Metacognition – what, why (…and how)

16 December 2017

Author: Niki Kaiser

Metacognition: what is it?

The EEF is currently writing a Guidance Report on Metacognition and Self-regulation, because it is recognised as a low cost, high impact way of helping students (and improving outcomes). In a meeting this week, a group of us were trying to define exactly what we mean by “metacognition” and “self-regulation”. In their toolkit, the EEF outlines what we mean by metacognition approaches: “[they support pupils to] think about their own learning more explicitly… usually by teaching pupils specific strategies to set goals, and monitor and evaluate their own academic development. Self-regulation means managing one’s own motivation towards learning.”

During our discussion, I said that it’s the kind of thing that we probably do (and have done) for a long time, which is why we’ve all been successful in things like exams. When we study, we think about why we did what we did; we consider what went wrong when we’re not pleased with an outcome; we reflect on experiences, and decide which strategies were helpful (and which were unhelpful). We decide for ourselves what we’ll do again next time, what we’ll do better next time, and what we’ll abandon.

But these things are pretty intangible at times; they’re often tacit, and they feel instinctive. Our thought processes are probably habitual, and we might not even realise that we regulate ourselves and have such a high degree of self-awareness. We’ve probably also forgotten how and when we developed these skills.

Metacognition- why?

Meta-cognition and self-regulation approaches have consistently high levels of impact, can be particularly effective for low achieving and older pupils, which is why teachers are so interested in finding ways of teaching these skills. But they aren’t always sure of what the terms mean. And even if they are, they’re not always sure what they look like in practice, and how best to teach them.

As the EEF states: “The potential impact of these approaches is very high, but can be difficult to achieve as they require pupils to take greater responsibility for their learning and develop their understanding of what is required to succeed. There is no simple method or trick for this.” The EEF tells us that “Teaching approaches which encourage learners to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning have very high potential, but require careful implementation”

Metacognition- how

We have written about some ways that we have introduced it at our school including in revision and study, in marking and in feedback. And at Rosendale Research School, they introduced a programme, ReflectEd, that saw pupils make an additional four months progress in maths.ReflectED is an approach to learning developed by Rosendale Primary School that teaches and develops children’s metacognition skills. It enhances pupils’ ability to think about their learning, assess their progress, set and monitor goals, identify strengths and challenges in their learning and develop a learning dialogue between pupil and teacher.

Rosendale Primary School is now recruiting for a whole school metacognition research project starting next year – ReflectED 2018. You can read more about it (and sign up) here.



Posted on 16 December 2017
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