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Student-directed Learning
September 2020


What does the research say about how students can use data to direct their own classroom learning?

Ask A REL Response

Thank you for your request to our Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Reference Desk. Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 RELs that, by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. Ask A REL provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations in response to questions about available education research.

Following an established REL Northwest research protocol, we conducted a search for evidence- based research. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, Google Scholar, and general Internet search engines. For more details, please see the methods section at the end of this document.

The research team has not evaluated the quality of the references and resources provided in this response; we offer them only for your reference. The search included the most commonly used research databases and search engines to produce the references presented here. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The research references are not necessarily comprehensive and other relevant research references may exist. In addition to evidence-based, peer-reviewed research references, we have also included other resources that you may find useful. We provide only publicly available resources, unless there is a lack of such resources or an article is considered seminal in the topic area.


Andrade, H. L. (2019). A critical review of research on student self-assessment. Frontiers in Education 4, 87. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"This article is a review of research on student self-assessment conducted largely between 2013 and 2018. The purpose of the review is to provide an updated overview of theory and research. The treatment of theory involves articulating a refined definition and operationalization of self-assessment. The review of 76 empirical studies offers a critical perspective on what has been investigated, including the relationship between self-assessment and achievement, consistency of self-assessment and others' assessments, student perceptions of self-assessment, and the association between self-assessment and self-regulated learning. An argument is made for less research on consistency and summative self-assessment, and more on the cognitive and affective mechanisms of formative self-assessment."

Brandt, W. C. (2020). Measuring student success skills: A review of the literature on self-direction. Dover, NH: National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment. Retrieved from

From the Document:
"The primary goals of this literature review are to (a) provide a working definition of self-directed learning, (b) describe how self-directed learning develops, (c) examine different conceptions of how self-directed learning is taught, (d) discuss specific instructional practices that support the development of self-directed learning strategies, and (e) analyze how self-directed learning has been assessed by researchers and practitioners. Additionally, we consider the corresponding implications for the design and use of assessments of self-directed learning in K-12 schools. We conclude by offering best practices for documenting and evaluating self-directed learning skills over time."

Burns, E. C., Martin, A., & Collie, R. J. (2018). Adaptability, personal best (PB) goal setting, and gains in students' academic outcomes: A longitudinal examination from a social cognitive perspective. Contemporary Educational Psychology 53, 57–72. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"The present investigation examines how two novel constructs, adaptability (for self-regulation) and PB goal setting (for goal setting), operate alongside the more "traditional" constructs of the triadic model of social cognitive theory (SCT; Bandura, 1986) to predict students' academic gains over time. Given that the triadic model highlights the importance of self-regulation and goal setting in human motivation, it is important to revisit classic models (such as SCT) to ascertain the role and validity of these new and relevant constructs in seminal conceptualizing. A longitudinal process model explored the extent to which: social support from parents, peers, and teachers (environmental factors) predicted gains in students' self-efficacy, perceived control, adaptability, and PB goal setting (personal factors); self-efficacy, perceived control, and adaptability predicted growth in students' PB goal setting; and, PB goal setting predicted academic growth in engagement and achievement (behavioral factors). Data were collected via survey one year apart across the 2014 and 2015 academic years from N = 1481 students in nine Australian high schools. Longitudinal structural equation modelling indicated that parent, peer, and teacher social support significantly predicted gains in adaptability and self-efficacy; adaptability, self-efficacy, and teacher support significantly predicted gains in PB goal setting; and PB goal setting significantly predicted gains in both academic engagement and achievement. These findings extend and augment previous work by providing support for the positive role adaptability and PB goal setting play in student academic functioning over time. Similarly, this investigation confirms the viability of including adaptability and PB goal setting within SCT's triadic model and provides evidence for their impact within the larger psycho-educational terrain."

Fraile, J., Panadero, E., & Pardo, R. (2017). Co-creating rubrics: The effects on self-regulated learning, self-efficacy and performance of establishing assessment criteria with students. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 53, 69-76. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"The aim of this study was to compare the effects of co-creating rubrics against just using rubrics. By co-creating rubrics, the students might have the opportunity to better internalize them and have a voice in the assessment criteria. Two groups undertaking a degree in Sport Sciences (N = 65) participated. Results showed that the students who co-created the rubrics had higher levels of learning self-regulation measured through thinking aloud protocols, whereas the results from the self-reported self-regulation and self-efficacy questionnaires did not show significant differences. The treatment group outperformed the control group in only one out of the three tasks assessed. Regarding the perceptions about rubrics use, there were no significant differences except for the process of co-creation, to which the co-created rubric group gave higher importance. Therefore, this study has opened an interesting venue on rubrics research: co-creating rubrics may influence students' activation of learning strategies."

