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Can schools effectively improve students’ self-regulatory skills? Essay


Overview of the Study

Self-regulation is the key mediator between genetic predisposition, early experience, and adult functioning. This paper argues that all the key mechanisms underpinning the enduring effects of early relationship experiences interface with individuals’ capacity to control (a) their reaction to stress, (b) their capacity to maintain focused attention, and (c) their capacity to interpret mental states in themselves and others. These three mechanisms function together to assist the individual to work closely and collaboratively with others. If self-regulation can be influenced by experience at young age, then there is a window of opportunity in early childhood to strengthen skills that will be important for multiple domains of competence.

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In this study we will look at the origins of self regulation in early childhood when many of the tools for good adaptation are shaped by interactions between children and their environments. We will examine (through qualitative research) how a specific school program can provide the infrastructure for building efficient self-regulatory skills in children.

The program being studied is called Youth Empowerment and is run by a Art of Living, a non-profit educational organization, that provides stress management techniques to increase learning abilities as well as self regulatory coping skills for academic achievement and daily living. Here it will be analyzed how self-regulation is enhanced in children before and after participating in the Art of Living programs to see what impact the course has. At the same time we will study self-regulation of a similar group of children, not participating in the course, for comparison as our control group.

 Background of the Study

The work on self-regulation as a whole strongly suggests that these skills are extremely important for the development of competence. They begin to emerge in early childhood, and are shaped by a child’s experience as well as his or her disposition. A cranky baby may elicit different care from a parent, and a parent’s behavior may increase or decrease an infant’s proneness to distress, such that both parties influence the quality of their relationship. Their relationships in turn can then help or hinder the development of self-regulation. (Ann S. Masten, J. Douglas Coatsworth.,1998).

For example, children with insensitive, unresponsive care givers do not have these emotionally supportive experiences. They may repeatedly become overwhelmed by their emotions since at early ages self-regulatory abilities are limited. Difficulties with emotional self-control may be contributing to the non-compliant, impulsive, aggressive and/or regressive behaviors we see in some children in early childhood settings. (Sharne Rolfe, 2004)

     This may be one example of how the brain is shaped by experience in these early years. Moreover, if self-regulation can be influenced by experience, then there is a window of opportunity in early childhood to strengthen skills that will be important for multiple domains of competence. Children who have trouble directing their attention or controlling their impulses may not do well on IQ tests or in the classroom or may not learn to comply with rules as readily or get along well with peers.

Hence, self regulation may be a factor in predict not only academic achievement but other aspects of competence as well, such as rule-abiding behavior. For example, the findings of a recent study (A. Fabes, Nancy Eisenberg., 1992), supported the conclusion that socially competent and popular children coped with anger in ways that were relatively direct and active and in ways that minimized further conflict and damage to social relationships.

The ability to make a successful transition to and through college is one of the most important challenges faced by adolescents and young adults. Researchers have clearly demonstrated the significance of self-regulation skills in such academic contexts. Collectively, they paint the self-regulating learner as someone who is meta-cognitively sophisticated. Someone who can assess the requirements of the learning task at hand, and who can identify and deploy the appropriate learning strategies; the self-regulating learner is someone who is able to make appropriate attributions for success and failure, and who readily accepts responsibility for his or her own learning (Pintrich & DeGroot, 1990).

However, while studies have begun to specify how features of students’ immediate learning environments affect the development and use of self-regulation skills, relatively little attention has bee n paid to the role of the family context in fostering or impeding the development of these skills. Studies that have addressed this topic for elementary school age children have found that parental support for autonomy is positively related to children’s self-reports of autonomous self-regulation (Grolnick & Ryan, 1989), and that these parenting practices are predictive of children’s adoption of an intrinsic academic achievement motivational orientation (Ginsburg & Bronstein, 1993).

Past methodologies have not “scored” well with the academic demands placed upon students, as demonstrated by New York City’s 50% four-year graduation rate. In the past educators and social workers have attempted to change the student’s external stress factors to increase their academic performance, (e.i. federally funded school lunch programs, school social workers and psychologists). Although all of these programs serve to alleviate a student’s risk level for failure, it is the student’s perception and reaction to his environment, his coping skills, which determine the impact stress factors will have upon his performance.The Art of Living Youth Programs provides skills to improve these factors through stress management, human values, and service.


