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How Can Schools & Institutions Support Self-Regulated Learning?

If you’re the leader of an educational program, department, or institution, you know how important it is to help learners develop self-regulated learning (SRL) skills. We all have a vision of educating learners who will engage in lifelong learning effectively and efficiently. In language learning in particular, class time is never enough to develop proficiency in the target language – students need to manage their classwork and engage in learning beyond the classroom. How can we then help students to be more self-regulated? How can everyone in the organization work together towards a shared vision and goals?

The starting point for leaders is to keep in mind the need to facilitate collaboration and learning at all levels in an organization in order to successfully implement SRL across the organization (See figure). Therefore, organizations that aim to promote self-regulated learning must engage different stakeholders in the regulatory process themselves. This includes understanding wants and needs, identifying strengths and weaknesses, forming and communicating the vision and mission, setting goals, creating plans for implementation, monitoring progress, and evaluating outcomes. Here are ideas of what leaders can do in each step.

Understanding wants and needs

Leaders may facilitate the process to identify the policies and regulations related to SRL at the national, state, and local levels. This will offer a rationale for why the organization wants to mobilize everyone in this particular area of teaching and learning. However, look for terms such as lifelong learning, active learning, self-regulation, and learner autonomy, not only SRL. Leaders may also look into their organization to identify whether SRL and related concepts are mentioned in their mission statement and other documents. To gather more information, they may survey teachers and students..

Forming and communicating vision and mission

Once a strong desire to develop SRL is confirmed, organizations will need to verbalize the vision and mission and communicate this clearly to all stakeholders, especially teachers in the organization. These should be written in official documents and communicated in meetings and other communication channels. In my organization and others that I have observed, not everyone thinks about and understands what SRL means. It is, therefore, important to clarify what the concept means, why it is important, and the organization’s commitment to develop it among learners. To clarify the concept and bring everyone onboard, leaders may bring in experts to facilitate this process.

Understanding strengths and weaknesses

Many institutions may have already integrated SRL instead of starting from a blank slate. Therefore, it is important to gather information on resources that the organization can build on. These resources may include:

  • Prior experiences and insights
  • Successful practices
  • Particularly experienced and/or motivated staff
  • Useful teaching and learning materials
  • Sources of time and funding
  • Sources of inspiration and good practice outside of the school

Setting goals and measuring progress

As in any project and initiative, it is important to set goals and develop metrics to measure progress. These goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound). Measuring progress involves assessment of SRL and assessment of learners’ development in the content and skill areas. Comparisons among groups of learners or between learners in one term and another will provide evidence of development and progress.

Developing implementation plans

Specific implementation plans are necessary to drive action. This step involves the consideration of the curriculum, instructional practices, materials, resources, and so on. As in any other steps, involvement from teachers and different stakeholders in the organization will lead to better outcomes. In addition, leaders may ask the following questions helpful for continuous improvement:

  • What practices and resources worked particularly well?
  • What didn’t work?
  • How well have teachers supported SRL? What further support for teachers is needed?
  • What obstacles do teachers identify?

This is when leaders can engage stakeholders in the organization to learn from experiences by reporting and sharing assessment data related to learners’ SRL, evaluations of past practices, best practices and insights, and useful resources; discussing and making recommendations for improvement; as well as sharing insights to the wider professional communities through conference presentations and publications.

Other considerations for systematic integration of SRL across the organization

Overall, the role of leaders in this process includes getting everyone in the organization to work toward shared vision, mission, and goals. Therefore, their main responsibilities include:

  • Communicate the organization’s needs and wants
  • Coordinate systematic integration of SRL
  • Encourage and support teachers (by providing feedback, professional development, and resources) and report best practices and insights

Leaders may also ask the following big and small questions during the implementation process.

What is the impact of SRL on our curriculum?

Are the materials used suitable?

Should there be more supplemental materials?

How can we guide students to use materials they identify?

What is the impact of SRL on our assessment practice?

