Self-Regulation of Professional Learning in the Workplace: a State of the Art and Future Perspectives


Much of individual’s learning takes place during job performance, implying that professionals engage in self-regulated learning (SRL). This study systematically reviews the current state of the field concerning conceptualisation and operationalisation within research on self-regulation of professional learning - for which we use the acronym “SRpL”. Although there is a growing interest for research on SRpL, this study concludes that the field is still in its infancy; not only is empirical research scarce, the field also lacks a common theoretical ground in terms of concept. Different theoretical frameworks are used, which leads to various operationalisations of what is meant by SRpL. An important concern is related to the transferability of frameworks developed for educational settings to the workplace. Analyses beyond mainstream areas, which focus on professionals’ SRL during job performance, are becoming increasingly important. This study suggests conceptual handles and proposes methodologies for future research.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 99

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.

Fig. 1


    (References marked with an * were included as part of the synthesis)

    1. Aveyard, H. (2014). Doing a literature review in health and social care. A practical guide. Berkshire: Open University Press.

    2. Azevedo, R., Taub, M., & Mudrick, N. V. (2018). Understanding and reasoning about real-time cognitive, affective, and metacognitive processes to foster self-regulation with advanced learning technologies. In D. H. Schunk & J. A. Greene (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation of learning and performance (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

    3. Baert, H., De Witte, K, Govaerts, N., & Sterck, G. (2011). Werk maken van leren. Strategisch VTO-beleid in organisaties. Antwerpen-Apeldoorn: Garant.

    4. Bauer, J., & Gruber, H. (2007). Workplace changes and workplace learning: Advantages of an educational micro perspective. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 26(6), 675–688.

    5. Billett, S. (2001). Learning through work: Workplace affordances and individual engagement. Journal of Workplace Learning, 13(5), 209–214.

    6. Billett, S. (2004). Workplace participatory practices: Conceptualising workplaces as learning environments. Journal of Workplace Learning, 16(6), 306–324.

    7. Billett, S. (2008). Emerging perspectives on workplace learning. In S. Billett, C. Harteis, & A. Eteläpelto (Eds.), Emerging perspectives on learning through work (pp1–15). Rotterdam/Taipei: Sense Publisher.

    8. Boekaerts, M., & Corno, L. (2005). Self-regulation in the classroom: A perspective on assessment and intervention. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 54(2), 199–231.

    9. Boekaerts, M., & Minnaert, A. (1999). Self-regulation with respect to informal learning. International Journal of Educational Research, 31, 533–544.

    10. Boshuizen, H. P. A., Bromme, R., & Gruber, H. (2004). (2004) Professional Learning: Gaps and Transitions on the Way From Novice to Expert. Norwell: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

    11. *Butler, D.L., Lauscher, H.N., Jarvis-Selinger, S., & Beckingham, B. (2004). Collaboration and self-regulation in teachers’ professional development. Teaching and Teacher Education, 20, 435–455.

    12. Candy, P. C. (1991). Self-direction for lifelong learning, a comprehensive guide to theory and practice. The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series. San Franscisco- Oxford: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

    13. CASP (2013). Qualitative research checklist: 10 Questions to help you make sense of qualitative research. Retrieved from

    14. Cooper, H., Hedges, L. V., & Valentine, J. C. (2009). The handbook of research synthesis and meta-analysis. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

    15. Dinsmore, D. L., Alexander, P. A., & Loughlin, S. M. (2008). Focusing the conceptual Lens on metacognition, self-regulation, and self-regulated learning. Educational Psychological Review, 20, 391–409.

    16. Ellinger, A. D. (2004). The concept of self-directed learning and its implications for human resource development. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 6, 158–177.

    17. Enos, M. D., Kehrhahn, M. T., & Bell, A. (2003). Informal learning and the transfer of learning: How managers develop proficiency. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 14(4), 369–387.

    18. Eraut, M. (2000). Non-formal learning and tacit knowledge in professional work. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70, 113–136.

    19. Eraut, M. (2004). Informal learning in the workplace. Studies in Continuing Education, 26(2), 247–273.

    20. Eraut, M., Alderton, J., Cole, G., & Senker, P. (1998). Learning from other people at work. In F. Coffield (Ed.), Learning at work (pp. 37–48). Bristol: Policy Press.

    21. Ericsson, K. A. (2004). Deliberate practice and the acquisition and maintenance of expert performance in medicine and related domains. Academic Medicine, 79(10), S1–S12.

