Published on: 19 Jan 2017

Teachers need to create environments that allow all children to experience success – not just the high achievers

Five tips to help your students to become better learners

Nicola Lambros, the Deputy Head, whole school, at King’s College Madrid, explains the importance of developing children's skills of self-regulation, and shares her strategies for how to do this 

An extensive range of research over the past few decades has overwhelmingly found that a student’s ability to effectively self-regulate has a profound influence on their academic achievement. This means to be academically successful a student must be able to organise and direct their thoughts, feelings and actions to attain their goals. Being able to do this effectively increases motivation and drive so they’ll strive harder to achieve goals set and experience greater academic success. Notably research has found students’ self-regulatory capabilities decrease as they move through school. This can lead to underachievement, poor self-belief and school drop out. 

The job of the school is to find ways to improve students’ self-regulatory abilities. Often this means small tweaks to how we teach and providing structured opportunities to develop skills of independent learning.

Here are five tips to help you improve children’s self-regulatory capabilities.

  1. The right environment

Teachers need to create environments that allow all children to experience success – not just the high achievers.  One way to do this is to effectively differentiate work and set individual goals that children feel they are capable of achieving.

Involve children in the goal setting so that goals are personal to them. Show students examples of what others with similar abilities have achieved so they realise what they are capable of. This motivates students to set goals which are challenging and encourages them to work harder towards achieving their goals.

  1. Set the right goals

Goals set should be short term, specific and focussed on the process not the outcome. Goals that are long term, general (e.g. do your best) and focused on completing a task are not as motivating as goals that are attainable within a lesson, specific and focused on learning a skill or understanding a new concept. Providing students with an Advanced Organiser at the start of a topic is a useful way of doing this. Advanced organisers break down the overall goal to be achieved by the end of the topic e.g. understand cells, into smaller more specific short term goals that are focussed on the skills and knowledge needed to achieve the overall goal, e.g. explain the differences between plant and animal cells.

  1. Give the right feedback

Rather than centring on effort or grades, feedback should focus on how much progress has been made, as well as what steps can be taken to improve. Encouraging students to evaluate the progress they have made is also a very important form of feedback. Providing feedback in the form of ‘What Went Well’ / ‘Even Better If’ and ensuring students have regular opportunities to give themselves feedback in the same manner, will motivate them to continue working towards goals set.

  1. Encourage independence

Though not so useful out of context, if independent learning strategies and skills are taught explicitly, children will be able to practise these on their own – both in and outside the classroom. Providing students with opportunities to discover different ways of learning so they may develop a repertoire of learning strategies to draw upon when working independently and faced with challenges improves motivation, self-regulation and academic outcomes.

  1. Emotional control

Anxiety has been found to undermine a student’s confidence and ability to self-regulate leading to lower academic outcomes. Teaching students strategies to manage stress and regulate their emotions can improve their cognition in pressure situations such as exams to enable them to achieve their very best.


These measures are especially important as children grow older and schoolwork becomes more difficult to enable them to keep trying their best and achieving – no matter what their academic ability. 

Read more about pupil attitudes in GL Assessment’s Pupil Attitudes to Self and School Report here.

Working with families

Educational Psychologist Poppy Ionides discusses how we work with families to improve outcomes for at risk children and fragile learners.

Girls with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties

John Galloway discusses how we can identify and support girls with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Using computerised assessment with SEND children

Jo Horne explores the advantages and disadvantages of using computerised assessments with special educational needs (SEND) children.

Assessing students with EAL

Sue Thompson talks about the different approaches to assessing students with EAL.