should understand that they play an important role in their own education. In essence, they are stakeholders of their own future and they should be very concerned with how they perform.

That’s why teaching students self-regulation to become accountable for their actions gives them control over their own education.

One of the best things to do to instill self-regulation is to trust your students to do what is right when given the proper tools and mindset. This can be introduced in a variety of ways. The most important method is to talk to them.

By allowing children to enter into a conversation where they feel safe enough to open up about their goals, ambitions, and desires will you learn more about how to handle their management.

Now not all students are going to have the same drive. Not everyone is also going to be receptive to the idea of self-regulation. This could be because they still don’t have a clear idea of what they want and how to go about achieving what they set out to do.

Not All Students Are Going To Be Receptive About Self-Regulation
Not All Students Are Going To Be Receptive About Self-Regulation

It is your job as a teacher to handle each situation appropriately.

There isn’t a one-solution-fits-all answer to this. We’ll discuss more about creating SMART goals, techniques and methods used by other teachers, and best practices in the following sections.

To do that, we have to first fully understand what self-regulation is as adults and how best to convey this to students in our care.

What Is Self-Regulation?

Self-regulation is basically another word for making people accountable for their actions. This is basically where people become more self-aware and motivated to achieve their goals. In order to do this, one has to be made aware of creating goals and creating steps to achieve it.

It’s basically akin to SMART goals.

Having the ability to self-regulate is seen as a very desirable quality especially in the workforce. People who practice self-regulation are seen as more positive, more productive, and more likely to contribute to the workplace.

Happy Workers In The Workplace: A Result Of Effective Self-Regulation
Happy Workers In The Workplace: A Result Of Effective Self-Regulation

These people are also keen on learning new skills, are more innovative, and find solutions where others cannot. They also turn experiences into learning opportunities by effectively managing and organizing their thoughts in a logical manner to achieve the desired effect. This can then be replicated in the next similar task.

Self-regulation also involves a continuous progress monitoring process, regular checking on results, and timely adjustments to get results.

This takes years of practice for some. That’s why it’s extremely important to teach children early on in life how to develop a problem-solving mindset and a goal-oriented approach to life. All of these can result from teaching students self-regulation.

Commitment And Compliance

When students are taught how to self-regulate, they are instantly made aware of what it is that drives them to do certain things. This is also a good way for them to establish goals and create steps to achieve them. In short, there is full commitment from the child to learn instead of compliance, which is oftentimes not as effective.

Teaching students how to self-regulate also promotes a positive learning attitude and environment. This is a valuable skillset that every child needs to have to become valuable in any future workplace. This also makes them more efficient, independent, and provides them with a venue to develop marketable skills.

Self-Regulation Equals Empowered Children
Self-Regulation Equals Empowered Children

Your focus as a teacher is to make sure that you cultivate this mindset so they can become well-rounded, highly-motivated individuals in their future careers.

What Is Compliance?

Compliance is basically the actions taken by individuals when they are compelled to perform. This can produce quick results, but it is not sustainable in the long run. The reason for this is because the individual is not invested in doing the actions and just wants to get it over with to appease the director.

This is common in classrooms as well as production floors. This can lead to resentment and dissatisfaction and is not conducive to learning online or self-regulation.

What Is Commitment?

This is the ideal scenario for self-regulation and online learning. With commitment, individuals are invested in the projects they undertake. Oftentimes, this leads to innovations and outstanding results.

Students who commit to perform certain tasks end up completing it with astounding results. This is what you should aspire to instill in your students for great results.


We’ve mentioned SMART goals. You’ve probably heard of SMART goals already, but what are SMART goals exactly?


For those who don’t know, the acronym SMART goals stands for:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Attainable

R – Relevant

T – Timely

All of these components are important in goal setting. Missing one of the five will render plans slightly less effective. To gain the full effect, you need to understand the role of each one. So here it is:

The Many Definitions Of SMART Goals
The Many Definitions Of SMART Goals


The first step in creating goals is to ensure they are specific. There is no room for any deviations at this point. The reason for this is to create a target that one can fully focus on.

So, you need to identify areas for improvement and start your SMART goal from there.

Is your student failing math? In what particular area? What can they do to improve?

The answers to these questions can be anything as simple as they’re just bored with the topic or they don’t have the basic foundation to carry out mathematical equations or simply because the lessons are beyond their grasp on the subject.

You and your student have to work as a team to identify these and then create solutions. After coming up with a few, you need to narrow it down to the most realistic one and put your focus on that. This is now your specific goal.


The next step is to ensure that the specific goal set is measurable. This makes results quantifiable. With measurable results, you can then plot out the success or failure rate and react appropriately.

You can incorporate your grading system into this based on the students’ performance. Give the appropriate grade based on the results of their work.