    22. Flick, U. (2006). An introduction to qualitative research. London: Sage.

    23. *Fontana, R.P., Milligan, C., Littlejohn, A., & Margaryan, A. (2015). Measuring self-regulated learning in the workplace. International Journal of Training and Development, 19 (1), 32–52.

    24. Fuller, A., & Unwin, L. (2004). Expansive learning environment: integrating organizational and personal development. In Fuller, A., & Munro, A. (Eds.). Workplace learning in Context (pp.126–144). London: Routledge.

    25. Gerber, R., Lankshear, C., Larsson, S., & Svensson, L. (1995). Self-directed learning in a work context. Education & Training, 37(8), 26–33.

    26. *Gijbels, D., Raemdonck, I., Vervecken, D., & Van Herck, J. (2012). Understanding work-related learning: The case of ICT workers. Journal of Workplace Learning, 24(6), 416–429.

    27. Graneheim, U. H., & Lundman, B. (2004). Qualitative content analysis in nursing research: Concepts, procedures and measures to achieve trustworthiness. Nurse Education Today, 24, 105–112.

    28. Gruber, H., & Harteis, C. (2010). Researching workplace learning in Europe. In M. Malloch, L. Cairns, K. Evans, & B. O’Connor (Eds.), The Sage handbook of workplace learning (pp. 191–200). Los Angeles: SAGE.

    29. Hadwin, A. F., & Oshige, M. (2011). Self-regulation, Coregulation, and socially shared regulation: Exploring perspectives of social in self-regulated learning theory. Teachers College Record, 113, 240–264.

    30. Hadwin, A. F., Järvelä, S., & Miller, M. (2011). Self-regulated, co-regulated, and socially-shared regulation of learning. In B. J. Zimmerman & D. H. Schunk (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation of learning and performance (pp. 65–84). New York: Routledge.

    31. Hadwin, A. F., Järvelä, S., & Miller, M. (2018). Self-regulation, co-regulation, and shared regulation in collaborative learning environments. In D. H. Schunk & J. A. Greene (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation of learning and performance (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

    32. Hager, P. (2004). Lifelong learning in the workplace? Challenges and issues. Journal of Workplace Learning, 16(1/2), 22–32.

    33. Hardy, J.H., Day, E.A., & Steele, L.M. (2018). Interrelationships among self-regulated learning processes: toward a dynamic process-based model of self-regulated learning. Journal of Management.

    34. Harteis, C., & Billett, S. (2008). The workplace as learning environment: Introduction. International Journal of Educational Research, 47, 209–212.

    35. *Hashim, J. (2008). Competencies acquisition through self-directed learning among Malaysian managers. Journal of Workplace Learning, 20(4), 259–271.

    36. Järvelä, S., & Hadwin, A. F. (2013). New Frontiers: Regulating learning in CSCL. Educational Psychologist, 48(1), 25–39.

    37. Järvelä, S., Järvenoja, H., Malmberg, J., Isohätälä, J., & Sobocinski, M. (2016). How do types of interaction and phases of self-regulated learning set a stage for collaborative engagement? Learning and Instruction, 43, 39–51

    38. Järvenoja, H., Järvelä, S., & Malmberg, J. (2015). Understanding regulated learning in Situative and contextual frameworks. Educational Psychologist, 50(3), 204–219.

    39. *Joo, B-K., Park, S., & Oh, J.R. (2013). The effects of learning goal orientation, developmental needs awareness and self-directed learning on career satisfaction in the Korean public sector. Human Resource Development International, 16 (3), 313–329.

    40. Knowles, M. S. (1975). Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers. New-York: Association Press.

    41. Kyndt, E., Gijbels, D., Grosemans, I., & Donche, V. (2016). Teachers’ everyday professional development: Mapping informal learning activities, antecedents and learning outcomes. Review of Educational Research, 86(4), 1111–1150.

    42. *Littlejohn, A., Milligan, C., Fontana, P.R., & Margaryan, A. (2016). Professional learning through everyday work: How finance professionals self-regulate their learning. Vocations and Learning, 9, 207–226. DOI:

    43. Loyens, S. M. M., Magda, J., & Rikers, R. M. J. P. (2008). Self-directed learning in problem-based learning and its relationships with self-regulated learning. Educational Psychology Review, 20, 411–427.

    44. Manuti, A., Pastore, S., Scardigno, A. F., Giancaspro, M. L., & Morciano, D. (2015). Formal and informal learning in the workplace: A literature review. International Journal of Training & Development, 19(1), 1–17.

