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Promoting Self-Regulation and Critical Reflection in the Writing Classroom

by Nilakshi Herath |

Self-regulated learning is an active, constructive process whereby students learn to set goals and then to monitor, regulate, and control their cognition, motivation, and behavior… (Pintrich, 2000). In tertiary level ESL writing classes, most students very often tend to remain passive and unmotivated because they lack self-regulation and critical reflection, which are crucial in producing classroom assignments in terms of reflective essays and independent compositions.  However, self-regulation does not come easily and calls for teachers to use instructional practices that foster students’ self-regulation. This resource shares some of the best practices to foster students’ self-regulation in the writing classroom.

Resource Type: Teaching Tips

Audience: University

Audience Language Proficiency: Intermediate

Materials And Technology:
  • Critical thinking involves a variety of skills such as identifying a particular source of information and reflecting on whether or not that information is consistent with one's prior knowledge. So, activities such as engaging students in a classroom debate on a controversial issue prior to writing a persuasive essay or providing them with graphs and tables of real issues to write paragraphs will help develop critical thinking of students.

  • When students start a writing assignment, they often jump in without understanding what they are supposed to do. Task analysis is a strategy which can be used to avoid that.

  • Goal setting is effective in directing students to be focused on what they write. For an example, if a student is writing a story, a challenging writing goal may be to show the emotions of the characters through dialogue, rather than mere description.

  • Think-pair-share is an effective activity which enhances self-regulation. 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. Students can engage in the writing task afterwards.




Pintrich, P. R. (2000). The role of goal orientation in self-regulated learning. In M. Boekaerts, P. R. Pintrich, & M. Zeidner (Eds.) Handbook of self-regulation. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Schunk, D. H. & Zimmerman, B. J. (2008). Motivation and self-regulated learning: Theory, research, and applications. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum.

TESOL Interest Section: English for Specific Purposes, Second Langauge Writing

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