According to recent experiments in public schools in  New York City, the Art of Living Youth Programs provides such-self-regulatory skills to improve these factors through its multi-pronged approach to effectively eliminate stress, violence, aggression, and lack of academic interest in today’s youth . One  key approach is the stress management technique called Sudarshan Kria Yoga ( SKY).

SKY (Sudarshan Kriya Yoga) stress management practices use breathing techniques to lower the stress level in students and enable them to increase their learning abilities as well as coping skills for academic achievement and daily living. How SKY practices may help to create the ideal mental state for learning is currently being studied. In a recent analysis of SKY techniques, Dr. Richard P Brown, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry for Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Patricia L Gerbarg, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor in Psychiatry at New York Medical College have proposed a neurophysiological model to explain how yoga breathing stress management techniques may impact the nervous system.

They state, ”Although the scientific exploration of  SKY by Western medicine is in its infancy, these breathing techniques have the potential to relieve anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and many stress-related medical illnesses. In addition, they may provide new approaches to the treatment of behavioral disorders of children, attention deficit disorder, violence, alcoholism, and the rehabilitation of prisoners.”

After undergoing the program, children demonstrate enhancement of creative skills, improved memory and concentration, development of leadership qualities and healthy emotions, clarity of mind as well as improved interaction with their peers. (Art of Loving, 2007) Indeed, recent research supports such findings. In a study on the said subject (Nagendra, et al, 1989), it was noted within a group of mentally challenged children that there was a highly significant improvement in the IQ and social adaptation parameters in the yoga group as compared to the control group. One can only deduce that meditation not only creates a shift to happier, more positive attitudes in students, but also increases critical learning skills.

In summary, current research on children’s abilities to regulate emotions and social interactions shows that children who enter school with significant problems in self-regulation, or who have impaired learning abilities have a substantial disadvantage for meeting the developmental tasks of middle childhood. Intervening early to encourage self-regulation may be an important strategy for future interventions, although we need to know more about these processes to inform such efforts.


The hypothesis of the study is that children participating in the Art of Living Youth programs improve their self-regulatory skills.  Changes in self-regulatory skills will be estimated through questionnaires. If the hypothesis is indeed valid, it would strongly suggest the importance of the Art of Living program, not just to current well-being of the children, but also to their future balance and emotional stability.



     The process of research to be utilized aims to prove the hypotheses noted above which states that children participating in the Art of Living Youth programs improve their self-regulatory skills.


Data is to be collected by questioning the students themselves as well as parents and teachers, both before they start the Art of Living course and after they have finished the program.  The questionnaire is going to be the same but taken at different time periods to record any improvements.

The questionnaire is to be based on the “Self-Regulation Questionnaire” (SRQ) (Brown, Miller, & Lawendowski, 1999) but adjusted to fit the age group in question.   The original adjusted questionnaire is included in Appendix A.  Each question is to be answered on a scale from one to five depending on how much the subject agrees with the question statement.   Several studies show that the low SRQ scores are correlated with alcohol-related consequences, drug use, drinking after driving and tobacco smoking, all of which can be associated with low self-esteem.  (Brown, 1994) (Brown, Baumann, Smith & Etheridge 1997)

The Sample [Respondents]

The participants will be recruited from a New York based School participating in the Art of Living project.  The teachers of the relevant classes will explain the study to the parents and sign them up.  As the Art of Living courses are held annually it’s difficult to do repeated experiments, however the same questionnaire will be presented to a group of students not participating in the course at same time to see if there are any factors (seasonality, community sentiment etc) that are effecting self-regulation, not the Art of Living course.


All results will be processed in Excel and the hypothesis tested individually for the different groups: children themselves, parents and teachers.  We will collect data both for students participating in the Art of Living classes and from a control group that does not participate.   The hypothesis will be testing by analyzing if the difference in SRQ score is statistically significant for the participants of the Art of Living course from when they begin until the course is over.  The results will be compared to the control group to see how different the results are.


