Developing Self-Regulation Skills in Second Level Students Engaged in Threshold Learning: Results of a Pilot Study in Ireland


A pilot programme ‘Successful Transitions’ was conducted by the ‘Shannon Consortium’ and funded by the Higher Education Authority Strategic Innovation Fund from 2014 to 2016. Second level students who were currently engaged in challenging academic work involving key threshold concepts were selected for instruction designed to improve self-regulation. Over a period of approximately 10 weeks, students engaged with challenging mathematics concepts relevant to their course work. Students received instruction in developing resilience in learning, effective goal setting, and emotional self-regulation. Students were regularly encouraged to participate in a variety of meta-cognitive writing exercises. Baseline self-regulation was assessed using measures of action/state orientation and cognitive self-affirmation inclination. Self-esteem was also assessed. A comparison group, which did not receive any meta-cognitive instruction in self-regulation was also measured. Results indicated that students who took part in the self-regulation training significantly improved their scores relative to the comparison group. Although self-esteem did not change as a result of the intervention, students became more action-oriented and increased their scores in cognitive self-affirmation inclination. The implications of these findings are discussed in relation to future in-school interventions aimed at bolstering student self-regulation.

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This study was funded by the Higher Education Authority Strategic Innovation Fund from 2014 to 2016 (grant number n/a).

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Correspondence to David M. Maloney.

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All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

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Appendix 1. Cognitive self-affirmation inclination measure (Pietersma and Dijkstra 2012)

Below is a list of statements with possible responses ranging from 1 to 5. Please tick the response that best applies to you.


Appendix 2. Action\state orientation measure (Diefendorff et al. 2000)

Action Control Scale (ACS-90).

(English version of the German HAKEMP-90)

Julius Kuhl, University of Osnabrück,Seminarstraße 20, D-49074 OsnabrückUnit of “Differentielle Psychologie and Persönlichkeitsforschung”.

Each scale consists of 12 items which describe a particular situation. Each item has two alternative answers (A or B), one of which is indicative of action orientation and the other of state orientation.

Choose the one of the possible answers (A or B) that is most like you and give an answer for every question on the supplied answer sheet. Please do not make any marks on this questionnaire.


Appendix 3. Self-esteem measure (Rosenberg 1965)

Below is a list of statements dealing with your general feelings about yourself. If you strongly agree, circle SA. If you agree with the statement, circle A. If you disagree, circle D. If you strongly disagree, circle SD.


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Maloney, D.M., Ryan, A. & Ryan, D. Developing Self-Regulation Skills in Second Level Students Engaged in Threshold Learning: Results of a Pilot Study in Ireland. Contemp School Psychol 25, 109–123 (2021).

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  • Self-regulation
  • Resilience
  • Action orientation
  • Threshold concepts