Envisioning learner-centered education in BC schools

Connecting Self-Regulation to Learning

June 21, 2013

A video of school children working together to assemble a puzzle plays on the overhead screen. They speak and gesture to one another, murmuring to themselves. Testing pieces for the right fit, they craft stories about what they are doing. When pieces don’t fit together as they should, the youngsters try a different approach.

Beneath these earnest efforts, an intrinsic logic is at work. The children are guided by the processes of self-regulation as they learn in a social setting, supported but unimpeded by adults. Giving their rapt attention, more than 230 teachers, educational researchers, and leaders from around British Columbia are cheering the children on.

These professionals have teamed up at UBC today for Connecting Self-Regulation to Learning in BC Schools – a day of dialogue aimed at setting an agenda for understanding and applying self-regulated learning (SRL) through research, teaching practice, and public policy. The video they’re watching provides a glimpse of what SRL looks like in the classroom. Learners who have the freedom and support to cultivate skills like creativity, communication, and problem-solving can develop the ability to organize themselves effectively in working toward their own goals.

These skills are essential to 21st century learning, according to SRL Canada – a group of scholars who describe self-regulated learning as “an important set of processes that can be supported across the lifespan, from early childhood through the adult years, across contexts, in and out of schools.” UBC's Dr. Nancy Perry sees these principles taking hold in educational practice. "It's a thrill for my colleagues in the SRL Consortium and me to see teachers and district leaders taking up ideas about self-regulation and SRL," she says in response to today's event.

"Well over a quarter century of research points to the importance of self-regulated learning in promoting success in school and beyond.
It seems the time is right for connecting that research to practice."

Dr. Nancy Perry, UBC Faculty of Education

SRL Canada has good reason to invest in supporting SRL in schools and classrooms across the country. An abundance of research shows that students educated through principles associated with self-regulation are more likely to thrive academically, to demonstrate social and emotional adaptability, and to enjoy higher socioeconomic status later in life than students educated through more traditional compliance-based models of learning.

In fact, research shows a strict emphasis on curricular and procedural compliance can actually impede student learning. According to panelist Dean Goodman, Lead for Strategic Education Transformation, BC’s Ministry of Education shares this view: “The principles that are being discussed in terms of self-regulated learning are things that would be an underpinning for all that we do, with respect to curriculum, assessment, graduation requirements, and how we communicate student learning. Policy should be aimed at supporting students in the classroom.”

“Now is the time for us to own our professional autonomy in moving the province forward so we can improve life chances for every learner.”

Maureen Dockendorf, Superintendent of Reading

A key message today is that effective teaching and learning can be fun for people of all ages. “Play is the highest achievement of the human species,” says keynote speaker Dr. David Whitebread. Visiting from Cambridge University, Whitebread points out that the metacognitive processes arising naturally through play are essential to learning. In systems where formalized learning outcomes demand learner compliance as a measure of success, strict standardization often comes at the expense of learners' creativity and self-efficacy. Whitebread says that in order to nurture individuals toward achieving their potential, it is critically important for schools and teachers to reassess educational priorities so that learners are working toward their own goals.

Throughout the day, participants live-tweet their questions to panels of experts from UBC, UBC-O, UVic and SFU as well as representatives from BC's Ministry of Education, compare notes on how they are already incorporating SRL principles into their classrooms, and put their heads together to brainstorm innovative ideas. The sharing of expertise at events such as this one generates dialogue that actively informs the Ministry’s decisions around policy. “From the interest here, there’s a lot of knowledge that can be mobilized in the province,” says Goodman, “This is the type of work we’d like to see more of.”

Educators and researchers throughout British Columbia are leading a transformation toward learner-centered education. Through the BC Education Plan, the Ministry has shifted its approach to one of active co-operation with schools. Says panelist Maureen Dockendorf, Superintendent of Reading for the province, “The Ministry has redefined their vision of what needs to happen to put learners at the centre of education. They have minimized what’s prescribed in order to maximize creativity, innovation, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication… Now is the time for us to own our professional autonomy in moving the province forward so we can improve life chances for every learner.”

Acknowledgements

This event is offered in partnership with SRLCanada's researchers from:

Simon Fraser University
Université de Montréal
The University of British Columbia
University of Victoria
Wilfred Laurier University

And in partnership with the Institute for Early Childhood Education & Research (IECER).

Delivered by Professional Development & Community Engagement.

Story by Jenny van Enckevort.