Metacognition, self regulation … and getting started on the farm

Earlier today the Education Endowment Foundation published their new Guidance Report on ‘Metacognition and Self-regulated Learning’.

This addition to the library of Guidance Reports offers seven practical, evidence-based recommendations to support teachers to develop metacognitive skills in their pupils, in short, their ability to plan, monitor and evaluate their own academic progress so they become better at learning and studying.

“This guidance report… introduces a simplified framework for self-regulated learning and metacognition.”  Guidance Report

def.: metacognition (the ability to control cognitive skills)

“On a very basic level, metacognition is about pupils’ ability to monitor and direct their learning. Effective metacognitive approaches get learners to think about their own learning more explicitly, usually by teaching them to set goals, and monitor and evaluate their own academic progress.”   Sir Kevan Collins

Drawn from the best available research and existing evidence it is written by the highly experienced, insightful and informed team of Alex Quigley, Daniel Muijs and Eleanor Stringer.

This guidance is relevant to early years practitioners, teachers and senior leaders in primary and secondary schools, as well as in post-16 settings. It’s designed to give some clarity and guidance to an area of teaching and learning that holds so much promise but that can be difficult to address.

Metacognition and self-regulation –

a little elaboration and modelling

image from Oliver Caviglioli @olivercavigliol

Metacognition and self-regulation approaches aim to help pupils think about their own learning more explicitly, often by teaching them specific strategies for planning, monitoring and evaluating their learning. 

However metacognition is far from confined to the classroom and school days.

Life requires us all to solve problems and find solutions to countless and varied scenarios! If we can help young people become more aware of how habits developed in subject specific contexts can be transferred in to ‘real life’ we are educating for the long-term.

Modelling our approaches to problem solving (setbacks, failures, successes and all) provides a highly effective ‘way in’ to what we might take for granted and others see only as the result of our actions.

The ‘three F’s’ of my life, family, friends and farm keep me grounded, refresh after a busy week and recharge the soul.

The latter, the family farm, is full of problems to solve as I endeavour to help and not hinder the year round activity of my brother-in-law. It’s rich pickings for drawing out the three essential elements at play here:

1. cognition – the skills and knowledge needed to complete the learning task

“It is impossible to be metacognitive without having different cognitive strategies to hand…” Guidance Report

Farm example: The ever-growing range of skills and knowledge (eg tractor driving and techniques) which I can draw upon when out and about on the farm, accrued through time spent with family, friends and employees more experienced than me in the ways of farming!

2. metacognition – the ability to control cognitive skills

quad 2

Farm example: Solving the ongoing problem of how to mend the ageing quadbike which was refusing to start .. a significant challenge as I am far from being an experienced mechanic! So, using what I have gleaned about motors to identify what the issue was likely to be, tinkering to explore it further, realising I needed to test out my thinking with others, ‘extracting’ and removing the troublesome part, re-fitting and putting it all back together …. all new territory for me! Continual monitoring of what I was doing, when and how helped me work to arrive at a solution to a seemingly insurmountable problem for me to resolve on my own. 

3. motivation – the willingness to engage our metacognitive and cognitive skills and abilities

Farm example: my motivation was threefold as if I could not get it started I was going to have to …


a) spend a day shifting a huge pile of felled ‘firewood-to-be’ off a very wet field by hand rather than the quad and trailer

b) disappoint my son who was desperate to help and drive the quad, and

c) pay someone else to do the fix the quad for me!

Thankfully, persistence, determination and patience paid off and I managed to solve the issue, learning plenty along the way as well as saving time, energy and money. Happy days!

Bringing it back to the classroom

The potential impact of approaches developing metacognition is high, especially for low prior achieving and older pupils, but can be difficult to achieve in practice as they require pupils to take greater responsibility for their learning and develop their understanding of what is required to succeed. However, it’s learning for life and we owe it to use best bets from evidence to inform our teaching.

When it comes to the learning, metacognitive strategies should be taught in conjunction with specific subject content as pupils find it hard to transfer these generic tips to specific tasks.

Within the context of learning in a specific subject and guided by the recommendations, we should:

  • model our own thinking to help pupils develop their metacognitive and cognitive skills
  • set an appropriate level of challenge to develop pupils’ self-regulation and metacognition
  • promote and develop metacognitive talk in the classroom
  • explicitly teach pupils how to organise and effectively manage their learning independently

“However teaching metacognition is easier said than done. It’s not just about ‘thinking skills’ and there’s certainly no simple method or trick. We know that learners will develop some of these skills naturally, and most teachers will be supporting metacognition in their teaching without realising it.

