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The effect of Metacognition in schools

The effects of Metacognition in schools

4 min read
  • Metacognition

We’ve been hearing a lot about metacognition in the education world in the last few years; does it actually work, or is it just a fad?

With an estimated 7 months additional progress resulting from metacognitive thinking, we believe in its power to create successful learners. Many may disregard metacognition, as they think it’s the latest buzzword in teaching. However, teaching students to be self-aware, reflective, and to set attainable goals can have long-lasting positive effects that contribute to their performance.

The effects of teaching Metacognition in schools

Metacognition is often described as “thinking about thinking” (although there is a bit more to it). It is an internal, psychological process that is necessary for effective learning and problem solving. It involves active control over our own cognitive processes and enhances our self-awareness.

Research suggests that metacognition is one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to help students advance their learning. Students can bear the fruits of metacognitive thinking by developing a thorough understanding of their cognitive abilities and how to apply them effectively.

Metacognition allows people to solve novel problems in different contexts. It is particularly useful in classrooms, as it has great potential to equip children to become successful learners. A meta-analysis of over 50 studies suggested that when metacognition is taught effectively in schools, there is a very positive effect on pupil outcomes. There is strong evidence indicating that children who are taught metacognitive skills effectively tend to make better progress than children who are not, with an estimated 7 months additional progress. Adopting effective metacognitive skills and strategies and learning how to genuinely understand the information that they are learning (instead of simply wanting to do well in terms of grades) is becoming more and more important. This is because it becomes easier to then transfer what they learn in the classroom to other areas in their life.

Help your students optimise their memory, develop their metacognitive skills, and tackle challenges more effectively.

How to teach Metacognition effectively

There is a difference between knowing about what is involved in metacognition and being able to successfully apply metacognitive skills when completing tasks. One of the biggest differences lies in the way teachers relay their understanding of the concept to their students.

The impact of metacognition will only be visible when teachers are “fluent” with the concept, and fully understand it by applying the skills themselves. This will give them the autonomy and support they need to develop their teaching skills. Once teachers have the foundation for metacognition, they can begin to develop it in their students.

Here are a few ways teachers can bring metacognition to the classroom:

Goal setting

Goal setting is an important factor in the process of metacognition. However, the teacher shouldn’t take sole responsibility for setting and monitoring targets. If students are the one doing this, they can develop their autonomy and manage their own learning, instead of relying on prompts and support from the teacher. Co-creating goals with your students can give them a sense of ownership and assure them of your support. It is important that students are taught metacognitive strategies explicitly and are then given the time to apply them independently. Check out our blog on how to do goal setting right for more tips.

Reflect and evaluate

One of the key aspects of metacognition is being able to reflect on the work that has been done and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses. This helps students determine how successful the strategies and skills they used were in helping them achieve their goals. Teachers could prompt students to consider how well they did this time, and what they could do differently in the future. Encouraging students to question themselves will increase their self-awareness and further develop their metacognitive thinking. A brilliant way of keeping up the habit of self-reflection is by keeping a diary. If students are writing down their targets, reflecting on how they went and consciously trying to do better, they will have the best chance of success.

Get help from a professional

Having a professional come into your school and teach the students about metacognitive thinking has been shown to have distinct positive effects. Alternatively, you can hold a workshop for teachers, so that they can look at the research directly, discuss it with professionals and learn strategies that will work for their specific classroom. They can then relay this knowledge back to their students more easily and help them develop their own metacognitive skills. This is exactly what we offer in our Metacognition CPD workshops at InnerDrive.

So, what are the benefits of Metacognition for students ?

Improves performance

Having a strong awareness of their knowledge and abilities will ensure that students make use of the appropriate skills and strategies that will lead to success.

Improves interactions with others

Students who develop metacognitive thinking are usually better communicators because they have control over their thoughts and cognitive processes.

Can be applied to different settings

The skills students learn regarding metacognition can be applied both in the classroom, and outside of it, allowing students to make advancements in all aspects of their life.

Final thoughts

It is important for teachers to understand the effects of developing and applying metacognitive skills in the classroom, with the end-goal of improving students’ outcomes. Teachers could employ strategies that help students monitor, plan and evaluate their performance to raise their self-awareness and further their metacognitive thinking. If you want to go deeper into the subject, you can find more advanced metacognition techniques on our guide to metacognition, which is also available as a free ebook.

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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