Assigning grades or making their efforts measurable allows you and your students to see if they are in line, over, or under the goal. This is a tangible record of their progress, which can help you and him adjust your efforts to be within the set trajectory agreed on based on your specific goals.


Aim high. This is a common saying that parents, teachers, and other people always tell children so they’ll become achievers.

You can set your expectations high but make sure that these are still attainable. Setting targets that are way too high can lead to your student feeling frustrated. Setting them too low and you’re wasting their potential to excel.

You will need to do a proper assessment of your student and see where their areas for improvements are as well as their strengths. Play to their strengths and develop their weak spots as you go through the SMART goals.

Discuss with your students what they believe they can hit. The answer should come from them so that it makes them commit to hitting the target with their efforts.


SMART goals have to be realistic. You can’t set a goal that is outside of the realm of possibility for the student to achieve. That will only set you up for more failure down the road.

As much as you want them to excel, you also have to be very realistic about your assessment of what they can achieve within the scope of your set SMART goals.


Your SMART goals have to constantly evolve as you and your student hits milestones. Constantly assessing their progress, capabilities, and areas for improvement will help you do that. Adjust your teaching methods, lessons, and other activities based on the data you gather.

There. Now you know the SMART goals. Time to implement it in your plans.

Teachers’ Tools

Aside from SMART goals, you will need the proper tools to implement self-regulation in your students. This is extremely important since distance education is taking precedent as the main educational tool for this day and age. Having the right set of tools will make you more efficient as a teacher.

And this benefits your students immensely once they embrace this concept.

With the shift to distance learning, having the right instruction tools is. The secret to achieving success. At the start, you have to establish goals, create steps to achieve those goals, and ensure proper documentation of successes and achievements.

Students also have to be made aware that these goals have to originate from them. They have to create realistic goals based on the SMART system we’ve already discussed.

Lastly and most importantly, when teaching self-regulation, your strategies should be based upon each student’s learning style and preferences.

Establish Trust, Stay Away From Micro-Managing Your Students

Perhaps this is the most important thing you need to have with your students. This is basically an intangible contract between both you and the student stating that you trust each other to be partners in their education.

Establish Trust So You Won't Always Need To Be Hovering Over Your Students
Establish Trust So You Won’t Always Need To Be Hovering Over Your Students

As a manager, it is in your best interest not to micromanage. This frees you up to do other tasks like data collection and interpretation, outlining future lessons, and handling other concerns.

Your student is then free to explore their lesson at their own pace. That is of course, with the goal of completing their tasks at hand as agreed upon. This is already in their SMART goals and they did make a commitment to perform appropriately.

Performance Monitoring

Once you’ve discussed the SMART goals with your students, the next thing to do is to provide them a way to monitor their performance and progress. Allowing them to see how well they are doing instills a sense of ownership and a growth mindset.

Give Children Access To Their Performance Report
Give Children Access To Their Performance Report

They can then learn from their successes and setbacks and make the necessary adjustments to reach their own goals.

Provide Regular Coaching

Regular coaching is needed to ensure students are kept on the right track. This is a good way for you to touch base with your students and help them identify obstacles and how to overcome them.

Make Coaching A Constant In The Classroom For Each Child
Make Coaching A Constant In The Classroom For Each Child

You can discuss points where they excel and areas that need improvement. It sometimes takes an outsider’s point of view for individuals to see their progress in an objective manner. Identify the causes of success or failure and discuss that.

For failure, adjust your SMART goals by getting their commitment as to how they can better perform.

For successes, identify what worked and build on that so you can replicate it through the course of achieving the end goal.

This is a cyclical process that involves constant performance evaluation and coaching to get the best results. Make sure that each coaching session starts on a positive note and ends in the same manner so the student will feel open about discussing their performance.

In the end, get their commitment and sign off on it.

Learn Your Students’ Learning Style

People learn in different ways. Some people learn better through class discussions, some through activities, and some through a combination of both. Learning how your students’ learn best can help you create a lesson plan that works for each individual to get the best results.

You can do this by observing how they go about their lessons as you are teaching or through a survey that they can fill out.

Encourage Your Students To Have And Keep Data Journals

Students should have a copy of their performance. Giving them access to their performance helps them to develop a critical eye in assessing their own strengths and weaknesses. Self-awareness promotes individual thinking and a commitment to producing better results.

Students can also use this as a basis for their discussions with their teacher. With the data in hand, they can ask how to perform better or adjust their SMART goals accordingly.

Put Up Visual Reminders

Seeing something that shows your students’ performance is a very helpful tool to keep them on the right track. This can be anything from a simple progress chart to achievements or words of encouragement.

Provide your students these and you can see a marked improvement in their progress. Encourage them to have a copy at home so they can use it as part of their self-regulation.