But with a large body of international evidence telling us that, when properly embedded, these approaches are powerful levers for boosting learning, it’s clear that we need to spend time looking at how to do this well.” Sir Kevan Collins

So, next steps, with increasing engagement with the Guidance Report might include:

  • (<10 seconds emailing) … share/forward this blog to a colleague
  • (3 mins screen time) … read over the poster summary of recommendations  
  • (5 mins over coffee) … have a conversation with them exploring what you recognise/is new/supports your current practice/challenges your practice
  • (30 minutes today/this weekend/next week) … download the Guidance Report and enjoy a proper read through to uncover the detail and helpful examples it contains
  • (going forward) … integrate approaches that promote metacognition and self-regulation in to your planning for future lessons, interventions, schemes of work, policies etc utilising the EEF Implementation Guidance as a helpful framework


Thanks for reading.


Back with more on behavioural science

The Easter holiday provided a refreshing balance of time away from the day job spent with family and friends, along with reflection and a chance to indulge in more reading of blogs, books, reports and articles.

Following on from my previous blog when I shared the invaluable insights provided by the Behaviour Insights Team publication ‘EAST:Four simple ways to apply behavioural insights‘, one such resource I enjoyed was:

Behavioural Insights for Education: A practical guide for parents, teachers and school leaders


In this complimentary publication, the introductory words of David Halpern CEO, of the Behavioural Insights Team, and National What Works Adviser sets a compelling context:

“There is something very exciting – even inspirational – happening in education right now. Several strands are coming together that are quietly revolutionising how we think about, and go about, learning and teaching: in the classroom, and at home.

First, behavioural science has made great strides in recent years, helping us to understand how subtle differences in what parents and teachers do can make an enormous difference in the learning process.

Second, a new wave of experimentation is overturning many assumptions about what does and doesn’t work.

Third, these developments are being accelerated by insights born of data analytics, offering the promise of unprecedented tailoring of what works, when, and for who.”

Against this big picture, the publication highlighted in this blog, ‘Behavioural Insights for Education A practical guide for parents, teachers and school leaders‘ is yet another invaluable, highly digestible and actionable resource for anyone working within or around education.

The guide looks to equip parents, teachers and school leaders with more tools to make a difference in pupils’/students’ academic lives by setting out simple techniques informed by behavioural science having looked at the details of what parents, teachers and school leaders say and do.

The guide is broken down into three chapters :

Chapter 1 is designed for parents: Behavioural insights at home

This chapter focuses on how parents can use behavioural insights to help their children achieve both educational and personal goals. It includes topics like meta-cognition (and heads up here for the publication very soon of the EEF’s Guidance Report on Meta-cognition and Self Regulation), self-control and mindset theory.

Recent findings are described which might help parents to better understand their child’s behaviour; activities are suggested which may benefit not only their child’s schooling, but their general development too. The following areas are explored and resourced:

1. Helping children to develop positive thinking patterns

  • 1.1. Thinking about thinking
  • 1.2. Understanding the value of effort

2. Helping children to develop strategies to succeed

  • 2.1. Staying focused
  • 2.2. Persevering towards long-term goals

Chapter 2 is designed for teachers: Behavioural insights in the classroom

This chapter provides a range of highly practical ways for teachers to incorporate behavioural insights into how they teach and set up their classrooms. Topics include how to counteract negative self-perceptions and providing effective feedback:

1. Making the classroom a safe place to learn

  • 1.1. Belonging
  • 1.2. Counteracting negative self-perceptions

2. Helping students to think deeply

  • 2.1. Seeing the relevance … why?
  • 2.2. Learning to learn
  • 2.3. Giving effective feedback

Chapter 3 is designed for leaders: Behavioural insights for school management

This final chapter highlights the important role of school leaders and how they can apply behavioural insights to address some of the biggest challenges they face as heads of schools such as teacher recruitment, teacher retention and parental engagement.

1. Recruiting teachers

  • 1.1. Making recruitment relevant

2. Retaining teachers

  • 2.1. Empowering teachers
  • 2.2. Showing gratitude
  • 2.3. Prompting reflection

3. Getting parents involved

  • 3.1. ‘Pre-informing’ parents
  • 3.2. Choosing the right messenger

Given such a variety of potential interest that these sections provide I hope that you gain as much from this guide as I have so far.