How can we assess learners’ SRL?

How can we improve the assessment of SRL?

How can we integrate learners’ self-assessment (seen as facilitative of SRL) into the bigger assessment scheme?

What are the qualities we seek in our staff?

What knowledge and skills do we seek in our staff?

How does this affect hiring choices?

What is the impact of our changing practices on parents?

How have parents reacted to SRL teaching practices?

What is the impact of teachers’ experiences on organizational policies and practices?

How do we create a learning organization where everyone is willing to share?

How do we create forums for sharing knowledge and experience?

How can experiences from across the organization be elicited and shared?

How can we get people together to consolidate findings and make recommendations?

How can we engage in the larger professional communities to share and gain more knowledge in this area?

Do our experiences and insights from implementing SRL encourage us to reconsider our vision and aspirations?

Have we been successful?

Should we reconsider our vision and make SRL a core value?


In summary, successful implementation of SRL requires the collaboration of all stakeholders at all levels of an organization. What happens at one level or classroom affects activities in other areas and classrooms. Leaders in an organization play an important role in orchestrating the collaboration and learning.


If you want more best practice tips to promote independent, lifelong learners, you can download our position paper on The Key to Self-Regulated Learning.

You can join Linh on 16th June at our upcoming English language teaching online conference. 


Dr Linh Phung (www.eduling.org/teaching) is Director of the English Language Program at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, USA. She is also Director of Eduling International (www.eduling.org), which offers English materials and online instructional services to students in any location. She has peer reviewed articles published in a variety of education and language journals, and is a co-author of the book Studies in English: Strategies for Success in Higher Education (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). Passionate about creating bilingual materials and opportunities for language learning beyond the classroom, she recently published a children’s book and an app called Eduling Speak. She currently serves as Chair of the Affiliate Network Professional Council of TESOL International (2022–2023), which allows her to work with TESOL organizations around the world. Linh is a consultant on this paper.

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5 Creative Activities To Practise Vocabulary In The Classroom

As the end of the term approaches, many of us English language teachers are looking for engaging vocabulary revision games or fun ideas to wrap up the school year. 

To make this time memorable and enjoyable for your students, here are 5 fun revision ideas that will help them practise and reinforce their vocabulary skills. 

1. Teach me in a minute

This vocabulary revision game requires minimal preparation and is best suited to teenage learners. It is ideal for practising grouped vocabulary sets, such as words related to shopping, sports or free time activities. It also combines creativity and technology. 
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How Can Teachers Support Self-Regulated Learning?

As teachers, we are always trying to prepare our learners for the future. But we know that one day we will not be able to be there for them – when they move from primary to secondary school, to university or into the workplace. At that point they will have to manage their own learning. However, without careful guidance and practice, many learners do not develop the necessary skills to do this. Fortunately, these skills can be explicitly taught in class and their development has a direct and significant influence on learners’ success. As Zimmerman concluded from his and others’ decades of research in the area: “Students who set superior goals, proactively, monitor their learning intentionally, use strategies effectively, and respond to personal feedback adaptively, not only attain mastery more quickly, but also are more motivated to sustain their efforts to learn.” (2013, p. 135). In the rest of this post we will explore these and other key skills and look at how we can introduce them in class.

The components of self-regulated learning

Self-regulated learning involves a series of stages, as shown in the model below. Working clock-wise from the top left, learners first need to (learn how to) motivate themselves to take responsibility for their learning. Teachers play a key role here by emphasising the importance of self-regulation for lifelong learning and academic success. Next, they need to understand their needs. Most learners are rarely encouraged to do this, instead exclusively relying on test scores and teacher feedback. Of course, our needs change throughout our life times and learners therefore need to be able to re-asses accordingly. Once learners understand their needs, they can learn to set their goals. Teachers can help learners to set appropriate and feasible goals for the time that they have available. This ability is particularly important because ‘research has consistently shown across all educational domains that having meaningful goals helps learners to persist in their studies and leads to greater motivation’ (Schunk and Zimmerman, 2012, p. 16). Whereas goals operate on a high time frame (e.g. several months) and set the general direction, learning plans determine how learners allocate their time over the coming days. It involves guiding learners to asking questions such as

  • What can I achieve today / this week?
  • What should I do first?
  • What resources do I need?
  • Where can I get support if I need it?

