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How to Improve Metacognition

Everything you need to know about how to help students improve metacognition

DON’T BE PUT OFF BY THE NAME – DEVELOPING METACOGNITION STRATEGIES AND USING METACOGNITION IN THE CLASSROOM IS ONE OF THE SIMPLEST WAYS TO HELP STUDENTS IMPROVE.

How Do You Improve Metacognition in Your Students

Metacognition refers to students ability to be aware of what they are thinking about and choosing helpful thought process. It is often divided into three parts – before, during and after a task. Research from the Sutton Trust Education Endowment Foundation suggests that metacognition is one of the most effective and cost efficient ways to help students make gains in their learning.

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What Is Metacognition?

Metacognition is:

  • The ability to critically analyse how you think – this means evaluating how well you performed and what caused your successes and failures

  • Having high self-awareness and control over your thoughts – actively choosing what they want to think about

  • Developing appropriate thinking strategies at each stage of a task – effective preparation, monitoring and self-evaluation
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How Do I Improve Metacognition?

There are many ways to improve metacognition. These include:

  • Self-Questioning – having students ask themselves questions such as ‘is this similar to previous tasks?’, ‘what should I do first?’ and ‘what would I do differently next time?’

  • Modelling – explaining to students how you would approach a task or exam question means they can tap into your knowledge and develop their metacognitive skills.

  • Self-Awareness – by better understanding how they approach and complete a task, students will be able to select helpful strategies

A recent review of the research found that metacognitive strategies help pupils make an average of eight months additional progress

Proven benefits in Maths, English and Science subjects and for Pupil Premium students

Blogs on how to improve metacognition

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Infographics on Metacognition for the Classroom

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

I want to improve metacognition for my students. But where Do I Begin?

Many people are put off by the name. It sounds complicated and it’s not obvious what it is. By explaining to students that metacognition is the ability to think about their thoughts and choose helpful strategies, we give them a firm platform from which they can develop more advanced metacognitive strategies

People tend not to try very hard at learning a new skill if they don’t know why it will help them. Psychologists call this creating a sense of purpose. Once students know that these sort of skills will help them achieve their goals, they are much more likely to want to develop them.

How else can I help students improve metacognition?

One of the most simple and effective ways to improve metacognition is to have students ask themselves good questions. This can be done at each stage of a task (i.e. before, during and after). You can read more about this type of approach in our blog 9 Questions That Develop Metacognition.

Can my class feedback help improve metacognition?

A lot of teachers tell us that once they have given students their mark or grade, the students are less likely to listen to and reflect on it. One way to get around this is to ask them a few simple questions that make them think about how they did their work before giving them their final mark. This includes questions such as ‘how much time did you spend on this?’, ‘is this your best work?’ and ‘what advice would you give to someone else doing a similar project?’. This will help strike the right balance of developing metacognitive strategies whilst also letting students know what grades they got.

Improving metacognition sounds expensive. Is it?

No not at all. In fact, research by the Sutton Trust Education Endowment Foundation Toolkit rates metacognitive skills as one of the cheapest interventions schools can do, with learners making an average of 8 months additional progress. This is because it doesn't require expensive materials and the impact can be so large. These findings have shown that metacognitive skills and metacognitive strategies are especially effective for pupil premium students.

Can you recommend more stuff for me to read about how to improve metacognition?

Here are a few good places to start:

Do you want to help your students improve metacognition?

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