Yves Karlen

Planting the seed of a growth mindset may help cultivate the skill of self-regulated learning in students. Dr. Yves Karlen believes that with a knowledge of their growth potential, everyone can blossom into motivated, self-reflective, and lifelong learners:  

“Mindsets about SRL are about encouraging students to become masters of their own learning and thinking.” (Dr. Karlen) 

It was his experience as a schoolteacher that sparked Dr. Karlen’s passion for research in self-regulated learning and growth mindsets. His transition into the field of Educational Psychology didn’t sever his connections with teachers; in fact, it strengthened them. Collaborating with teachers allowed him to recognize commonly held misconceptions and inform gradual changes to practices that facilitate student growth. Dr. Karlen discovered early on in his studies that some students and teachers view the skill of self-regulated learning as innate and unchangeable. They believe some people are just better at self-regulating than others and they wonder whether it is worth teaching strategies to improve performance. In fact, persistence in the face of obstacles and the application of specific strategies can have a transformational effect on one’s ability to self-regulate their own learning. Dr. Karlen himself acknowledges that self-regulation can be a difficult and frustrating task (even for the experts!), but after practising strategies it can be mastered in a variety of contexts. For this reason, Dr. Karlen continues to promote the benefits of a growth mindset for self-regulated learning among students, teachers, and indeed his own research team.  

Self-Regulated Learning and Mindsets: Empowering Students to Become Strategic Learners

Dr. Karlen’s methodology is rooted in the co-creation of knowledge with teachers and students. It’s often teachers who inform him of the struggles students are facing in the classroom, such as not possessing the right strategies to learn effectively in the first place. After conducting their research, Dr. Karlen’s team consults with teachers on the best ways to implement their findings in the classroom. For example, with subtle changes in word choice and the application of new teaching materials, Dr. Karlen has found that teachers can make a big impact on their students’ mindsets. This involves embracing challenges related to self-regulating one’s learning as opportunities to practice learning strategies, and employing those strategies to rebound from failures. Dr. Karlen stresses that the repeated use of learning strategies—especially during difficult circumstances—will lead to success and a mastery of one’s ability to self-regulate their learning. Teachers are more than capable of fostering this persistent belief in the ability to improve, and by using research-based teaching practices, the process can become even more streamlined: 

“I am certainly much more sensitive now in my choice of words with the students than when I just started teaching. It is unbelievable how your words can affect a student’s growth mindset.” [Tabea] 

Teachers have the ability to foster a growth mindset about self-regulated learning by: 

  • Developing and encouraging metacognitive language 
  • Talking about learning experiences 
  • Working together to overcome challenges with strategies 
  • Creating opportunities to apply strategies without judgement 
  • Providing students with feedback to learn from their setbacks 
  • Valuing all students’ strategic learning equally 

Dr. Karlen’s research in real classroom contexts has offered him the opportunity to influence tangible change. The relationship between Dr. Karlen’s team and their teacher partners is a cyclical one; the feedback provided by teachers and reports on their progress are invaluable to inform his continued research. Using this information, he and his team have the opportunity to develop various teaching materials that support teachers to teach learning strategies to their students. Moving forward, Dr. Karlen hopes to inspire more teachers and students to adopt a growth mindset regarding their learning. With sufficient time and practice, anyone can master learning strategies and develop self-regulated learning. 


Yves Karlen, PhD
Professor, Head of Professorship for Educational-Psychological Research on Learning and Instruction
University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Northwestern Switzerland FNHW, School of Education

General Research Interests:

  • Self-regulated learning from child- to adulthood
  • Measuring self-regulated learning
  • Implicit theories/mindsets
  • Teachers’ professional competencies and teachers on-going professional education