When habits are so easy to find ourselves in, the ability to stand back and consider not only our own but those of others becomes a fascinating prospect. Add the insights on how to influence behaviours shared in this guide and you’ve got a rich selection of evidence informed approaches to consider and utilise.

Next steps: how about …

  1. having a copy and the link available at your next parents’ evening to share with families
  2. sharing with a colleague and consider how to implement suggestions within your classroom this term
  3. bringing the report to the attention of a leader in your organisation … have they seen it/used it yet?



Nudge – a sub 2 minute read and a link for life

Last week amidst the snow and disruption I signposted to Harry Fletcher-Wood’s recent post on ‘Nudging in the classroom: behavioural psychology for teachers – an introduction’.

This week I’m sharing an evidence based resource that has significantly influenced me since being introduced to it by our Research School developer Stuart Kime.

The paper in question:

  • sets out four simple principles for influencing behaviour
  • draws on the large body of evidence on what influences behaviour
  • provides a highly useful, memorable framework to think about effective behavioural approaches
  • is based on the work of the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) and wider academic literature

Not come across the illuminating work of the BIT yet? Given it is all about the power of ‘nudges’, put simply …if you want to encourage a behaviour, make it:

  • EASY

Once read, considered and in your mind, it has the capacity to pervade so much of what we do in working with others in education.

READ IT HERE : EAST – Four simple ways to apply behavioural insights

This week for example I have utilised and shared a sense of these insights in a variety of contexts in my work with colleagues:


next step image: pixabay


So whether in the context of your teaching, your leadership, even with family and friends, next steps might be …

  1. take a moment to consider making things easy, attractive, social and timely
  2. take a few minutes to read the paper again
  3. tell someone else about it so you can then share reflections
  4. next time you wish to encourage better habits or change behaviours of someone/others, adult or child, have a go at shaping it using the EAST principles

All the best in your nudging!

Contextual awareness: In order to apply these insights in practice, the Behavioural Insights Team has developed a methodology that draws on experience of developing major strategies for the UK Government, a rich understanding of the behavioural literature, and the rigorous application of tools for testing ‘what works’.

The EAST framework is at the heart of this methodology, but it cannot be applied in isolation from a good understanding of the nature and context of the problem.



Read all about it … in the warm!


source: pixabay, inspiration: a snowy Suffolk!


Hunkering down in a wintery week!

Amidst the snow and winds maybe there’s been a bit more of an opportunity to enjoy some reading? I wonder if the cold has given you a few more moments to get lost in a good book (on World Book Day even?) or open up an interesting link?

With arctic conditions set to continue in to the weekend here’s a selection of three evidence-rich reading recommendations to enjoy in the warm:

  • First … In case you missed it, on Wednesday this week we published our February edition of our Research School e-newsletter (sneak preview pictured below). Containing a wide variety of evidence-based content from EEF Guidance Reports to blogs I hope you find something to interest and inspire you. Follow this link to open up this edition, then browse and click to read more via the hyperlinks.

Feb 18

source: pixabay, reference ‘Switch’ by Heath brothers


source: pixabay

So, whatever you do read, wrap up warm and stay safe!


Ready, steady, bake!

#145 Great British Bake Off meets EEF thinking


One of my lecturers at university told me that he knew he’d got it right when we started to link our learning of the technicalities of third year degree geology to food! From fruit cakes to a pint of Guinness, almost 25 years later (?!) I can still draw to mind the analogies and remember how they helped me understand theory.


So, little wonder that when considering the most recent EEF Guidance Report, Putting Evidence to Work – A School’s Guide to Implementation a culinary analogy or two spring to mind.

This valuable new guidance report aims to give schools the support they need to put evidence to work in their classrooms and implement new programmes and approaches effectively.

The report highlights how good and thoughtful implementation is crucial to the success of any teaching and learning strategy, yet creating the right conditions for implementation – let alone the structured process of planning, delivering and sustaining change – is hard.

The guidance offers six recommendations to help schools give their innovations the very best chance by working carefully through the who, why, where, when and how of managing change.  They can be applied to any school improvement decision: programmes or practices; whole-school or targeted approach; internally or externally generated ideas.

The report frames implementation in four stages: explore; prepare; deliver; and sustain. It also provides guidance on how schools can create the right environment for change, from supporting staff to getting leadership on board.

