Activities that Develop Self-Regulated Learning

Examples on this page are drawn from a presentation by Kaatje Kraft and David McConnell at the 2013 SAGE 2YC Supporting Student Success workshop.

Crafting your students into self-regulated learners might sound daunting, but it doesn't need to be. These simple strategies can be incorporated into just about any type of course. For more in-depth techniques, see self-reflection and notebooks.


This short activity allows for a break during lectures so students can answer a question posed by the instructor. First the students reflect on the question independently. Then they discuss their responses with a partner. Lastly, groups of students share their thoughts with the whole class.
Example: Think-Pair-Share instructions and examples

Retrieval Practice

Often students think they know the material when it's sitting in front of them, and are surprised to find that they can't recall the information when staring at a blank sheet of paper. Practicing retrieval aids in self-observation, and promotes meaningful, conceptual, long-term learning. Adding retrieval practice to class and promoting it following class is straightforward and is well supported by cognitive science research (Karpicke, 2012).
Example: How to Use Retrieval Practice to Improve Learning (pdf)

Sorting, "Chunking," and Organizing Information

A given textbook chapter or lecture session contains several concepts, a dozen vocabulary words, and scores of supporting details. To experts, it's intuitive to identify the overarching principles and how supporting concepts fit inside them. But for students, the hierarchy of information is subtle, and each bit of information can appear unrelated to others. Activities that help students organize concepts and terminology can illustrate how to make sense from information that may otherwise seem overwhelming. This is also an example of an activity that instructors can demonstrate so that students can observe the thought process of an expert in the discipline.
Example: A concept map is one tool for organizing information, such as this Review of Minerals and Rocks

Reading Reflections

Students can often "do" the reading without extracting meaning from it. A reading reflection is a strategy for active reading, wherein students are prompted to pause after each chapter or section and answer a few simple questions:

  • What is the main point?
  • What did you find surprising?
  • What did you find confusing?

Reading reflections can help students with self-monitoring and reflective thinking.
Example: Reading Reflections by Karl Wirth, Macalester College

Exam Wrappers

Exam wrappers can help students see past their grades and reflect on their exam preparation and performance. Each student completes a confidential worksheet before and just after looking at their graded exam. The worksheet prompts them to consider the strategies they used to prepare for the test, and reflect on the effectiveness. Students are also asked to look for patterns in their mistakes. Finally, the worksheet asks students to describe how they will prepare for the next exam.

Example: Exam Wrapper, by Karl Wirth, Macalester College

See more in-depth examples of how to integrate these strategies into your course, via One Instructor's Approach.

More Examples and Further Reading

GARNET Interventions This page describes several strategies for teaching self-regulated learning and metacognitive skills. The page contains information about learning to learn, journaling, reading reflections, knowledge surveys, mastery exercises, and exam wrappers. Each example links to further materials, worksheets, and other useful materials.

Helping Students Learn How to Learn (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 3.3MB Oct25 13) This presentation by Kaatje Kraft and David McConnell is from the 2013 SAGE 2YC Supporting Student Success workshop. It describes the principles of self-directed learning and walks through several examples. References are provided throughout.

Learning to Learn, by Karl Wirth and Dexter Perkins
This document is intended to help students understand their role in the learning process, how learning occurs, and the importance of learning as a lifelong objective. Although intended for students, the document is also useful for instructors as they consider what they teach and how to teach it.

Metacognition is an integral part of self-regulated learning. The On the Cutting Edge module about metacognition contains strategies for teaching, example activities, PowerPoint slides, and other resources for incorporating metacognition into your teaching.


Karpicke, J. D. (2012). Retrieval-based learning active retrieval promotes meaningful learning. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(3), 157-163.

See the complete list of all references used in this module.