Exploring Students’ Self-Regulated Learning in Vocational Education and Training

  • Helen JossbergerEmail author
  • Saskia Brand-Gruwel
  • Margje W. J. van de Wiel
  • Henny P. A. Boshuizen
Original Paper


The aim of the present empirical study was to explore students’ self-regulated learning behaviours in vocational education and training and to describe the micro processes associated with planning, monitoring and evaluating during practical learning tasks. The 18 participants were well-performing students from upper secondary vocational education. We collected data from observations, interviews and self-reports to gain detailed insights into students’ behaviours and thoughts during practical task performance. The results reveal that most of the students planned their time and resources, but did not develop elaborate plans to regulate their learning behaviours. They monitored their work carefully and adjusted when necessary. When evaluating, students focussed more on work outcomes than learning processes. The results also showed that the students’ actual behaviours corresponded with self-reports on internal regulation, with three students overestimating their internal regulation. This study sheds light on an underexplored context and population regarding self-regulated learning. Though the well-performing vocational students engaged in self-regulation, their self-regulating behaviours were led by a combination of hands-on activities and evolving work outcomes. Thus, it was the emerging performance and experiences that triggered their learning. Although self-regulated learning behaviours in vocational education and training were present, we conclude that instructional support needs to be developed and empirically tested to actively facilitate and foster vocational students’ learning by doing and reflection.


Self-regulated learning Vocational education and training Qualitative research 



The authors would like to thank the three anonymous reviewers for their detailed reviews with suggestions for improving this paper. Moreover, the authors would like to thank Cathrin Rothkopf for her assistance in scoring. The research was funded by NWO.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Educational ScienceUniversity of RegensburgRegensburgGermany
  2. 2.Welten InstituteOpen UniversiteitHeerlenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Zuyd University for Applied SciencesHeerlenNetherlands
  4. 4.Faculty of Psychology and NeuroscienceMaastricht UniversityMaastrichtThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Faculty of EducationUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland

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