So, the four phases but with a culinary Bake Off twist might be …

1. Mmmm, what shall I make? … aka the ‘explore’ phase

Think about the occasion you are baking for (.. examine the fit and feasibility of possible interventions to the school context)

  • identify what it is you want to bake (.. specify a tight area of focus for improvement that is amenable to change) then,
  • select a recipe you know has a strong chance of working (.. determine a programme of activity based on existing evidence of what has – and hasn’t – worked before)
  • decide you’re going to give it a go (.. make an adoption decision)

2. Follow the recipe!  … aka the ‘prepare’ phase

Have a good plan (.. a clear, logical and well-specified implementation plan) which includes awareness of:

  • what are the (active) ingredients (.. of the intervention)
  • where ingredients/equipment could be substituted without dramatically impacting the end result (.. know where to be ‘tight’ and where to be ‘loose’)
  • follow a tried and tested recipe that has been proven to work previously (.. develop a targeted, yet multi-stranded, package of implementation strategies)

3. Ready, steady, bake!  … aka the ‘deliver’ phase

Get baking with enthusiasm and an open mind, even when it starts to get a bit tricky (.. adopt a flexible and motivating leadership approach during the turbulent initial attempts at implementation)

  • ask someone who really knows how to bake and enjoy sharing your successes and failures! (.. complement expert coaching and mentoring with structured peer-to-peer collaboration)
  • get creative and innovative when you’ve perfected the recipe (.. make thoughtful adaptations only when the active ingredients are securely understood and implemented)

4. “When I cater for more people”  … aka the ‘sustain’ phase

An essential element of effective implementation includes being able to sustain and scale up an innovation, so:

  • go back to the start of the process before making a bigger batch (.. treat scale-up as a new implementation process)
  • bask in successes, take advice and enjoy the fruits of your toils when you can (..continuously acknowledge, support, and reward good implementation practices)

Enjoy the weekend and happy baking!





Brand new EEF Guidance Report

#144: Bananarama meet Gardener’s Worldaint what you do

Any ideas how the two can be linked?

How about if I throw in the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF)?

Final clue … I’ll be showing my age as I reveal that it hinges on a well known lyric in an 80’s chart classic from a collaboration between pop legends Bananarama and Fun Boy Three?!

The big reveal … it’s all to do with their iconic lyric:

It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it (repeated three times!) … and that’s what gets results.

But how now to link in to the EEF?

Well, today sees the launch of a seminal piece of evidence-based guidance, Putting Evidence to Work: A School’s Guide to Implementation. This brand new guidance report offers six practical and evidence-based recommendations to support successful implementation. They can be applied to any school improvement decision:

  • programmes or practices;
  • whole-school or targeted approaches;
  • internal or externally generated ideas.

The report is free to access and available via this link.


The report highlights how good and thoughtful implementation is crucial to the success of any teaching and learning strategy, yet creating the right conditions for implementation – let alone the structured process of planning, delivering and sustaining change – is hard.

Essentially even the very best intervention or idea will fail to have the impact it could have if implementation is not aligned to context and necessary detail.

The six recommendations detailed in this new guidance will be invaluable to those working in education. They will support schools in giving their innovations the very best chance of success by working carefully through the who, why, where, when and how of managing change.  The real beauty of these recommendations comes in the shape of just how applicable they are.

Just like the EEF’s evidence-informed school improvement cycle they can be applied to any school improvement decision from the individual teacher shaping a new evidenced approach to a scheme of work right through to whole school initiatives and even beyond through TSA/MAT programmes and even system wide change.

The report frames implementation in four stages: explore; prepare; deliver; and sustain. It also provides guidance on how schools can create the right environment for change, from supporting staff to getting leadership on board.

In this super helpful blog, Shaun Allison, Director of Durrington Research School has summarised the main findings and provides insights to aid to understanding the context and introducing the recommendations of this long-awaited guidance report.

But going back to the title … where does Gardner’s World come in? Well, even the grandest of planned gardens or vegetable plots, planted up with the very best quality plants, will wither and fade if:

  • the ground is not prepared well enough (too cold, too stony, too thin, too rich etc)
  • the plants you choose don’t match the conditions you have
  • those chosen are sited in the wrong aspect (in full sun/shade/partial shade)
  • you fail to water the new plants appropriately (too little/too much)
  • the weather takes an unpredicted turn

So whether it’s for your teaching, leadership of change, gardening or next DIY project, this brand new guidance reportPutting Evidence to Work: A School’s Guide to Implementation will be invaluable in seeing the green shoots of your ideas grow, thrive and flourish, and ensure your next venture is provided the very best chance of success.

garden 2


A compelling case … Kevan or Linda?

