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How to guide Metacognition effectively in your classroom

How to guide Metacognition effectively in your classroom

4 min read
  • Metacognition

As the evidence surrounding the positive effects of metacognition keeps increasing, teachers want to know more about how it can be implemented most effectively in their schools. Whilst some feel that metacognition is on every school’s radar, some may believe it is neglected or still a misunderstood technique. Most are aware of the benefits of metacognition for learners, but how can educators make sure they’re doing it effectively? Here are the expert guidelines on metacognition in schools

What is Metacognition?

Metacognition refers to thinking better: critical thinking, analysing how you think, and being self-aware are all key skills necessary to become a metacognitive learner. It’s often referred to as “thinking about thinking” and allows individuals to monitor, reflect, and analyse their academic performance. Teaching students to develop their metacognitive skills will guide them to effective and efficient learning, and ultimately enhance their learning process.

What does the research say?

Research suggests that teaching metacognition effectively in schools has a very positive effect on student outcomes; more specifically on academic performance and motivation. Research highlights that this is especially true for maths, with students at all math levels benefitting substantially from metacognitive instruction. 

Metacognitive strategies are also strongly linked to enhanced motivation, and continues to keep the positive motivation cycle running:

The virtuous cycle of metacognition and metacognition

Those students who are more committed to their learning as a result of being motivated are likely to gain more from their education. Evidence shows that well-motivated students were more likely to achieve higher grades than their demotivated peers. Further research has been conducted to identify who benefits the most from metacognitive teaching. The results suggests that metacognitive interventions are successful for students from primary age through to university students.

It is also suggested that disadvantaged and struggling students benefit greatly from being taught metacognition. This is possibly because metacognition teaches students to believe in their own abilities. Self-awareness coupled with self-efficacy is a great way to build confidence in students and enhance their motivation – leading to better academic outcomes.

Teaching should embrace all students, and techniques should be implemented to ensure that all students are benefitting. This can be especially difficult when we know that classrooms have a broad range of personality types, academic performance, pre-existing skills etc. Metacognition as a strategy can increase self-regulation in all kinds of students and help them all to become more successful learners. The research shows that it can be particularly effective for pupils with challenging behaviours such as impulsivity, poor teamwork, and not paying attention in class.

Develop your students’ self-regulation, emotional control and independent learning with a Metacognition CPD workshop.

How to make it more effective

One of the best ways to develop metacognitive skills in the classroom is by enhancing each of the three stages of a task: before, during, and after. By helping your students establish stronger steps to carry out each stage, you can help improve the final outcome whilst simultaneously fostering metacognitive skills in them.


As we’ve heard countless times, preparation is key. Take this one step further and teach your students howto prepare. A great way to do this is by encouraging them to set clear goals. Goal setting is something we’re passionate about as it enhances motivation and helps students focus their efforts.


The time spent setting goals at the previous step will prove especially useful as it will allow students to monitor their progress during the completion of a task. Employing self-regulation strategies to manage their feelings and actions throughout is a strong contender for the key tactics for students to achieve success.


Reflect, reflect, reflect! Teachers must emphasise the importance of reflection as it is the best way for students to learn from the experience. This will help them advance and improve their work in the future. Develop their self-awareness by encouraging students to recognise their strengths and weaknesses and question their decisions.

Delivering Metacognition

There are many strategies that teachers can employ to deliver metacognitive strategies. We have done the research and come up with some key things to remember:

  • Embed it across the whole curriculum rather than in some select lessons. This will ensure that students are using the metacognitive skills they learn across a range of subjects and tasks. The practice will enhance their skills and eventually make “thinking about thinking” a natural instinct.
  • Be explicit in the purpose of developing metacognitive skills. Tell your students about the benefits of metacognition. Show them the research that demonstrates its effectiveness. When students are aware of why they’re learning what they’re learning, they will be more inclined to focus and work harder towards achieving it.
  • Don’t rush it: metacognition works best over a longer period of time. If you don’t see any major differences in students after a few lessons, don’t give up! The process of making positive changes to thinking is not an easy one, however, with time the benefits will be evident through academic success.

Final thoughts

The conversation surrounding metacognition is a positive one. Teachers are willing to learn more about its benefits and implement its strategies in their teaching. It is important for teachers to ensure that they are effectively translating these techniques onto their students so that they can gain as much as possible from their learning.

Check out our page for a more in-depth guide to everything you need to know about metacognition.

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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