Jimerson, J. B., Cho, V., & Wayman, J. C. (2016). Student-involved data use: Teacher practices and considerations for professional learning. Teaching and Teacher Education, 60, 413–424. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"In student-involved data use (SIDU), students are guided in the tracking and analysis of their own learning data. Research, however, is scarce when it comes to the outcomes of this practice as well as to the knowledge and skills teachers need to productively engage students in this kind of data use. This study adds to the knowledge on SIDU by exploring the ways in which 11 teachers across five districts learned how to involve their students with data. Teachers' descriptions of practice and roots of learning specific to SIDU suggest considerations for the ways in which preparation and hiring entities might support teachers to engage in constructive data use."

Nordengren, C. (2019). Goal-setting practices that support a learning culture. Phi Delta Kappan, 101(1), 18–23. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Getting students to understand where they are in their learning is a steep challenge with potential for a huge payoff when you are seeking to build school and classroom cultures where improvement and growth flourish. So what can educators do to help students care about their learning and become more invested in their own success? In particular, how can teachers use assessments to motivate students without discouraging or stereotyping them?"

Panadero, E., Jonsson, A., & Strijbos, J. W. (2016). Scaffolding self-regulated learning through self-assessment and peer assessment: Guidelines for classroom implementation. In D. Laveault & L. Allal (Eds.), Assessment for learning: Meeting the challenge of implementation. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Although the focus on feedback and student involvement in Assessment for Learning (AfL) appears to align very well with theories of Self-Regulated Learning (SRL), and also seems to be the main reason for many researchers' interest in formative assessment, the actual relationship between AfL and SRL is an issue of debate. In this chapter, we therefore explore the relationship between two AfL practices, namely, self-assessment and peer assessment, and SRL. These AfL practices emphasize student feedback and are both thought to increase student involvement in assessment. They also have evident connections to SRL models of self-regulation and co-regulation. Special attention is given to strategies for the implementation of peer and self-assessment in the classroom. In particular, guidelines are presented on teachers' mediating and modeling role in peer and self-assessment, as well as on how to use formative assessment instruments, such as rubrics, scripts and prompts, in order to promote student involvement in assessment."

Papanthymou, A., & Darra, M. (2019). The contribution of learner self-assessment for improvement of learning and teaching process: A review. Journal of Education and Learning, 8(1), 48-64.

From the Abstract:
"The present study is a literature review of 37 empirical studies from Greece and internationally of the last decade and aims at investigating the contribution of learner self-assessment to: a. enhancement of learning motivation, b. improvement of academic performance/learning, c. development of self-regulating learning and d. raise of self-esteem. According to the findings, enhancement of learning motivation as an outcome of learner self-assessment process has been identified in Greek Higher education, in Secondary education in Physics and in Primary education in English, whereas internationally has been identified in Secondary education in English and Physical education. In Greece, improvement of academic performance/learning as an outcome of learner self-assessment has been found in Higher education, in Secondary education in Physics and in Primary education in English, whereas internationally at all levels of education, in almost all subjects of Secondary education and in Primary education in Language Arts, English and Mathematics. Development of self-regulating learning has been identified in Higher education in Greece and internationally, whereas in Secondary education in Geography and Geometry only internationally. Furthermore, raise of student's self-esteem as an outcome of self-assessment has been found internationally, in Secondary education in Religious education and in Greek Primary education in English language learning. Moreover, self-assessment process has also been examined internationally in non-formal education where English is taught as a second language with positive outcomes in performance/learning. Finally, self-assessment is implemented through various practices and tools such as rubrics, checklist, scripts, think boards, reflective journals, mind maps and in combination with learning or teaching models."

Schmitz, K. (2019). Quality or quantity: Completion rewards and formative assessments in flipped instruction classes. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13(3), 4.

From the Abstract:
"Flipped instruction shifts the burden for engaging course content to the students. Moving these activities outside the classroom creates motivational challenges. This study investigates the role of formative assessments and completion rewards. Definitions are provided for flipped instruction and formative assessments. A classification of reward scores is offered to guide data collection in two field experiments. The study seeks to provide an empirical basis to guide use of completion rewards for flipped instruction classes. This study finds that completion rewards can increase quantity of formative assessment engagement. However, this change in quantity does not improve exam scores. The data suggests completion rewards may undermine the quality of engagement."


Keywords and Search Strings: The following keywords, subject headings, and search strings were used to search reference databases and other sources: "Student-directed learning", "Self-directed learning", "Self-regulated learning", "Self-centered learning", "Student-involved data use", "Student-centered", "Student engagement", "Assessment", "Data"

Databases and Resources: We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and EBSCO databases (Academic Search Premier, Education Research Complete, and Professional Development Collection).

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

Date of publications: This search and review included references and resources published in the last 10 years.

Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority was given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, as well as academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, and Google Scholar.

Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references:

  • Study types: randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, and policy briefs, generally in this order
  • Target population and samples: representativeness of the target population, sample size, and whether participants volunteered or were randomly selected
  • Study duration
  • Limitations and generalizability of the findings and conclusions

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest. It was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0009 by REL Northwest, administered by Education Northwest. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.