Know Thyself: Meta-Learning and Self-regulation

Mrs Alma Loreaux | Dean of Learning | Grammar News | 5 November 2021

Last fortnight, I shared some thoughts on developing new habits. Continuing that conversation, I would like to draw attention to meta-learning as a strategic aspect of learning. In particular, let’s focus on getting to know ourselves through the choices we make. Namely, choosing to do what is best in a situation despite the urge to act on impulse for the sake of short-term needs or desires. This is linked to managing distractions but builds on this from a reflective perspective where we allow ourselves the opportunity to get to know our triggers and habits. As humble learners, we are encouraging our students to get to know themselves; to find out who they are, confront their strengths and weaknesses, and shift into a growth mindset when it comes to developing new habits and ways of being.


This intentional focus on making the next, best choice matters; and it matters most in the long term, so we might not immediately see the impact of the choice we are making. In a world where we are bombarded with messages, information, instant gratification, and the growing attitude of ‘I must have it now', it is more important than ever to observe ourselves reflectively and to consider our next, best choice. What is it that we are actually deciding to do when faced with a problem or temptation? Do we adopt a reflective mindset and consider all options in front of us? Do we easily give in to temptation?


For example, we know that sometimes we have an impulse to eat junk food even when we know it is bad for our health. We think, at that moment, that having that mouth-watering, sugar-filled doughnut is going to make us happy. We might even convince ourselves that we deserve it. Yet, this temporary minute of happiness does not result in better eating habits and therefore better health in the future. So, making the best choice and resisting the temptation that drives us to eat junk food, procrastinate, avoid planning, get distracted, are crucial to developing our capacity to self-regulate.


Here is a brief checklist that you can adapt and use at home:

  • I did my home learning without procrastinating
  • I managed my distractions while studying by maintaining focus
  • Because I planned ahead, I was prepared for the task ahead
  • I took charge of my learning and distilled key ideas on my own, without waiting for someone else to do it for me
  • I resisted the urge to do the thing that I knew I would regret later

If you would like to explore these ideas further, you might enjoy the book, The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control Is the Engine of Success by Walter Mischel.