The different tasks learners engage in can be made more effective by learning how to select the most useful resources, appropriate strategies and knowing how to monitor progress, by asking questions such as

  • How will I know I am doing it right?
  • Who can help me?
  • How can I find out what I need to work on more?
  • What made it difficult?
  • What’s next?

Finally, self-assessment involves taking a step back and looking at the broader picture of one’s learning, considering questions such as:

  • Am I on the right track?
  • What motivated me?
  • What was not working for me?
  • Have my needs and goals changed?
  • Can I improve my task regulation?
  • What resources do I have to help me find better ways?

Introducing self-regulated learning in class

Integration of self-regulated learning skills in class is most likely to be successful if it is done 1) systematically, 2) gradually, and 3) with increasing responsibility given to the students. Systematic integration involves ensuring that all components of the self-regulated learning cycle are included consistently during a course. For example, although there would be some benefit to teaching learners how to plan a learning activity in isolation, this process will be much more meaningful if learners understand what broader goals they are working towards. One way to ensure this happens is to include each of the elements of the self-regulated learning cycle in your course plans. For example, motivation and needs analysis could be covered in the first week of the course. Goal-setting could happen in week 2 and the development of learning plans thereafter. Task regulation could be practised throughout the rest of the course, followed by self-assessment towards the end.

This approach ensures that students are not overloaded with new information or expected to suddenly change their learning practices. Instead, they gradually get used to thinking about their own learning. Another way to help learners ‘ease into’ taking greater responsibility for their learning is to use the encourage-practise-support-involve model that I introduced in our paper on Using Technology to Motivate Learners. This starts from awareness-raising by encouraging learners to think about the ways in which they go about their learning, by giving examples of successful learners or by talking about the benefits of self-regulation for language learning. Over time, learners can be shown how to engage in self-regulated learning in the classroom and practice this together. You can, for example, show learners a learning plan template and ask them to complete their own, give feedback, and review the plans in a group discussion so everyone can get ideas from the others. In the next stage, learners are given specific tasks to complete on their own, such as monitoring their progress by using learning logs outside of the classroom. You would still give regular feedback and support if needed but the primary responsibility is now with the learners. Finally, once learners develop the necessary confidence and skills they can be expected to involve themselves in self-regulated learning increasingly independently.

See what works best for you in your context. Talk to your learners about their prior experiences and learn from your colleagues about what they have found out works well for them. Whatever you do and however you approach the development of self-regulated learning skills, remember that you are making a significant investment in your students by giving them the keys to unlock their own future.

If you want more best practice advice to help you nurture independent lifelong learners, you can download our recent position paper, 

Want to talk to the experts about self-regulated learning?

You can join Hayo on 16th June at our upcoming English language teaching online conference.



Reinders, H., Dudeney, G., & Lamb, M. (2022). Using technology to motivate learners. Oxford University Press.

Schunk, D. H., & Zimmerman, B. J. (Eds.). (2012). Motivation and self-regulated learning: Theory, research, and applications. Routledge.

Zimmerman, B. J. (2013). From cognitive modeling to self-regulation: A social cognitive career path. Educational psychologist48(3), 135-147.


Hayo Reinders (www.innovationinteaching.org) is TESOL Professor and Director of Research at Anaheim University, USA, and Professor of Applied Linguistics at KMUTT in Thailand. He is founder of the global Institute for Teacher Leadership and editor of Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching. His interests are in out-of-class learning, technology, and language teacher leadership. Hayo is the author of our paper on Self-Regulated Learning.

