Children's Self-Regulation

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    • 00:00


    • 00:08

      DAVID WHITEBREAD: Hello.I'm David Whitebread.And I'm based at the University of Cambridge.I'm a developmental psychologist within the facultyof education.And I want to talk to you today about children'sself-regulation, which is an area I have been researchingpersonally for about 30 years.

    • 00:30

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: In talking about self-regulation in young children,I'm going to structure this case study into four areas.So to begin with, I'm going to tryto explain what we mean within developmental psychologyby self-regulation and the relatedconcept of metacognition.We're then going to talk about at what age

    • 00:55

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: these abilities start to develop in young children.And then in the third section, I wantto go on to talking about why this has been shownwithin developmental psychology to beso important as an aspect of children's development,particularly in relation to their learningand their development and their success in schooling.

    • 01:18

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: And finally, I want to talk aboutthe educational implications of the research on children'sself-regulation.[What is metacognition and self-regulation?]So, self-regulation is a term thathas developed through developmental psychologyresearch of young children's development

    • 01:38

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: and is increasingly being used within educational contexts.So to begin with, I think it's importantthat we're clear about what we mean by self-regulation.It's an umbrella term that reallyis talking about our developing abilitiesto be aware of and in control of our own mental processes,including our cognitive and also our emotional or affective

    • 02:04

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: processes.And on the screen now, you can seewhat is widely accepted as the definition of self-regulation,developed by Schunk and Zimmerman.And the important point I want to make hereabout that definition is that it talks about childrenpursuing their goals.So it's very important to recognizethe difference between self-regulation

    • 02:25

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: and, for example, compliance with a teacher's goalsor being well-behaved.The point about self-regulation isthat the child is acting efficiently ratherthan acting in a compliant way.So, in developmental psychology, oneof the key models that has been used to describe the brain

    • 02:45

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: processes that are happening when children are learningto be self-regulating are these two corresponding processesof becoming aware of and monitoringwhat you are currently doing.OK.So on the screen now, you can seewhat is the widely used model, developed by Nelson and Narens,

    • 03:09

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: to explain what are the mental processes thatare occurring when any human being or child is beingself-regulating.And you'll see that this is a model--it's a sort of feedback loop, a bit like a thermostat.So what they're positing is-- and this is obviouslya very simplified version of what actually happens

    • 03:30

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: in your brain when you are managing to organize yourselfto complete a task or achieve a goal in anything you're doing.But in a very simple way, what they're suggesting is that,at what they describe as the object level,you are undertaking the task--so it might be some mentalarithmetic, or working out a route to get

    • 03:52

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: to the friend's house you're going to, or organizingsomething you want to write, or whatever task it is--that as you're doing the task, at the object level,as they describe it, you are, with one part of your brain,monitoring or keeping track of how well you're doing.

    • 04:13

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: Are you getting nearer to achieving your goal?Have you gone wrong?Have you gone the wrong way?Or what you're doing not working?And then at what is described as the meta level--and this is this notion of metacognition,being aware of your own mental processes--at that level, you're then checkingthat it's going well, that the information you're

    • 04:35

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: getting from the object level through monitoring accordswith the goal you're trying to achieve.And if it is, fine.You just carry on around carrying on doing itthe way you're doing it, or carryon following the route you're following.But if you've gone wrong or it's not working,then the control function comes in.And actually, you pick a different way

    • 04:57

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: of doing something from your repertoire of strategies.So you look at the map again, or youthink of a different way of approaching the task,or whatever.And you control yourself in the sensethat you then get yourself to try to dothe task in a different way.So that continuous feedback loop keeps you on track.

    • 05:18

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: And as the child gets better at this,they get more efficient and more likely to choosethe right way of doing something for that particular task,and so on.And the whole thing just becomes so much more efficientand coherent.Now, the other thing that's importantthat comes out of the Schunk and Zimmerman definition

    • 05:41

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: is this notion of cognitions and also affect.And in fact, the process of self-regulationis often described as being a process of skill.That's being aware and being able to control and developstrategies for doing things and pickthe right thing from your repertoire of strategies.

    • 06:03

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: But also, will, because doing this kindof metacognitive work, as it's called,is actually quite effortful.And so if you want to do something and do somethingwell, you need the will or the enthusiasmor the motivation to actually put the effort in to do that.

