Volitional Aspects of Self-Regulated
Teachers College, Columbia University
Conceptions of self-regulation during learning emphasize the actions a person takes to carry out intentions. The underlying psychological processes that guide these actions are volitional. However, the volitional aspects of self-regulated learning (SRL) remain ill-understood and implicit in many operationalizations. A look forward to the next generation of research suggests the benefits of a better understanding of modern theories of volition.
In an early article Mandinach and I (Corno & Mandinach, 1983) described the role of SRL in acquiring knowledge of school subjects. We adopted concepts from information-processing theory, and argued that self-regulation in school learning reflects students' use of higher level processes to orchestrate and control their concentration, motivation, and affect. We defined SRL as "an effort put forth by students to deepen and manipulate the associative network in content areas, and to monitor and improve that deepening process" (p. 95).
This initial definition made some assumptions. For one thing, it assumed that students seek to understand subject matter content rather than simply committing it to memory. In giving meaning to a subject and monitoring their understanding, students engage important volitional functions. Self-monitoring protects concentration and motivation when intrusions arise in the outer (task) environment, or internally (e.g., as when interest or mood shifts).