Behaviour management: Self-regulated learning and wellbeing

Having clear strategies that promote appropriate school behaviours and prioritise student wellbeing are important for maintaining positive and caring relationships between staff, students and parents.

Toward the end of 2018, the Australian Student Wellbeing Framework was introduced to replace the National Safe Schools Framework.

The vision of the framework is to build a shared understanding of how to support student learning, safety and wellbeing. The new framework sets out principles for effective practice and emphasises the roles that students play as active participants in their own learning.

Furthermore, underpinning the Australian Student Wellbeing Framework, and specifically the principle of Support, is the presumption that wellbeing and learning are inseparable. This principle talks about developing an understanding of wellbeing and positive behaviour and how this supports effective teaching and learning.

Hence, there are strong links between wellbeing and enabling students to regulate their own learning and behaviour. Albert Bandura argued that ideally, ‘A major goal of formal education should be to equip students with the intellectual tools, self-beliefs, and self-regulatory capabilities to educate themselves throughout their lifetime' (Bandura, 1993).

What is self-regulated learning?

Decades of research has confirmed the positive effects of self-regulated learning on students' wellbeing and their development as independent and collaborative learners (Jarvela, Hadwin, Malberg, & Miller, 2018).

Potentially, all students hold capacities to manage cognitions, control emotions and direct behaviours. However, they rely on developing the toolset, mindset and skillset that enable them to function effectively and to gain the most out of their education. From a social-emotional learning perspective these include self- and social-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making and relationship skills.

This highlights the importance of providing opportunities for students to regulate their learning and has significant implications for teachers when designing and managing classroom environments that empower, rather than control, student behaviour.

In opposition to the notion that classroom behaviour management is a set of preconceived tricks or a formula that ensures students are compliant, on-task and ready to absorb learning, the reality, in all phases of schooling, is much different.

Furthermore, external rewards and punishments may influence behaviour in the moment, but rarely do they nurture responsible social behaviour and assist students to manage their positive behaviour for learning.

As opposed to a teacher reflecting on ‘How well did I manage the students' behaviour in the classroom?' the emphasis needs to be on embedding evidence-informed practices that promote wellbeing and support productive behaviour.

Teachers who accept this view of classroom behaviour management are perpetually seeking a greater understanding of what encourages students to make proactive decisions about their behaviour and learning in the absence of external constraints.

Teaching for self-regulated learning

In 2018, my study exploring teachers' pedagogical practices for effective learning in the middle years of schooling was published in The International Journal of Pedagogy and Curriculum.

The following recommendations come from this study, conducted in an upper primary school and lower secondary school classrooms. They present implications in practice that have the potential to enhance teachers' awareness of their roles in relation to providing opportunities for students to take responsibility and engage actively in their learning.

Such an approach to classroom behaviour management is intended to create an atmosphere where the focus is on learning, being responsible, and having fun.

The research was conducted with teachers through interviews and observations in their classrooms to identify evidence-informed practices that are fundamental to enabling students to self-regulate their learning.

This means that they support students to rationalise the purpose of the learning and make it personally interesting, accept responsibility to be actively engaged in learning, expect they have the capabilities that would lead to success, and feel that they belong to a community of learners.

A self-regulatory approach to classroom behaviour management

My study identified four focus areas for classroom behaviour management as essential elements that guide teachers when designing, implementing and managing learning:

  1. Establishing classroom expectations and procedures;
  2. Empowering students to take responsibility for their learning and behaviour;
  3. Building rapport with students; and,
  4. Acknowledging productive learning behaviours.

The findings are presented, as questions, in a decision-making matrix to integrate four types of student emotions that can cognitively, motivationally and behaviourally influence student wellbeing and self-regulated learning. The four emotions are:

  1. Interest;
  2. Sense of Agency;
  3. Expectation of Success; and,
  4. Sense of Belonging.

The decision-making matrix (Table 1) is a useful way to represent the findings from these two dimensions that each include four factors.

The new staffroom at Macgregor Primary School

Table 1. Decision-making matrix informing a self-regulatory approach to classroom behaviour management.

Implications for educators

The purpose of sharing these findings is to present to teachers a rationale that promotes a self-regulatory approach to classroom behaviour management. The focus areas provide the broad teaching practices, and the four emotional enablers determine the impact of the practices on the student experience.

Teachers are invited to address the questions presented in the framework to reflect on their current practice. Evaluation of the student experience strengthens teachers' confidence that they are, or can, provide a supportive environment to empower students and inspire learning through evidence-informed practices that:

  • Actively engage students in ways to enhance their own learning and wellbeing, remembering that wellbeing and learning are inseparable;
  • Provide students with opportunities for authentic decision-making over matters that affect them;
  • Embed learning strategies that align with the needs of the students; and,
  • Encourage active student participation and foster a sense of connectedness for the class to function together as a community of learners.

The Australian Student Wellbeing Framework emphasises the importance of building teacher capacity to create learning environments that support students to develop the skills they need to self-manage, take ownership of their learning and for positive social interaction.

A classroom environment that promotes wellbeing empowers learners to accept responsibility for their learning and behaviour. Ultimately, no one has control over students' behaviour and learning successes more than the students.


Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning. Educational psychologist, 28(2), 117-148

Education Services Australia. (2018). Australian student wellbeing framework. Victoria, Australia. Retrieved from

Jarvela, S., Hadwin, A., Malmberg, J., & Miller, M. (2018). Contemporary perspectives of regulated learning in collaboration. International handbook of the learning sciences, 127-136.

Peel, K. (2018). Teaching for self-regulated learning: Why aim for behavioural compliance when we can inspire learning? The International Journal of Pedagogy and Curriculum, 25(1), 15-36.

Dr Karen Peel says teachers are invited to address the questions presented in the framework to reflect on their current practice. How could this improve your practice as an educator? Do your own responses give you greater confidence in your work?

In what ways do you encourage the student in your classroom to take responsibility for their behaviour and learning? Is there a particular approach that you’ve found to be successful for your learners?