As a followup to yesterday’s post on Angela Duckworth and her research/advocacy for the importance, perhaps equal or greater to that of traditionally defined intelligence, of cultivating self-control and grit/perseverance in our students, it seemed useful to share this fine short lecture from Paul Kim, of Stanford.

I’ve been participating with some moderate profit in Professor Kim’s Stanford MOOC, Designing Learning Environments.  (any other readers out there participating?  I still need to build my team).   Kim’s most recent lecture was on a topic that I’ve increasingly recognized must be woven into every aspect of technology integration: the importance of and more importantly, the techniques of attention, concentration, and self-control.

Even better, Kim’s lecture synthesizes the argument for self-control with the technology of student self-monitoring and self-tracking, an element of learning analytics I’m especially interested in.  (All quotes are from the video above.)

Basically, I would like to ask you to consider designing a learning environment that can trigger and help your students learn to better manage their own learning. I can never overemphasize the importance of this need for a learning environment design.

Kim offers the useful observation that while online learning, relative to traditional school-based learning, offers enormous advantages of convenience, it poses far greater challenges of self-control for students.   Simply put, if students have to or are very strongly expected to attend school every day, and go to scheduled classes for an hour or two at a time, they have much fewer decisions to make about their learning program, and they have, at least much of the time, a peer/social group there with them and supportive encouraging adults personally steering them forward.   But in an asynchronous online learning, none of this is the case– and so self-discipline for making your work progress is much more important.

(An aside: I recognize this dynamic very much, working now mostly by myself from home for the first time in my life and having very few scheduled work obligations: it becomes far more important for me to exercise my own self-control, and even just deciding/prioritizing what to work on is a challenge.)

The freedom with convenience is great for those who can self-manage own resources and learning. Such freedom with convenience would be an ideal learning atmosphere and environment for those who can effectively prioritize tasks in short and long term timeframes. Today, schools do not teach students how to learn better or manage own learning more effectively.

The price you have to pay is the strong iron-will coupled with effective self-regulatory skills to be successful in online or unregulated education programs that offer, ironically, a lot of freedom and convenience

Self-regulation is not an academic subject in today’s schools.  I believe it is as equally important as literacy or numeracy.

This from a Stanford professor!

Kim’s recommendations for this project are partly pedagogical/parental, and partly technological.


I really don’t know why schools don’t teach students how to learn, how to manage own learning processes, set and track short and long-term goals, or split big projects into more workable smaller pieces while reflecting on their own learning goals and learning about their own talents. Students are currently supposed to pick up these important skills somehow somewhere, but schools.

Worth noting here that well designed PBL educational programs do do exactly this, for students, managing schedules and the like.

How someone develops a self-regulatory skill? Is it something you automatically gain as you get older? Not necessarily.

It means that the parents are not giving their children opportunities to develop effective self-regulatory skills and learn to make own judgments.

Students need to experience success through own self-regulation. Students need opportunities to exercise, practice, reflect, and  develop own self-regulation strategies.

As a parent, teacher, and educator,give tools, tips, examples, but don’t regulate their learning process,pace, and practice because if you do, you are taking away the opportunity from your students, of building self-regulation strategies and leaving no room for them to grow academically in schools and professionally in the future work place.

True, but not terribly specific or actionable.

Kim dips his toe into what I see as the burgeoning “failure argument,” but leaves us unsure about his larger point, though it seems he does not think we should see learning from failure as a useful element.

When students have frequent failure experiences, they tend to have lower self-esteem.


In the K-12 education sector, some online programs provide students with daily tasks, checklists, milestone charts, and all kinds of features that show students and parents what needs to happen on a daily basis. In this way, young students are not too overwhelmed with self-task planning or monitoring own milestones all by themselves.

Engaging students to use task planning and managing tools, progress bar, team motivation tools and messages, small and big reward programs, and so on would be very useful. Virtual modeling may be another good strategy.

I’m enthusiastic about some of this, and I am afraid I might have overlooked the importance of building into every learning environment and especially those that are more virtually situated these tools.  I like the daily tasks, checklists and milestone charts, (and wouldn’t mind if someone provided them for me in my own independent work).  I don’t really know what he means, I have to say, by “virtual modeling” as another good strategy.

As I’ve argued previously with the ideas of Jane McGonigal, I have mixed feelings about reward programs.  I am sure that for some students, on a short term basis, they may well prime a pump or energize a launch, but they inevitably, I think falter in the stretch if students aren’t developing their own internal and intrinsic motivations.

What comes next is most valuable:

Incorporating these features with not only email alert, but mobile messaging, or social network-based motivation tools to remind and give a little emotional push would be quite useful.

Overall, think about ways to involve and leverage technological innovations and social networking channels to support, promote, facilitate, and enhance self-regulatory skill development in a collective learning environment.

The more we can break down the isolation of online students, and the more we can tie them into rich networks of student collaboration, teamwork, mutual responsibility, the better we can support their own developing self-control.   These need to be enhanced also with an allowance and an opportunity for socializing, gossiping, silliness, youtube video sharing, in other words: relationship-building.