How Self‑Regulation Can Improve Academic Growth

Jack Hans

Jack Hans

Intervention Specialist

Brooklyn City School District

Self-regulation has become a buzzword in today’s education climate. While self-regulation often gets linked to managing behavior and emotions, self-regulation skills go much deeper than that. Addressing each area of self-regulation can help all students become well-rounded learners and help them achieve academic IEP goals and gain standard-based skills.

What are the 4 areas of self‑regulation?


Students with strong self-monitoring skills are able to check their work for errors, maintain focus on tasks, and ask questions or seek help when they are struggling.


Students with strong self-instruction skills are able to use visual aides to help them solve problems, maintain task-related information in their thinking, and use self-talk to persevere through difficult situations.

Goal Setting

Students who are able to set realistic academic and life goals are able to assess their current progress towards a skill, create an action plan to achieve their goal, and follow through on those steps.


Students with strong self-reinforcement skills are able to prioritize work over play, choose rewards for completing assignments, and switch between activities with little difficulty.

What are some evidence-based practices to help students with self-regulation skills?

Visual Schedules

A visual schedule is a must have for many students in special education. The students who thrive on the structure show increased attention to tasks and do better with transitions from one activity to the next. Visual schedules can also be used for individual taks. Try creating a visual schedule or checklist for more complex skills such as answering comprehension questions or multi-step math problems. Giving students the ability to mentally check each step gives them the chance to try it on their own before asking for help.

Symbol Reminders

Place symbol reminders in different areas throughout the school environment where students need to perform multi-step tasks. Students can use these reminders if they get stuck or forget a step during the task. They can use self-instruction to complete the task without adult help which will increase independence. Make sure to teach the skill using the same symbols as the reminders for consistency.

Unique Learning System’s GPS

Unique Learning System GPS
Unique Learning System’s Goals, Preferences and Skills (GPS) tool is great for administrators, teachers and parents to see progress towards individual goals. Getting students involved in the process and monitoring their progress is a great way to build those goal setting skills. Review their monthly progress on checkpoints and use the visual graphs to show students how their hard work all month led to an increase in their test scores. When students understand what and why they are learning, it increases their engagement and drive to understand new content.

Choice Boards

SymbolStix PRIME Choice Board
Choice boards are a great way to show students the options for free time when they have completed their work. Having students choose a reward before beginning work will give them motivation to work hard and try their best during learning. For extra motivation, create a First/Then chart for their reward to serve as a visual reminder. n2y’s SymbolStix PRIME has almost 40,000 symbols to meet the many interests of students and using the board wizard is a quick and easy way to create choice boards and reward charts.

Putting these simple, proactive strategies in place for students is the first step toward strong, independent, self-regulating students.

About the Author

Jack Hans has over 10 years of experience working with students of all ages and abilities as an ABA therapist, teacher and supervisor. He currently works as an intervention specialist, focusing on working with students who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, with an emphasis on including students with disabilities throughout the school environment. He earned a Master of Education degree from Cleveland State University.