Provide A Safe Learning Environment

This may seem like a given, but a safe learning environment is crucial for effective self-regulation. In order to self-regulate, students must feel comfortable making and learning from their mistakes and being transparent about their areas for growth.

In order for students to find this comfort, a teacher must cultivate a learning environment where students feel safe and valued.

Provide Ample Time For Breaks

You have to provide enough time for your students to recover from their lessons. Providing a break or two within the day should help them regain enthusiasm for the next set of activities.

This can be a 15-minute break where they can go off and do whatever they want from taking a nap, reading a book, or spending time with their friends.

Breaks Can Be Educational Too
Breaks Can Be Educational Too

These breaks can also be used as additional educational tools if you devise it in a manner that it challenges them physically or mentally. Doing this will make breaks less obvious and help you transition from one lesson to the next in a seamless manner.

Promote Emotional Intelligence In Your Students

There are many forms of intelligence. Emotional intelligence is one aspect of that. This can set up students for lifelong success. How? When a person understands their emotions and how it impacts their life, they often find a way to regulate themselves so they can act in an appropriate manner.

Emotionally intelligent students know how best to express themselves in an objective way to get the results they want.

You can put up a board where your students can place what they’re currently feeling. You can also ask them directly. If you’ve established trust between you and your student, this should be an easy way to know how they are feeling and gauge how your school day is going to go or should be done.

Encourage them to keep a separate journal where they can jot down how they feel. You can also encourage social-emotional learning activities as part of your lessons to encourage them to express their feelings.

If there’s one available, get a guidance counselor. This provides another venue where your students can freely express themselves. This is also good for their emotional and mental health.

Teach Your Students The Value Of Mindfulness

Mindfulness allows people to pay close attention to the situation, assess it properly, and react to it in an objective manner.

Mindfulness can be a direct result of encouraging emotional intelligence. This can also be learned through the several books available covering this topic.

This is extremely useful if you’re handling an entire class as each individual will pay more attention to their actions and reactions.

Encourage Meditation Exercises

Teaching children how to meditate helps them to calm down faster. This will also help children learn how to concentrate and focus better. Last but not least this can go a long way in developing good emotional balance and behavior inside the classroom.

In a virtual sense, this helps children behave in chat rooms and prevents unnecessary interruptions.

You will need to set up space where this will take place as well as any script if you intend to say something while they enter a meditative trance. This can be done at any time of the day as a formal activity or as a form of a break.

Create A Satisfying Reward System

Oftentimes, rewards are a great way of reinforcing good behavior. This can be anything from an additional break or a document to show appreciation for their efforts in improving. A few words of encouragement and recognition of their good behavior also works.

Teachers should learn how to give out proper rewards so as not to diminish the token’s value.

You should encourage students to treat their own achievements as a reward in itself. Helping them to feel good about their own actions and improvements goes a long way in teaching self-regulation. 

Provide Time And Space For Reflection

This can be done at the end of the day as part of your students’ self-assessment exercise. Providing enough time and space for reflection increases their self-awareness. Ask them to write it down in their journals.

This can also be done after coaching sessions so the student can better absorb the discussion. This can also help them internalize the commitments they have made to improve in the areas where they fall short of their target.

Alternately, they can use this to think about their own successes and understand how they feel about it better. This can enhance the importance of the rewards given to them for achieving their goals.

All of these tools and practices have been shown to provide great results not just for the teachers but also for students. You can use a few in combination or spread out throughout the day. You can also change it up every other day so it remains a pleasant surprise for your students.

In Conclusion:

Self-regulation is essential during these trying times especially since most children are going to be studying unsupervised. Just because lessons aren’t taught in a school setting doesn’t mean discipline can’t be enforced.

Parents already have a lot on their plates and disciplining kids to take their studies seriously should only be a small part of it. Children have to learn that they are the most important component in their education.

Making them stakeholders of their own future will result in more productive adults when the time comes. This makes them responsible and totally accountable for what they do with their education. This is also a great way for them to totally absorb their lessons.

So should you teach it? You absolutely should. The future depends upon it.

Related Questions:

How Do I Deal With Students Who Give Me Dishonest Reports?

In as much as we don’t want this to happen, it still does. Dealing with students who provide dishonest reports is a tricky endeavor. You will have to talk to their parents about the incident and then talk to the student and make them understand the repercussions of their actions in a moral way.

Do SMART Goals Still Work?

Yes. SMART goals work. It has undergone a few transformations over the years but the basic concept still works. Anyone can benefit from learning what SMART goals are and how to effectively incorporate them into their daily lives. Students who learn SMART goals early on in life benefit the most.

How Do I Deal With Students Who Outright Refuse To Self-Regulate?

This is a behavioral issue that you will have to discuss with their parents. No matter how well-meaning we are as teachers, there will always be outliers in the standard of student groups. Certain students will find it difficult to adjust at first. You can encourage them by using different methods.

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