Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Self regulation and learning: evidence from meta-analysis and from classrooms

Higgins, S.

Self regulation and learning: evidence from meta-analysis and from classrooms Thumbnail



D. Whitebread

N. Mercer

C. Howe

A. Tolmie


Background. Research indicates that supporting self-regulation and metacognition in learners improves their attainment and wider learning capabilities. However, using this knowledge effectively is challenging. Aims. This paper has two main aims. The first is to make a case for the relative benefits of metacognitive and self-regulatory approaches for improving learning. Comparative data from over 50 meta-analyses of interventions in schools indicates such approaches are more beneficial than other interventions. The second aim is to present data about different kinds of metacognitive thinking in classrooms which was elicited with cartoon templates. Sample and methods. Data about thinking in classrooms is drawn from a sample of 355 pupils, aged 4–15, in 12 schools who were involved in a project which promoted meta-cognition and self-regulation. The completed templates were coded for different kinds of thinking, including metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive skillfulness. A two way ANOVA (gender and age) was conducted to examine the development of thinking across age groups (4–7 year olds; 7–11 year olds; 11–15 year olds). Results. There was an increase in all kinds of thinking recorded on the templates with younger children (4 -11 year olds), but contrary to expectation more complex kinds of thinking were identified less frequently with the 11–15 year olds. Conclusion. There is strong evidence from meta-analysis that metacognition and selfregulation are key dimensions in supporting learning, but there are also indications from classrooms that such approaches are not routinely embedded in schools in a way which takes advantage of learners’ developing capabilities.


Higgins, S. (2013). Self regulation and learning: evidence from meta-analysis and from classrooms. In D. Whitebread, N. Mercer, C. Howe, & A. Tolmie (Eds.), Self-regulation and dialogue in primary classrooms (111-126). The British Psychological Society

Publication Date 2013
Deposit Date Oct 14, 2013
Publicly Available Date Jan 30, 2018
Publisher The British Psychological Society
Pages 111-126
Series Title BJEP monograph series II: Psychological aspects of education ; current trends.
Book Title Self-regulation and dialogue in primary classrooms.
Publisher URL