     To present further explanation of the matter, the researcher aims to implement different issues that are related to the situation being discussed. With the utilization of the results presentation and the explanation that has been used to introduce the presentations, the proof that is needed to identify the practicality and the truth behind the hypotheses of the study shall be given clarity. Understandably, through the validation of the informations presented within the study, the idea of increasing self-regulation among young learners would become much acceptable for actual learning application among early-childhood learning institutions.


To end the research, a six-point summary shall be used to present the major features of the study that is most implicative and influential to the society today with regards the issue of depression. Most likely, the conclusive statements that could best support this study would be much of that of the features of the study as to how it aims to face the issues of the matter in a more actual process. The concern of this study shall be fully introduced within the conclusion section as it aims to make an implication that depression among individuals could also be affected by the traditional culture that they were primarily brought up with.




Fonagy, P., Target, M. (2002). Early Intervention and the Development of Self-Regulation. Psychoanal. Inq., 22:307-335.

The Development of Competence in Favorable and Unfavorable Environments : Lessons from Research on Successful Children. Journal article by Ann S. Masten, J. Douglas Coatsworth; American Psychologist, Vol. 53, 1998. 16 pgs

Sharne Rolfe (2005), Rethinking Attachment for Early Childhood Practice: Promoting Security, Autonomy and Resilience in Young Children, Allen &Unwin

Richard A. Fabes, Nancy Eisenberg .Young Children’s coping with Interpersonal Anger. , Vol. 63, No. 1 (Feb., 1992), pp. 116-128

Family Context Variables And The Development of Self-Regulation In College Students Adolesence, Spring, 1998 by Amy A. Strage.


 Pintrich, P., & DeGroot, E. (1990). Motivational and self-regulated learning components of classroom academic performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 33-40.

Pressley, M., & Ghatala, E. (1990). Self-regulated learning: Monitoring learning from context. Educational Psychology, 25, 19-33.

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Schunk, D. (1989). Self-efficacy and cognitive skill learning. In C. Ames & R. Ames (Eds.), Research on motivation in education. Vol. 3: Goals and cognitions (pp. 13-44). San Diego: Academic Press.

Thomas, J., & Rohwer, W. D., Jr. (1993). Proficient autonomous learning: Problems and prospects. In M. Rabinowitz (Ed.), Cognitive science: Foundations of instruction (pp. 1-32). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Weinstein, C. E., Zimmerman, B., & Palmer, D. (1988). Assessing learning strategies: The design and development of the LASSI. In C. E. Weinstein, E. T., Goetz, & P. A. Alexander (Eds.). Learning and study strategies: Issues in assessment, instruction and evaluation (pp. 25-40). New York: Academic Press.

Zimmerman, B. (1990). Student differences in self-regulated learning: Relating grade, sex, and giftedness to self-efficacy and strategy use. Journal of Educational psychology, 82, 51-59.

Grolnick, W., & Ryan, R. (1989). Parent styles associated with children’s self-regulation and competence in school. Journal of Educational Psychology, 81, 143-154.

Ginsburg, G., & Bronstein, P. (1993). Family factors related to children’s intrinsic/extrinsic motivational orientation and academic performance. Child Development, 64, 1461-1471.

Art of living, 2007.http://www.artoflivingyouth.org/research.html.

Uma, K., Nagendra, H. R., Nagarathna, R.,Vaidehi, S., & Seethalakshmi, R. (1989). The integrated approach of yoga: a therapeutic tool for mentally retarded children: a one year controlled study. Journal of Mental Deficiency,Research, 33, 415–421.

Brown,J.M. ( 1994).Alcohol involvement and self-regulation in male alcoholics. Unpublished Dissertation,University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

Dissertation, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.


Brown, J. M., Baumann, B. D., Smith, C. D., & Etheridge, S. L. (1997, July, 1997). Selfregulation,extroversion, and substance abuse among college students. Paper presented at the Research Society on Alcoholism, San Francisco, CA


Brown, J. M., Miller, W. R., & Lawendowski, L. A. (1999). The Self-Regulation Questionnaire. In L. VandeCreek & T. L. Jackson (Eds.), Innovations in clinical practice : A source book (Vol. 17, pp. 281-289). Sarasota, FL: Professional Resource Press.

 Ray Doktor ( 1996) Attachment Theory, Neurobiology, and Psychopathology, from http://www.wholeminds.com/web/index.php?module=article&view=9


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