Self-regulation research on the island of Tasmania, Australia.

 In Self-Regulation Institute Blog

What a fascinating and transformative landscape self-regulation is! In fact, so fascinating for me that I resigned from a 27 year career in education to take on a PhD to research it myself. Having originally learned about self-regulation as a teacher and administrator in School District #54 in British Columbia, I have since returned to Australia where my current self-regulation chapter is unfolding.

At the beginning of 2018, my research journey began with a curiosity around the interplay between risk and self-regulation. Was self-regulation across the five domains enhanced when the right amount of risk was present? I relished reading the literature on this topic and commenced structuring ways to research this within a primary school context. Just as I was ready to move forward with these plans, I attended the 2018 Early Childhood Australia National Conference in Sydney where Dr. Stuart Shanker was giving a keynote speech. I had arranged to meet him for breakfast before he spoke. Our conversation briefly explored these ideas of risk and self-regulation, but quickly gravitated towards educators, and how important learning self-regulation was for them. Educators and their management of energy and tension form the foundations upon which learners can experience improved academic and wellbeing outcomes. After one hour of eggs and coffee, my research direction had changed – apparently not an uncommon occurrence on the PhD pathway.

My focus is now fixed on teachers. The literature confirms the stress associated with teaching and the various physical and mental health challenges that can arise when these stressors compound as allostatic overload (Jennings & Greenberg, 2009; Kyriacou, 2001; McEwen, 1998). How are our teachers learning self-regulation, in what ways are they applying what they learn, and how is it impacting their wellbeing? That is what I plan to find out.

My research site is a regional primary school in northern Tasmania with a low socioeconomic status (SES) demographic. It is one of eight schools that make up the context for a broader project funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC). This ARC project is conducting research to understand ways of improving regional low SES students’ learning and wellbeing. To address this, my research will be exploring ways teachers develop and apply self-regulation to promote wellbeing (both teacher wellbeing and, as a ripple effect, student wellbeing).

The methodology I will be using is design-based research (DBR) which is an iterative, collaborative, and responsive approach, particularly conducive to research done within the field of education. Two key elements of DBR are that it uses an intervention and seeks to evolve a set of design principles. The intervention I will be providing to staff at my research site is professional learning on self-regulation, using the Shanker Self-Reg® model. I have created four design principles specific to teacher professional learning of self-regulation. It is these four principles that I will seek to evolve over three iterations of DBR. I have used the research of Helen Timperley and Richard and Rebecca DuFour on effective teacher professional learning and Dr. Stuart Shanker’s research on self-regulation to underpin the 4 principles I will be evolving through this research process.

Over 3 school terms, I will cycle through a pattern of professional learning, video sampling to capture and annotate where self-regulation knowledge and skills are being applied, and reflections and feedback from teachers via a questionnaire. As these cycles unfold, I will collect data which will be used to inform what the next term’s iteration will look like and how the design principles can be evolved. After three iterations, I aim to have a set of design principles that other similar schools can use as a starting point for teacher professional learning in self-regulation. This research will also afford a deeper understanding of how teachers in a low SES primary school develop and apply essential self-regulation knowledge and skills and the impact this has on their wellbeing and that of their students.

I look forward to being able to share my findings with the Self-Regulation Institute community and add to the growing research base in this area.


Jennings, P. A., & Greenberg, M. T. (2009). The prosocial classroom: Teacher social and emotional competence in relation to student and classroom outcomes. Review of Educational Research, 79(1), 491-525. doi:10.3102/0034654308325693

Kyriacou, C. (2001). Teacher Stress: Directions for future research. Educational Review, 53(1), 27-35. doi:10.1080/00131910120033628

McEwen, B. S. (1998). Stress, adaptation, and disease: Allostasis and allostatic load. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 840(1), 33-44. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1998.tb09546.x

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    Christopher Rayner

    Very exciting, Marie! I would agree with your observation/discussion about the importance of educators’ capacity for self-regulation. Anything we wish to teach, we need first to live.

    Your energy, insights, and general contribution to the Faculty of Education at UTAS is very much appreciated. 🙂

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