The key to our School Improvement Plan – Student Self-Regulation

Each year, every school in our Board selects an area of the curriculum as a focus for improvement efforts. Usually the area is selected after a careful analysis of the students’ needs based on the experience and assessment results of the previous year — the questions are “In which area did our students’ struggle most?” and “What can we do to support them better in this area?”

As we established our new school by welcoming many new students to the Castlefrank community, we did not have the ‘previous year’s results’ upon which to base our school improvement plan. This presented us with the unique opportunity to ask the different question “On what area can we focus to set our young students’ up for success?”

The answer to this question may be ‘Student Self-Regulation’. A growing body of evidence is showing that, when students are taught the strategies and skills of self-regulation in a planned, focused way, there are great benefits in terms of academic achievement, motivation, behavior, resilience and social awareness.

So…what is ‘self-regulation’? In basic terms, it is the ability of a person to recognize when he/she is not in an ideal state for learning and then to do what is needed to bring herself/himself into a state of calm alertness… ready for learning.

The approach we are using at Castlefrank reflects the work being done by many experts in self-regulation among very young students, and particularly the work of Stuart Shanker, a Canadian expert who has been very involved in schools in Ontario and British Columbia. It involves; changes by teachers in terms of how they set up their classrooms and how they identify and respond to student needs; a school-wide focus on the words, strategies, and ideas that make self-regulation part of our day-to-day culture; teaching the students specific strategies and skills and giving them the opportunities and time to practice them; and empowering the students to take responsibility, in a positive and effective way, of their own self-regulation. For more information about Self-Regulation and Shanker, please click the following link:

One of the key elements of our approach is the “MindUp” program. This is a 15 lesson curriculum designed to teach students, from Kindergarten on, about how their brains work and how they can take action to control their brains – to act mindfully. We are all working through each lesson at the same time and students are learning the ‘core practices’ of this well-established and research-based program. Click here for more information about MindUp.

We are already seeing some encouraging results from our focus on self-regulation. Of course, an important part of the School Improvement Plan process is to carefully monitor and measure the effects of our efforts on student achievement and well-being. As part of this process, we will be carefully analyzing our students’ work and will be gathering focused feedback from students, teachers and parents as we approach the end of this school year.

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