    45. *Margaryan, A., Littlejohn, A., & Milligan, C. (2013). Self-regulated learning in the workplace: Strategies and factors in the attainment of learning goals. International Journal of Training and Development 17(4), 245–259.

    46. Marsh, H. W., Craven, R. G., Hinkley, J. W., & Debus, R. L. (2003). Evaluation of the big-two-factor theory of academic motivation orientations: An evaluation of jingle-jangle fallacies. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 38, 189–224.

    47. Marsick, V. J., & Watkins, K. E. (1990). Informal and incidental learning in the workplace. London: Routledge.

    48. *Milligan, C., Fontana, R.P., Littlejohn, A., & Margaryan, A. (2015). Self-regulated learning behavior in the finance industry. Journal of Workplace Learning, 27 (5), 387–402.

    49. Nesbit, P.L. (2012). The role of self-reflection, emotional management of feedback, and self-regulation processes in self-directed leadership development. Human Resource Development Review, 11(2), 203-226. DOI:

    50. Nitsche, S., Dickhäuser, O., Fasching, M. S., & Dresel, M. (2011). Rethinking teachers’ goal orientations: Conceptual and methodological enhancements. Learning and Instruction, 21, 574–586.

    51. Panadero, E. (2017). A review of self-regulated learning: Six models and four directions for research. Frontiers in Psychology, 8(422).

    52. Pintrich, P. R. (2000). The role of goal orientation in self-regulated learning. In M. Boekaerts & P. R. Pintrich (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation (pp. 451–502). San Diego: Academic Press.

    53. Pintrich, P. R. (2004). A conceptual framework for assessing motivation and self-regulated learning in college students. Educational Psychology Review, 16, 385–407.

    54. Puustinen, M., & Pulkkinen, L. (2001). Models of self-regulated learning: A review. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 45(3), 269–286.

    55. *Raemdonck, I., Tillema, H., de Grip, A., Valcke, M., & Segers, M. (2012a). Does self-directedness in learning and careers predict the employability of low-qualified employees? Vocations and Learning, 5, 137–151. DOI

    56. Raemdonck, I., van der Leeden, R., Valcke, M., Segers, M., & Thijssen, J. (2012b). Predictors of self-directed learning for low-qualified employees: A multi-level analysis. European Journal of Training and Development, 36(6), 572–591.

    57. *Raemdonck, I., Gijbels, D., & van Groen, W. (2014). The influence of job characteristics and self-directed learning orientation on workplace learning. International Journal of Training and Development, 18(3), 188–203.

    58. Roe, R. A. (2008). Time in applied psychology: The study of “what happens” rather than “what is”. European Psychologist, 13(1), 37–52.

    59. Sambrook, S. (2006). Developing a model of factors influencing work-related learning: findings from two research projects. In J. N. Streumer (Ed.), Work-related learning (pp. 95–125). Dordrecht: Springer.

    60. Sandelowski, M., & Barroso, J. (2007). Handbook for synthesizing qualitative research (p. 2007). New York: Springer.

    61. *Schulz, M., & Stamov Rossnagel, C. (2010). Informal workplace learning: An exploration of age differences in learning competence. Learning and Instruction, 20, 383–399.

    62. Schunk, D. H. (1998). Teaching elementary students to self-regulate practice of mathematical skills with modeling. In D. H. Schunk & B. J. Zimmerman (Eds.), Self-regulated learning: From teaching to self-reflective practice (pp. 137–159). New York: Guilford Publications.

    63. Schunk, D.H., & Greene, J.A. (2018). Historical, contemporary, and future perspectives on self-regulated learning and performance. In Schunk, D.H., & Greene, J.A. (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation of learning and performance (2nd ed.) (pp.1-17). New-York/ Oxon: Routledge.

    64. Schunk, D. H., & Zimmerman, B. J. (1997). Social origins of self-regulatory competence. Educational Psychology, 32, 195–208.

    65. Shinkareva, O. N., & Benson, A. D. (2007). The relationship between adult students’ instructional technology competency and self-directed learning ability in an online course. Human Resource Development International, 10(4), 417–435.

    66. *Siadaty, M., Gasevic, D., Jovanovic, J., Pata, K., Milikic, N., Holocher-Ertl, T., Jeremic, Z., Ali, L., Giljanovic, A., & Hatala, M. (2012). Self-regulated workplace learning: A pedagogical framework and semantic web-based environment. Educational Technology & Society, 15(4), 75–88.