Last week in our Research School Newsletter I put front and centre a link to a compelling video clip from the recent IOE Public Debate chaired by Professor Becky Francis, Director of UCL Institute of Education (IOE).

The expert panel were debating …

“What if… we really wanted evidence-informed practice in the classroom?”

This short KC imageclip (3:09 minutes) captures a compelling reason, an ‘inspiring why’ from Sir Kevan Collin, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). His insights, are drawn out initially from two classrooms, his and ‘Linda next door’.

What he narrates with passion and purpose provides a clear justification for our right and obligation as educators to know and apply what is known in education.

I hope you do click the link and that this short cameo inspires determination and an open mind as we head in to the final week before half term.

What next?

  • Share this with a colleague
  • For the full debate, follow this link.
  • Click the following link to the referenced EEF Guidance Reports on Literacy (and see also those on Making the Best Use of Teaching Assistants and Improving Mathematics in Key Stages 2 & 3) and check out the easy to digest summaries
  • Look back at my recent posts on meta-cognition for a range of resources and links to bring in to your practice

Enjoy the weekend!





Read all about it!

This week my blog is a link to the e-newsletter I compile as Director of the Samuel Ward Academy Trust Research School. As one of the 23 designated Research Schools we aim to lead the way in the use of evidence-based practice.

Through the network of Research Schools we share what we know about putting research in to practice, and support schools in our regions to make better use of evidence to inform teaching and learning so teachers can really make a difference in the classroom.

The Research School Network ... now with added Ipswich RS to be plotted!
The Research School Network … now with added Ipswich RS to be plotted!

Chief Executive of the EEF, Sir Kevan Collins took part in Tuesday’s UCL IoE debate on “What if… we really wanted evidence-informed practice in the classroom?” In this short extract/clip (3:09 mins) he shares a compelling and inspiring rationale not to be missed.

50% of our activity revolves around creating regular communication and events to encourage schools in our network to make use of evidence-based programmes and practices. Our monthly e-newsletters include an array of links to blogs, podcasts, articles, reports and sources of inspiration to inform evidence-based practice.

This month sees a star studded compilation with input from inspiring colleagues within and beyond the network …

…take a look and find out who is in this month’s here

…share with others

… and subscribe to receive future editions straight to your inbox

A sneak preview of our January e-newsletter available now

I hope you find it a useful resource and enjoy browsing the links.


Meta-cognitive strategies from The Learning Scientists

This week saw the final day of our TSC EENEL RQT Programme. It was a great day and a wonderful opportunity and an absolute pleasure to work with a group of talented teachers from local schools in the early stages of their career.


During the course of the day we explored a variety of evidence based resources including a number relating to last week’s blog focus, meta-cognition. Engaging with evidence can inspire significant professional learning and the adopting of ever more effective practices and habits. In a previous blog I outlined how evidence can provide ‘best bets‘, and, when combined with professional experience within a context, has the potential to inform highly effective learning.

One set of resources that were seen to be really valuable and highly transferable across age phases were the Six Strategies for Effective Learning by the Learning Scientists,

“… cognitive psychological scientists interested in research on education. Our main research focus is on the science of learning. (Hence, “The Learning Scientists”!)

Our Vision is to make scientific research on learning more accessible to students, teachers, and other educators.

We aim to :

  • Motivate students to study
  • Increase the use of effective study and teaching strategies that are backed by research
  • Decrease negative views of testing

This is not a product or a sales pitch – just science!”

The Learning Scientists, About Us,

They share their research freely via their website, blogs, podcasts, YouTube channel and Twitter (@AceThatTest) so if you haven’t capitalised on them do check them out!

The six strategies are brought to life by the talents of Oliver Caviglioli utilising and modelling one of the strategies itself, dual coding.

SUMMARYEach of the strategies is clearly presented and available in a range of formats – posters, powerpoints, bookmarks and stickers. Through the dual coding and simple language they are highly accessible.

As a resource for teachers they are invaluable and great to explore, share and use with pupils/students … and with parents.

I have certainly benefitted from embedding these strategies within my own teaching (of children and adults) and learning since ‘discovering’ them via one of their blogs in early 2016.

We were fortunate enough to welcome co-founders Yana and Megan to Suffolk as part of their ‘UK Tour’ in summer 2017. This was the result of a speculative invite sent to the Learning Scientists, via Twitter, by a colleague saying ..’if you are ever in the UK …’ and proves that asking a question can open doors of opportunity! The half day workshops they ran were fantastic and highly valued by teachers from across age phases from early years to post-16. We included student workshops as well and they were equally appreciated and even saw a re-naming of ‘interleaving‘ (to ‘jumbling it up’) by one of the students taking part which then formed the basis of a Learning Scientist blog.