    • 06:24

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: So it's often called skill and will.And I want to add a third aspect to this as well, whichI think is really interesting.And you can now see a diagram of the human brain,and particularly, the limbic system within the human brain,which controls our emotions.Because one of the clever things that the human brain does

    • 06:46

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: is that when we suddenly realize how to do a taskor we suddenly realize that we've solved it,we often get a little serotonin rush.And we feel pleased with ourselves.We get a nice feeling.And the limbic system in the brainactually acts as a kind of self-rewarding mechanismto encourage us to engage in this kind of effort

    • 07:09

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: in the future.So one of the exciting things about developingyour metacognitive or self-regulation abilitiesis that they kind of snowball, that once you'vestarted to be able to do this, then youget better and better at it.[When do young children begin to develop these abilities?]One of the interesting aspects of the development

    • 07:29

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: of the research in self-regulationin young children is the change in our understandingsabout how this begins and when it begins to happen.When I first started doing research in this area20 to 30 years ago, it was widely thoughtthat developing your metacognitive abilitiesand your ability to regulate yourself

    • 07:51

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: was a very sophisticated set of skillsand processes, and probably didn't emerge in young childrenuntil the age of around eight or nine,or towards the end of the primary school.However, we now have good evidenceand it's widely accepted that thisstarts to emerge in very young children, certainly

    • 08:11

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: by the age of three.And indeed, there's some evidencethat there is impact in the very earliest interactionsthat children have with their parents and caregivers,even as a baby, that can ultimately influencethe extent to which they become self-regulating and able

    • 08:33

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: to engage in these kinds of high-level processing.Which, in turn, enhances their ability as a learner.So I just wanted to quote a coupleof studies that highlight this.So first of all, I want to just show youa transcript of a study that was done by a Russian psychologist

    • 08:57

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: called Istomina.And this is part of a transcript from a studythat she did a long time ago.You'll see it was published in 1975.[AUDIO OUT] where she was actuallyinterested in children's memory.And she was interested in the extent to which children couldmemorize things just as a memory task or the extent to whichthey could memorize things in the context of some sort

    • 09:20

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: of playful scenario or game.And she did show that in a playful scenario or game,children could remember things more effectively.But what comes across in her transcriptsis that you can see the beginnings of childrenbeing self-regulating, even from a very young age.

    • 09:44

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: And so the particular transcript that you can see on the screennow is of what happened when she tried outthe playful scenario of a shopping gamewith a little girl called Alochka who was just five.And I have to say, this is pretty high-level performanceby Alochka.

    • 10:04

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: So this is probably not typical of every five-year-old.But we certainly found similar thingsto this in some children even as young as three.And what you're seeing here with Alochkais she's given the task of being given a basketand being sent over to the pretend shop.And she's been given five things to remember to go and buyfor the tea party that they're having

    • 10:26

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: in the other side of the room.And Alochka, to begin with, has a very simple strategyfor remembering things.She simply nods her head after each thing that'ssaid to her, sort of ticking them off,and then off she goes.But very quickly, her monitoring processes kick in.And she realizes that she can't remember

    • 10:47

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: most of the things she's supposed to be remembering.And so she goes back, using the control bit of the loopwe talked about just a moment ago.She goes back and has another go.And she asks again to be given the list.And the experimenter gives her the list.And this time, Alochka changes her strategy.So now, instead of just nodding her head,

    • 11:08

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: she says everything in a whisper.She repeats everything that the experimenter saysafter each item is mentioned.And she says something like, ah, nowI know what I had forgotten.And off she goes to the shop.And she successfully remembers four out of the five things.But even then, she's still monitoringwhat she's managed to remember.

    • 11:29

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: And she says, but there's something I forgot.So that's a very nice example of a taskthe child's trying to undertake, a little memory task,and how her ability to monitor and controlthe way she's trying to do that little memory task,you can see the beginnings of her being able to self-regulate

    • 11:49

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: her mental processes.Now, the other study I'd like to talk about,called the C.Ind.Le Project-- and in this, wemanaged to establish that actually this isn't justthe odd child who can do this.We did a study with 32 different preschool and receptionclassrooms in the UK.

    • 12:10

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: We videoed for many, many, many weeksin all these different centers.We captured the behavior of somethingaround 1,500 children in the three-to-five age range.And we found many examples of self-regulatory behaviorin free-play contexts.

    • 12:33

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: And one of the things that came out of that studywas the description of the kinds of behaviorsthat you will see in a child thatis developing their self-regulationin the three-to-five age range.And what you can see on the screen nowis an instrument that we developed called the CHILD 3-5.And this instrument consists of 21 statements

    • 12:56

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: in the areas of cognition, of social skills,of emotional regulation, and in the developmentof children's ability to control their own motivation.And what we managed to show is that childrenwho show their ability to carry out these various subprocessesor tasks are developing their self-regulation

    • 13:19

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: to a very high level.But one of the reasons why we developed this instrumentis because even at this very young age,there are significant individual differences.And I'm going to come on in the next sectionto tell you why these individual differences mightbe so important.[Why is it so important in children's learningand development?]So, why is all this so important?