    67. *Siadaty, M., Gasevic, D., & Hatala, M. (2016a). Associations between technological scaffolding and micro-level processes of self-regulated learning: A workplace study. Computers in Human Behavior, 55, 1007–1019. DOI:

    68. *Siadaty, M., Gasevic, D., & Hatala, M. (2016b). Measuring the impact of technological scaffolding interventions on micro-level processes of self-regulated workplace learning. Computers in Human Behavior, 59, 469–482.

    69. Sitzmann, T., & Ely, K. (2011). A meta-analysis of self-regulated learning in work-related training and educational attainment: What we know and where we need to go. Psychological Bulletin, 137, 421–442.

    70. *Tillema, H.H., & Kremer-Hayon, L. (2002). “Practicing what we preach”-teacher educators’ dilemmas in promoting self-regulated learning: A cross comparison. Teaching and Teacher Education, 18, 593–607.

    71. Tynjälä, P. (2008). Perspectives into learning at the workplace. Educational Research Review, 3(2), 130–154.

    72. Tynjälä, P. (2013). Toward a 3-P model of workplace learning: A literature review. Vocations and Learning, 6(2), 11–36.

    73. *van de Wiel, M. W. J., Szegedi, K. H. P., & Weggeman, M. C. D. P. (2004). Professional learning: Deliberate attempts at developing expertise. In H. P. A. Boshuizen, R. Bromme, & H. Gruber (Eds.), Professional Learning: Gaps and transitions on the way from novice to expert (pp. 181–206). Dordrecht: Kluwer.

    74. van der Klink, M., Boon, J., & Schlusmans, K. (2012). All by myself. Research into Employees’ informal learning experiences. International Journal of Human Resources Development and Management, 12, 77–91.

    75. *Van Eekelen, I.M., Boshuizen, H.P.A., & Vermunt, J.D. (2005). Self-regulation in higher education teacher learning. Higher Education, 50, 447–471.

    76. Veenman, M. V. J. (2011). Alternative assessment of strategy use with self-report instruments: A discussion. Metacognition and Learning, 6, 205–2011.

    77. Winne, P. H. (1995). Self-regulation is ubiquitous but its forms vary with knowledge. Educational Psychologist, 30(4), 223}228.

    78. Winne, P. H. (2011). A cognitive and metacognitive analysis of self-regulated learning. In B. J. Zimmerman & D. H. Schunk (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation of learning and performance (pp. 15–32). New York and London: Routledge.

    79. Winne, P. H., & Hadwin, A. F. (2008). The weave of motivation and self-regulated learning. In D. H. Schunk, B. J. Zimmerman, & B.J. (Eds.), Motivation and self-regulated learning: Theory, research, and applications (pp. 297–314). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    80. Wolters, C. A., & Won, S. (2018). Validity and the use of self-report questionnaires to assess self-regulated learning. In D. H. Schunk & J. A. Greene (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation of learning and performance (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

    81. Zimmerman, B. J. (2000). Attaining self-regulation: A social cognitive perspective. In M. Boekaerts & P. R. Pintrich (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation (pp. 13–39). San Diego: Academic Press.

    82. Zimmerman, B. J. (2002). Becoming a self-regulated learner: An overview. Theory Into Practice, 41(2), 64–70.

    83. Zimmerman, B. J. (2008). Investigating self-regulation and motivation: Historical background, methodological developments, and future prospects. American Educational Research Journal, 45, 166–183.

    84. Zimmerman, B. J., & Schunk, D. H. (2011). Handbook of self-regulation of learning and performance. New York: Routledge.

    Download references

    Author information

    Correspondence to Katrien Cuyvers.

    Additional information

    Publisher’s Note

    Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.


    Appendix 1

    Table 5 Detailed overview of the search strategy used and the results

    Appendix 2

    Table 6 Overview of the studies with regard to purpose of the study, theory, design/method, context and educational level of the employees

    Appendix 3

    Table 7 Main appraisal criteria methodological approaches

    Rights and permissions

    Reprints and Permissions

    About this article

    Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

    Cite this article

    Cuyvers, K., Van den Bossche, P. & Donche, V. Self-Regulation of Professional Learning in the Workplace: a State of the Art and Future Perspectives. Vocations and Learning (2020).

    Download citation


    • Self-regulated learning
    • Professional learning
    • Workplace
    • Research synthesis