An important goal of education at Imperial is to promote the development of students into independent learners. The development of expertise in a discipline or skill requires that an individual must become independent in their learning. Advanced learning is an active and at times challenging and even emotional process, and success requires the development of what psychologists call self-regulated learning strategies – that is, students’ intentional and motivated cognitive activity geared towards desired learning goals, including, ultimately, the ability to self-direct, self-monitor, and self-correct one’s own learning process (Nandagopal & Ericsson, 2012; Schunk & Zimmerman, 1994; Zimmerman, 2008).

Research on students’ learning strategies (Zimmerman & Martinez-Pons, 1986; Nandagopal & Ericsson, 2012) has identified fourteen distinct strategies. The accordion below details the different strategies and some indicative data from students that define them:

Learning strategies - click to see definition (Nandagopal & Ericsson, 2012, adapted from Zimmerman & Martinez-Pons, 1986)

1. Self-evaluating

Statements indicating student-initiated evaluations of the quality of progress of their work. (i.e., ‘I check over my work to make sure I did it right.’)

2. Organising and transforming

Statements indicating student-initiated overt or covert rearrangement of instructional materials to improve on learning, e.g., ‘I make an outline before I write my paper.’

3. Goal setting and planning

Statements indicating students setting of educational goals or sub-goals and planning for sequencing, timing and completing activities related to those goals, e.g., ‘First I start studying 2 weeks before exams, and I pace myself.’

4. Seeking information

Statements indicating student-initiated efforts to secure further task information from non-social sources when undertaking an assignment, e.g., ‘Before beginning to write the paper, I go to the library to get as much information as possible concerning the topic.’

5. Keeping records and monitoring

Statements indicating student-initiated efforts to record events or results, e.g., ‘I took notes of the class discussion.’ ‘I kept a list of the words I got wrong.’

6. Environment restructuring

Statements indicating student-initiated efforts to select or arrange the physical setting to make learning easier, e.g., ‘I turned off the radio so I can concentrate on what I'm doing.’

7. Self-consequences (self regulating)

Statements indicating arrangement or imagination of rewards or punishment for success or failure, e.g., ‘If I do well on a test, I treat myself to a movie.’

8. Rehearsing and memorising

Statements indicating student-initiated efforts to memorize material by overt or covert practice, e.g., ‘In preparing for a maths test, I keep writing the formula down until I remember it.’

9-11. Seeking assistance from 9. peers; 10. teachers; 11. others

Statements indicating student-initiated efforts to solicit help from peers 9., teachers 10., and others 11., e.g., ‘If I have problems with the maths assignments, I ask a friend/tutor to help.

12-14. Reviewing records

Statements indicating student-initiated efforts to re-read tests 12., notes 13., or textbooks 14. to prepare for class or further testing, e.g., ‘When preparing for a test, I review my notes.’

Tools to evaluate students’ self-regulated learning strategies

If you are interested in evaluating your students’ self-regulated learning strategies, you may wish to adopt similar tools and a similar approach to Nandagopal & Ericsson (2012). Following Zimmerman and Martinez-Pons (1986), Nandagopal & Ericsson (2012) collected data about students’ self-regulated learning strategies via a structured interview and then analysed the data by coding the frequency with which students adopted the various strategies listed in Table 1. A downloadable version of the Interview Protocol and the accompanying coding frame (based on the categories and strategies in Table 1) are available in the Self-regulated learning interview protocol and coding frame in the box above.

They also analysed this data alongside students’ grades, allowing them to explore the relationship between learning strategies and attainment. Students attaining higher grades were “found to use a larger number of different strategies and were more likely to engage in strategies such as organizing and transforming, seeking information, and reviewing strategies more than low-achieving students” (Nandagopal & Ericsson, 2012, p. 605). You may wish to adopt a similar approach to see what kinds of strategies are associated with higher attainment in your context.


Nandagopal, K., & Ericsson, K. A. (2012). An expert performance approach to the study of individual differences in self-regulated learning activities in upper-level college students. Learning and Individual Differences, 22, 597-609. doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2011.11.018

Schunk, D., & Zimmerman, B. (1994). Self-regulation of learning and performance: Issues and educational applications. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Zimmerman, B. J. (2008). Investigating self-regulation and motivation: Historical background, methodological developments, and future prospects. American Educational Research Journal, 45, 166-183.

Zimmerman, B. J., & Martinez-Pons, M. (1986). Development of a structured interview for assessing student use of self-regulated learning strategies. American Educational Research Journal, 23, 614-628.