Since then the language of these strategies have become more apparent in the schools and classrooms of our trust and in professional conversations which are further developing our practices.


If new to the Learning Scientists …

  • check out their resources via their website
  • download and study the resources for one of the strategies (maybe start with retrieval practice or spaced practice)
  • think about how the strategy might be utilised in your classroom/own learning aided by their blogs and podcasts (such as these on spaced practice)
  • follow them on Twitter

If aware of them, go further …

  • subscribe to their great blogs
  • check out their whole range of resources including podcasts and searchable library of blogs
  • ask them questions via Twitter, for example via their regular Twitter Chat #LrnSciChat – the next one being on Monday 22nd January at 9pm

And for those familiar with all of the above ….

  • make it your mission to share your knowledge, understanding and application of this evidence based set of strategies with:
    • a colleague yet to discover the potential they hold
    • a struggling pupil/student (especially if sitting exams this year)
    • their parents!







Unpacking Meta-cognition

Last week I shared the following image, a snapshot from Dr Jonathan Sharples’s presentation on our SWA Trust PD Day:

metacog definition

So, this week, a little more elaboration on such a promising approach within teaching and learning.

A glance at the EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit will highlight meta-cognition’s low cost (single ‘£’), high evidence strength (four padlocks) and high impact (+8 months)As seen below, when plotting toolkit strategies using cost per pupil and effect size, meta-cognition is clearly highlighted as one of the most promising set of approaches and interventions that we should consider for pupils’ learning.


source: J Sharples, EEF Presentation, Jan 2018

So what is involved?

With the help of extracts from the printable EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit summary and a couple of other useful sources, here we go …

Meta-cognition and self-regulation approaches (sometimes known as ‘learning to learn’ approaches) aim to help learners think about their own learning more explicitly. This is 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. The intention is often to give pupils a repertoire of strategies to choose from during learning activities.

Dylan Wiliam describes and explains it with clarity and precision in this short linked YouTube clip.

As broken down in the image at the start of this post, successful meta-cognition requires knowledge of task, strategies and yourself as a learner. Applying this knowledge through planning, monitoring and evaluating learning is something that we as teachers, parents and carers should take every opportunity to actively encourage and model.

This can often be done by encouraging pupils to ask themselves questions such as these from this Inner Drive poster below; the simple act of modelling this to pupils by verbalising your own thinking as a teacher, can be a powerful influence and illustrates the teacher as ‘model learner’.


At this point I would add that meta-cognition is not ‘achieved’ through a plethora of posters or checklists within lessons, rather by it being embedded within learning and instruction in the classroom. Hearing yourself and your pupils say things like these further question stems below would tend to indicate meta-cognition is ‘in progress’.


source: Pinterest

Meta-cognition and self-regulation approaches have consistently high levels of impact, with pupils making an average of eight months’ additional progress. The evidence indicates that teaching these strategies can be particularly effective for low achieving and older pupils.

These strategies are usually more effective when taught in collaborative groups so learners can support each other and make their thinking explicit through discussion.

A final example of how we can model and encourage meta-cognition, courtesy of the dual coding of Oliver Caviglioli, illustrates how just a few words/prompts can be all that is required:


source: Oliver Caviglioli, teachingHow2 library

However, a word of caution …

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. It is possible to support pupils’ work too much, so that they do not learn to monitor and manage their own learning but come to rely on the prompts and support from the teacher. “Scaffolding” provides a useful metaphor: a teacher would provide support when first introducing a pupil to a concept, then reduce the support to ensure that the pupil continues to manage their learning autonomously.

EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit summary

So, what should we consider?

Before we implement meta-cognition in our learning environment, we should consider the following:

1. Teaching approaches which encourage learners to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning have very high potential, but require careful implementation.

2. Have you taught pupils explicit strategies on how to plan, monitor and evaluate specific aspects of their learning? Have you given them opportunities to use them with support and then independently?

3. Teaching how to plan: Have you asked pupils to identify the different ways that they could plan (general strategies) and then how best to approach a particular task (specific technique)?

4. Teaching how to monitor: Have you asked pupils to consider where the task might go wrong? Have you asked the pupils to identify the key steps for keeping the task on track?

5. Teaching how to evaluate: Have you asked pupils to consider how they would improve their approach to the task if they completed it again?