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5 steps to integrate the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals into your lessons

Many teachers already know about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). But what about our learners? How can we tell them about this important set of world objectives … but also make it relevant and even ‘fun’ for a new generation? 5 steps to integrate UN SDGs OUP ELT blog

First of all, it’s about breaking down the long words and big ideas behind the goals themselves. Secondly, it’s about not making too many assumptions on the part of our students. Thirdly, it’s about personalizing actions which relate to the goals themselves. At the end of the day, the UN SDGs aren’t a theoretical framework – they’re a real plan of action to improve the quality of life worldwide … and to save our planet!

Here are 5 practical steps for integrating the UN SDGs into your ELT lessons or syllabus. In terms of language level, these suggestions are targeted at learners of CEFR level A2/B1, but you could adapt them for higher-level learners.

1 What is the UN?

Start with the basics. Ask learners if they know what the two letters UN stand for. Some learners might know united from the United States of America or even football clubs like Manchester United. A good synonym is together. The word nations (as in nationalities) means countries. Give an idea of the size of the organization by asking students to guess how many countries are in the UN. Answer = lots (193)!

2 What are the SDGs?

Take a similar approach with SDGs, but start with the final letter. Ask why it’s a small letter (it’s plural). For goal, it’s another football word! It means something you try to do or get. The word development is about growing or changing. Then there’s the tricky one: sustainable! The best low-level definition I’ve seen is: safe for the future of the world. If you have learners who like grammar, you could break it down even further into the verb sustain (to do something for a long time) + the suffix –able.

3 What are the UN SDGs?

Work with learners as a class or in groups to come up with description of the UN SDGs based on what they now know about the constituent meanings. You should end up with something like: goals for changing things to make a safe future for world, decided by lots of countries together.

4 Story time

Ask learners to close their eyes and listen to this ‘story’:

The world is bright, and people are laughing and smiling. Life is good and everyone has money, good food to eat and clean water to drink. All children go to school, and everyone is healthy and has a good job. Cities and towns are wonderful places. The land and oceans are clean and beautiful. And trees and animals are safe. There are no wars in the world, and we have stopped climate change. We have everything!

Do learners think the story is real or a dream? Why?

5 What’s the connection?

Ask learners how the ‘story’ from step 4 and the SDGs are connected. This is where they might surprise you. Hopefully, they’ll suggest that some of the things in the story are actually possible and the UN SDGs are a plan for how to make them happen.

If you enjoyed teaching steps 1-5, we’ve got an extra 15 steps for you to integrate the SDGs into your ELT lessons or syllabus:

Log in to the Oxford Teachers’ Club to download the PDF. Not an OTC member? Join now.

If you’ve only got time for ‘token’ integration, try steps 1–5. If your syllabus allows you to go into more detail, do steps 1–10. If you’re really looking to build a better world through English-language learning, go for the full integration of steps 1–20!


Find more sustainability resources for the ELT classroom:

Andrew Dilger is an editor at Oxford University Press. He currently commissions and develops Graded Readers. Before working in publishing, Andrew was an EFL teacher and trainer and worked in more than 10 different countries.

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Steps to a Sustainable Future

The UN SDGs stands for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and they replaced the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were introduced in 2000.

The year 2000 happened to be when I became a volunteer teacher trainer in Nepal, for VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas). Living and working in Nepal I saw the effects of failed crops, of the lack of access to safe drinking water and education for girls, of the reliance on kerosene lamps and open woodstoves. I then ‘resumed’ my life in the UK and wondered if the MDGs could really help.

But one of the MDGs was “Achieve universal primary education”, subsequently the agreed objectives of 189 countries helped to kick-start the global movement for free primary education, so much so that the number of children out of school has dropped by more than half since 1990. There were 8 MDGs and the idea was to achieve them by 2015. The UN kept tabs on countries achieving them and it spurred many governments into action. In 2012 the public consultation on forming the SDGs began, which resulted in 17 goals with 169 sub-targets being agreed upon in 2015. The aim is to achieve them by 2030.

