Supporting Self-Regulated Learning with PEG Writing

Corey Palermo, Ph.D.

What is Self-Regulated Learning?

Students are more likely to increase their knowledge when they approach learning tasks strategically and actively manage their learning. Even young students are capable of regulating their learning to some extent.

Self-regulated learning (SRL) is a cyclical process, where students reflect on present performance and adjust future work based on feedback from personal, behavioral, and environmental factors. Unfortunately, however, many students have sub-optimal levels of self-regulation, which impacts skills in other areas. SRL is associated with a wide range of positive outcomes, including academic success, learning motivation, problem solving abilities, and transfer of skills.

How Does SRL Apply to Writing?

Self-regulation of writing involves the thoughts, feelings, and actions students use to achieve writing goals, including improving the quality of the writing process and writing skills as well as the products of writing. Studies of professional writers have shown that experts use SRL behaviors, such as prewriting and revision strategies to manage cognitive load, environmental structuring to reduce distraction, and emotional regulation to support persistence.

How PEG Writing Can Help

PEG Writing is a web-based learning environment and formative assessment program designed to help students improve their writing. The program provides assessment opportunities critical to support students’ self-monitoring and subsequent SRL.

PEG Writing uses the Project Essay Grade (PEG) scoring engine to provide students with automated scores and feedback for their compositions. As a portal to a wide variety of prompts and stimulus materials, PEG Writing invites students to frequent, extensive practice that teachers can manage more effectively without the burden of additional grading. Practice coupled with feedback allows for deliberate practice, or practice that is appropriate, purposeful, and repetitive.

Researchers have found that under such conditions students can improve their ability to self-monitor, control, and self-evaluate their performance. Further, with automated feedback teachers can step out of the evaluator role to focus on assisting students with interpreting and applying feedback. This also frees teachers to model effective monitoring and control strategies. These could relate to planning, goal-setting, or self-evaluation (cognitive and motivational), use of writing resources (environmental), use of self-questioning (behavioral), and pre-writing (personal).

Where to Start: Supporting Students’ SRL

  • Goal Setting: First, teach students to set specific goals for their writing. Students who set specific goals produce more effective writing than those who set general goals or do not set goals.
  • Planning: Next, have students plan their writing using an appropriate graphic organizer. As observed with experts, self-regulated learners spend more time planning tasks, which results in higher achievement.
  • Observational Learning: Use “think-alouds” to model writing strategies but also self-statements to assist with such aspects as task definition (“What do I need to do to get started?”) and self-reinforcement (“I like this part!”). Observational learning about writing encourages SRL strategy use and has a positive impact on writing performance
  • Monitoring and Evaluation: Emphasize monitoring and evaluation as part of the writing process.
  • By supporting the SRL process with practice and feedback, and by providing evidence of growth, PEG Writing can help students take control of their learning.