Metacognition – a little elaboration

2 May 2018

Author: Andy Samways

Last Friday 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

“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

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

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.

image from @olivercavigliol

Metacognition and self-regulation – a little elaboration

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. As we seek to do this we should utilise the three essential elements at play:

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

  • What are the range of skills and knowledge which are being drawn upon?

2. metacognition – the ability to control cognitive skills

  • In tackling the problem how are the cognitive skills identified above being utilised, combined, tweaked, tested out etc in order for the problem to be successfully solved?
  • How is continual monitoring of what is being done, when and how helping to arrive at a solution?

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

  • What is it that is driving the effort to solve the problem?

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:

  1. (<10 seconds emailing) … share/forward this blog to a colleague
  2. (3 mins screen time) … read over the poster summary of recommendations  
  3. (5 mins over coffee) … have a conversation with a colleague exploring what you recognise/is new/supports your current practice/challenges your practice
  4. (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
  5. (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
Posted on 2 May 2018
Posted in: Blog
Tags: , , , , ,

Comments are closed.