What can I do?

In an ELT classroom the SDGs can be analysed while keeping language as a focus. For example:


Ask students if they know what kind of word/part of speech ‘quality’ is (Spoiler alert – it’s an adjective). Ask what the difference is between:

I have a pen (we know you have the object, but don’t know if it has ink/it functions well/you can write with it)

I have a great pen (we know the pen is good to use/hold/easy to carry, therefore you like writing with it)

Similarly, ask the difference between: ‘education’ and ‘quality education’ and elicit the ideas students have. Draw out the fact that having something that is not useful has little worth.

Then ask why this SDG includes the adjective ‘quality’ and why people need a quality education. Do the same with other words such as: space, building, park, food, job, exercise, etc. In groups, students add the adjectives. Then share adjectives and analyse which concepts are good for the planet and which aren’t (car park vs public park). Analyse as a whole class to discuss, persuade, and share opinions.


Elicit the meaning of the two words. In groups, students create symbols to try to represent SDG # 10.

Allow creative freedom to stimulate ideas and then later vote on which one they think is best and explain why.

Then give them the UN symbol to compare their creations with, which one is better?

Explain that the SDG is to help combat the inequality that exists in the world to try to make it a better place. With this in mind tell them that there are 17 SDGs in total and collectively they have the aim of creating a better world. Using the symbols for the other 16 SDGs, divide them between groups and ask them to guess what the corresponding SDG might be. Students have to label their symbols then move round and look at the other groups’ labels and see if they agree.

Finally, give all the symbols to the groups with the corresponding ‘correct’ SDGs and each group has to try and match the symbols to their SDG. After, check that they have the correct answers by describing what each symbol is aimed to change. (Make sure you don’t use the actual SDG, so they have to think for themselves a bit more!)

Finish by asking them what they think about making the world a better place and if these SDGs can help.


Ask students to make the SDG into a sentence, without adding any more information/changing the meaning, simply making it into a sentence. Display:

  1. We should take climate action
  2. We must take climate action

Ask various questions to illustrate the difference between a person that says sentence i. and one who says sentence ii. Analyse the different mindsets of those two different people.

This could lead to what students’ mindset is towards climate action and how the words we choose convey a lot about the kind of people we are. It helps raise awareness about using any language mindfully because their words can say more about them than simply convey a message.


Such classes teach English language, while raising awareness of SDGs. They can help students reflect on their own perceptions, biases, develop empathy, build lifelong skills with a mindfulness about the way they use any language. These help communication skills that allow us to really connect with each other while using English as a Lingua Franca (ELF).

Our students will need courage, persistence, and determination to be innovative and think creatively if they are to adapt to the needs of the 21st century. This is a key moment when humanity must question the status quo and needs to change how it thinks, behaves, and lives. Education can play a major role.

Oxford University Press (OUP), with its mission to build a more sustainable future in education and research, have signed up to the UN SDG Publishers Compact. As part of their action OUP held the recent Oxford Forum 2023 where I was a panellist. The Forum involved 3 sessions that focused on:

  • SDG #4 Quality Education
  • SDG #10 Reducing Inequalities
  • SDG #13 Climate Action

If you missed it but would like to make your own Steps to a Sustainable Future, you can watch it here. I hope you join us in making a better world.

Find more sustainability resources for the ELT classroom:




Although Zarina Subhan originally qualified as a scientist, she has been working in the field of ELT for over 30 years. She has taught at all levels, in both private and government institutions and worked worldwide as a teacher and teacher educator.

Having worked both in and with educational institutions, she also has experience working with educational policy makers, NGOs, community leaders, local and state governments, and in a variety of teaching and training contexts.

Zarina’s time is now spent as an author and teacher educator delivering courses, workshops, and conference presentations. Having worked in the science, educational and development sectors, her interests are the neurology of learning; CLIL; CPD for teachers; inclusive and sustainable education.