Learning to self-regulate: Comparing athletes and non-athletes

  • Lindsay McCardle Department of Educational Psychology and Leadership Studies, University of Victoria
  • Bradley W Young School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa
  • Allyson F Hadwin Department of Educational Psychology and Leadership Studies, University of Victoria


Self-regulated learning (SRL) refers to learners' engagement of planning, monitoring, and adapting processes to learn effectively and reach goals (Zimmerman, 1986). Jonker and colleagues (2009) proposed athletes transfer SRL from sport to school. However, athletes and non-athletes demonstrated no significant differences in academic SRL at the post-secondary level (McCardle & Hadwin, 2016). We propose that if given instruction, athletes may develop academic SRL competencies at a greater rate than non-athletes, drawing on extensive regulatory experience in their sport. Our purpose was to examine differences in athletes' and non-athletes' development of SRL across a semester of SRL instruction. To assess academic SRL, competitive athletes (n = 81) and non-athletes (n = 187) responded to the context-specific Regulation of Learning Questionnaire (McCardle & Hadwin, 2015) at three points over the course of a semester in a undergraduate course on how to self-regulate. A 2 group (competitive athletes and non-athletes) by 3 time points repeated measures multivariate analysis of variance resulted in significant main effects for group (Pillai's trace = .068, F(5, 244) = 3.58, p = .004, partial eta2 = .068), with athletes reporting less engagement across all SRL processes. A significant main effect of time was also found (Pillai's trace = .086, F(10, 239) = 2.26, p = .015, partial eta2 = .086), with an increase over time for task understanding and evaluating. The interaction was non-significant. Our hypothesis was not supported and the slight disadvantage of athletes in terms of SRL contrasts results found using a domain-general measure (Jonker et al., 2010, 2011); discussion contributes to the debate on domain-specificity of SRL competencies.

Acknowledgments: This research was supported in part by SSHRC Standard Research Grant 410-2008-0700 (PI: Hadwin).