The following interview was conducted by Maria K. DiBenedetto, PhD, Baruch College, The City University of New York and was printed in the Winter 2012 Newsletter for the AERA Special Interest Group: Studying and Self-Regulated Learning. Dale H. Schunk is a professor of education at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and has published over 100 scholarly articles and books on self-regulation, self-efficacy, and student learning. His most recent revision of the popular book: Learning Theories: An Educational Perspective (6th edition) has been used in classrooms across various disciplines such as education, psychology, and science and has been translated into several languages including the most recent: Indonesian.
1. In an original work with Dr. Bandura, you linked self-efficacy and attributions to student learning. You and Dr. Barry J. Zimmerman have developed a theory of self-regulated learning which explains how through systematically regulating one’s behavior, feelings, and cognitions, students can work toward reaching their goals. This theory encompasses your original tenets regarding self-efficacy and attributions. Can you briefly describe the steps you and Dr. Zimmerman took in deciding on which processes are components of self-regulated learning and how the theory developed?
This was a process that evolved over time. Barry and I met at the AERA conference in New York in 1982. After that we had several conversations, many of which involved self-regulated learning. In the mid-1980s he organized a symposium dealing with the key self-regulated learn- ing processes. This was the first step—determining the components of self-regulated learning. Through our subsequent conversations we formulated a model specifying the dimensions: why, how, with whom, and so forth. Whenever possible we met to discuss issues, but we also talked a lot on the phone. We often visited in each other’s homes and devoted many hours to discussing self-regulated learning. Barry was the leader in this effort; I provided feedback and helped clarify the points we discussed. He later developed the cyclical model, which was a big advance because it captured well the dynamic nature of self-regulated learning and it included processes before, during, and after self- regulated learning. Then he made a major step in formulating a model of the development of self-regulated competence characterized by the four phases (observation, emulation, self-control, self-regulation). The next focus of our discussions was the internalization of self- regulated learning processes, which is where I took the lead. This is a critical point because without internalization little self-regulation is possible. Internalization of the learning processes was the subject of my Division 15 presidential address. In a sense, this marked the end of the initial development of the theory; however, internalization is not well understood. I hope to see more research and theoretical clarification on that in the future.
2. You are often thought of as the “application” scholar and your research has tested the various processes of self-regulated learning. Today’s world is very much a technological one in which children are exposed to social networks, internet, and online tools through their phones, iPads, Wifi, and other electronic media. Where does self-regulation fit in and how can new lines of research be tied to self-regulated learning using these nontraditional formats?
I think there are really two issues here. The first issue or question is: How do learners self-regulate while they are engaged in technology? Assuming that they do engage in self-regulation, does that improve their learning? The second issue is: Does using technology help people become better self-regulated learners? There is increasing research to address both of these questions, and so far the answers are positive to both. However, we cannot assume that either of these happen automatically. Instruction on how to learn self-regulatively while using technology is apt to have benefits.
3. Many children today are diagnosed with various learning or developmental disabilities. How do you see self-regulated learning being applied to these students to help them adapt and become independent learners within the existing context of a dynamic active classroom set- ting? What challenges do the teachers face?
There has been a lot of self-regulated learning research with learners diagnosed with disabilities. In several of my studies we taught students with reading disabilities to use a strategy when they working on reading comprehension of main ideas and we found that these students could learn to use the strategy and that it improved their comprehension. The key to the application is to keep it simple; for example in our studies we used a strategy with only a few steps. Students can handle that and teachers are not challenged to teach it to a class of diverse learners. There are many other good applications of self-regulated learning in the classroom with students with disabilities; for example, the Self-Regulated Strategy Development program of Steve Graham and Karen Harris.