Deborah Butler, PhD


Dr. Deborah L. Butler received her PhD in educational psychology from Simon Fraser University in 1993. In 1994, she joined the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia. She is currently Professor in UBC’s Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Special Education. Across a 10 year period (2003-2012), she served as Director for the Centre of Cross-Faculty Inquiry, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs and Research, Associate Dean for Strategic Development, and Senior Associate Dean for the Faculty of Education. She is Past-President of the Canadian Association for Educational Psychology. Starting in 2013 Dr. Butler joined CHES as a Scholar. She continues to enjoy opportunities to engage with colleagues interested in health professions education and related scholarship through that role.

Supported by multiple, sequential grants from Canada’s Tri-Councils (SSHRC), Dr. Butler’s research has influenced both research and practice internationally. Since joining UBC, she has published two books and 56 influential articles and book chapters, presented 115 refereed papers at national or international conferences, provided 85 workshops with/for educational organizations, and produced over 100 research reports for educational partners and/or government. Her research advances understanding about intentional, self-regulated engagement in learning and practice, professional learning processes, knowledge mobilization, inclusive and special education, and case study research methodology.

Research Interests

  1. Self- and Co-Regulated Learning. Dr. Butler applies a socio-constructivist perspective to investigate how learning environments (e.g., norms and values, both explicitly surfaced and hidden curricula, instruction, tasks, assessment, social interactions) can empower learners and foster deliberate and intentional learning and practice. Recent projects, all undertaken collaboratively with colleagues, have focused on university students’ learning within inquiry-oriented activities in science; fostering adolescents’ strategic engagement in “learning through reading”; teacher professional learning and practice development at individual, school, and systems levels; and innovative approaches to fostering lifelong (“self-regulated”) learning in medical education.
  2. Professional Development and Learning. Her research extends a model of self-and co-regulation to investigate professions education and continuing professional development. Her work has informed understanding about the early and continuing professional learning of educators, and the promise of inquiry-based, collaborative PD in terms of fostering both pre-service and on-going professional learning. More recently, she is also focusing on professional learning in/through practice in health professions education.
  3. Inclusive Educational Practices that Support Success for Diverse Learners. Over time Dr. Butler has applied a model of self-and co-regulated learning to better understand the challenges faced by struggling learners, and to identify practices that can support their development of academically effective approaches to learning within inclusive environments.
  4. Research Design and Methodology. Dr. Butler has also contributed by developing and writing about methodological approaches, particularly case study methodologies, that are productive for researching complex, dynamic learning processes as anchored in contexts.

Publication Highlights

Butler, D. L., & Schnellert, L. (2020). Negotiating Meaning and Engagement: Socially Shared Strategic Processing. In Dinsmore, D. L., Fryer, L. K., & Parkinson, M. M., Handbook of strategies and strategic processing: Conceptualization, intervention, measurement, and analysis (pp. 63-81). NY: Routledge.

MacNeil, K., Cuncic, C., Voyer, S., Butler, D., Hatala, R. (2019, on-line). Necessary but not sufficient: Identifying conditions for effective feedback during internal medicine residents’ clinical education. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 1-14. Doi: 10.1007/x10459-019-09948-8.

Butler, D. L. & Cartier, S. C. (2018). Case studies as a methodological framework for studying and assessing SRL. In D. Schunk & J. Greene (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation of learning and performance (2nd ed.), pp. 352-369. NY: Routledge.

Butler, D. L., Schnellert, L., & Perry, N. E. (2017). Developing self-regulating learners. Don Mills, ON: Pearson.

Voyer, S., Cuncic, C., Butler, D. L., MacNeil, K., Watling, C., Hatala, R. (2016). Investigating conditions for meaningful feedback in the context of an evidence-based feedback programme. Medical Education, 50, 943-954.

Butler, D. L., & Brydges, R. (2013). Learning in the health professions: What does self-regulation have to do with it? Medical Education, 46(1), 71-79.

Brydges, R. & Butler, D. L. (2012). A reflective analysis of medical education research on self-regulation in learning and practice. Medical Education, 46, 71-79.

Butler, D. L. (2011). Investigating self-regulated learning using in-depth case studies. In B. J. Zimmerman, & D. H. Schunk (Eds.), Handbook of Self-Regulation of Learning and Performance (pp. 346-360). NY: Routledge.


  • 2020 Killam Teaching Prize, University of British Columbia
  • 2017 Book Award from Exceptionality Education International, Developing Self-Regulating Learners