Friday, 27 January 2017

Self-Regulation and The Breakfast Club

We are currently learning about adolescents and self-regulation in our MEHRIT centre course.  We talked about how teenagers want to understand the science behind self-regulation, the biology and the cognition so that they understand why to do self-regulation and how it supports them. While I have never taught secondary school I am mom to two wonderful daughters and I remember the stress that they endured as teenagers and the stress that I endured as well.

One of our assignments was to select a teen-aged character from movies, TV or literature and analyze them using the question prompts from the Self-Reg Five Domain Student Profile. 

This is one of those assignments where I could spend way too much time just thinking about which adolescent character to use - Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger from J.K. Rowling were my first thought.  Then I thought about Holden Caufield from Catcher in the Rye.  Instead, I went back to my youth and watched The Breakfast Club as my 'homework.'  I chose to analyze Allison, portrayed by Ally Sheedy, aka 'the basket case.'


Biological Domain:

  • Allison appears tired and withdrawn
  • She withdraws by putting her head down on the table and covering herself with the hood of her jacket. 
  • Her lunch consists of sugar packets (pixie sticks) and cereal on slices of white bread

Emotional Domain:
  • Allison is initially very quiet and withdrawn with occasional outbursts
  • when embarrassed she does not 'bounce back' but instead she withdraws and hides in her large jacket 
  • She reveals that she has a strained relationship with her parents as they are busy with problems of their own
  • She talks about running away from home
Cognitive Domain: - very little information is provided on the cognitive domain

Social Domain:
  • Allison states "I have no friends"
  • She engages in solitary activities such as drawing
  • She keeps herself separate from the rest of the group - sits away from them, uses her clothing and furniture as a barrier
  • She begins to participate in group activities as the movie progresses such as dancing on the top of the bookshelves with Claire
  • She reveals that she didn't actually have a detention; she comes to detention because she wants to. This makes me wonder if she wants to have friends, isn't sure how to make friends and going to detention is her way of being around other people without a lot of expectations to interact.  She is looking for peers to help her regulate and detention is where she knows she can find them.
  • She is willing to let Claire give her a makeover and kisses Andrew at the end of the film so she appears to be engaging in 'friend-making behaviour.'  
Prosocial Domain:
  • Allison is a compulsive liar
  • She is a thief
  • She does not participate in school activities such as clubs, teams, etc.
  • She purposefully engages in activities that would be considered 'weird' like using her dandruff to add snow to a picture 
  • She does understand the complexity of social norms.  When the students are talking about sex, she says,  "Well, if you say you haven't, you're a prude.  If you say you have, you're a slut.  It's a trap. You want to but you can't and when you do you wish you didn't." 
I found this to be a great way to practice using the five domains to analyze behaviour.  Since I haven't taught secondary school students, do those of you in secondary or post-secondary think this would be a worthwhile activity for students as part of ongoing learning about self-regulation?  I think it would also be interesting to look at Allison's behaviour through the Five Steps of Self-Regulation as well.  What character from what movie, TV show or book would you choose?


  1. I loved this assignment. I went with my favourite movie, "The Wizard of Oz", and looked at Dorothy through the self-reg lens. I think this would be a great exercise for students to do as well. Dr. Shanker talks about "going metacognitive" with older teens, and this certainly would be one avenue for that.

    1. Love it - what a great choice! I'm curious to see what characters the other people in my course will choose but so far I'm the only one who has posted.