    • 13:41

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: Why has it become such a big area of researchin developmental psychology over the last 20 to 30 years?Well, just to briefly illustrate this,I just wanted to show you a few studiesof the impact of individual differences in self-regulation,both in the short term and in the long term.So, on the screen now, you can see three studies

    • 14:03

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: which have been conducted lookingat the stage at which children are at when they'retransitioning from just the home environment to the preschooland then the school environment.And you'll see with these three studies, what they'reeach showing in different ways are evidencethat early self-regulation, even in these very young children,

    • 14:30

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: seems to be related to not only how well children start offin their schooling in relation to academic abilities,but also how well they learn to fitin with the new social environment of the classroom

    • 14:50

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: and so forth.And it's very noticeable that some children arrive at schoolas a four- or five-year-old in the UKalready very capable of paying attention, maintainingtheir attention, managing to work out for themselves

    • 15:12

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: how to undertake a task, and so on and so forth.Whereas other children have not reallydeveloped these abilities nearly so well.And if we look at other studies that sort oflooked at the impact over the longer term--what you'll now see on the screen

    • 15:32

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: are a number of studies that havelooked at the longitudinal outcomes of these abilities.And of course, the longer you go through development, the widerthe range of level of development that you'll see.So by late childhood and early adulthood,some individuals are extremely metacognitively able

    • 15:56

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: and very self-regulating.And others, sadly, have not reallymade much development at all.And, as you'll see, from these studies what's been shownis very significant differences in a whole range of achievementand in development, in emotional regulation, and social skills,

    • 16:21

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: and so on and so forth.All of which, of course, make a tremendous differenceto the potential that that personis going to be able to achieve.[How can we support children's self-regulation in earlychildhood education?]Now, the really exciting thing about this researchfrom an educational point of viewis that we know that there are these massive individual

    • 16:42

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: differences.But the other thing that's been very clearly establishedthrough the research is that this set of skillsare highly teachable.So we can make a considerable difference to children's lifeexpectancies in terms of their developingintellectual abilities and their social and emotional well-being

    • 17:05

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: if we support them in the right ways,both within the domestic context and in schooling.There are studies, for example, showingthat really from very early on, the quality of the interactionsthey have with parents and caregiverscan make a difference.Do parents and caregivers discuss

    • 17:26

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: internal mental processes with their children?Do they talk about, how do you feel,what do you think, all these kinds of discussionof vocabulary relating to internal mental processes?Some parents naturally do this.Some parents don't.And this appears to have consequences for children'sself-regulatory abilities.

    • 17:48

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: And when children get into school,it becomes increasingly more importantthat children are supported to develop these abilities.Once you're moving from the domestic situationwhere you're learning things, as it were, incidentally,to the schooling situation, where you're being askedto learn things deliberately and at a much higher level, then

    • 18:16

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: developing metacognitive and self-regulatory abilitiesis key.And we know from some of the researchthat I've just shown you that thisis going to influence, actually, how well youdo in schooling more fundamentally than any otherthing you develop.So, there tend to be a number of different kinds of strategies

    • 18:39

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: that we can use within schooling that really enhanceself-regulatory abilities.And the two things I want to pick out are, first of all,giving children the opportunities to self-regulate.So, not-- we sometimes call it spoon-feeding, don't we?

    • 19:02

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: Not spoon-feeding children.Presenting them with problems, presenting themwith difficulties, requiring themto engage in their own inquiries,and setting their own problems.And constantly challenging them, intellectually and so forth.Children will be particularly motivated

    • 19:22

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: and think of themselves as a good learnerif they manage to achieve something that they didn'tthink they could achieve.The other element to this is the important elementof communication skills and dialogue.We know from a whole range of studiesthat supporting children reflecting

    • 19:44

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: about their own learning through various kindsof talk and dialogue in classroomsis enormously powerful.And I've run studies myself that you can read about,where we have specifically targeted developing children,developing their ability to use talkto help them to solve problems in collaborative groups,

    • 20:05

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: for example.And this has turned out to be a very powerful stimulationto them developing their self-regulatory abilities.So those two elements of giving children challengesand supporting them to learn how to use their languageand develop their social skills to be able to work effectivelyin groups both really stimulate their self-regulatory

    • 20:29

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: abilities.And that will enormously enhance their successin schooling and in life.[Conclusion]So, in this case study, what I'vetried to review with you is the evidence we haveabout the importance of young childrendeveloping metacognitive and self-regulatory abilities,

    • 20:54

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: the fact that these abilities start very young,and so it's really important workwith parents and with teachers of young childrenand right through education to develop pedagogical techniquesthat support the development of these really vital skills.And we've talked about, in general terms,

    • 21:17

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: the kinds of approaches that are likely to supportself-regulation.And those might be playful, or problem-solving, orinquiry-based styles of education.And also, styles of education that incorporate what'soften been described as making learning visible.

    • 21:39

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: So, in other words, engaging childrenin talk about how they learn and so forth,and requiring them to engage in dialoguein collaborative groups where theyhave to explain their reasoning, and their thinking,and so on, and make it explicit to themselves to others.If you found this interesting and you

    • 21:59

      DAVID WHITEBREAD [continued]: would like to know more, there's nowgoing to be a list appearing on the screen thatgives you further references that you might like to look at.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Children's Self-Regulation

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Dr. David Whitebread discusses the life-long importance of self-regulation and metacognition as well as how to encourage self-regulative tendencies in young learners.

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Children's Self-Regulation

Dr. David Whitebread discusses the life-long importance of self-regulation and metacognition as well as how to encourage self-regulative tendencies in young learners.

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