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The world of education is beginning to wake up to the potential benefits of using metacognition to enhance learning in students. But is all the noise just a fad, that will disappear just as quick as it has appeared? This wiki article, compiled by the UKEdChat community, explores the what's, why's and how's of implementing metacognitive strategies in schools - edited by @digicoled, as well as using metacognitive strategies in leadership and business.

Explore our Metacognition INSET and training courses by clicking here

What is Metacognition

Metacognition refers to the ability to reflect upon, understand, and control one's learning (Schraw & Dennison, 1994). Educational philosopher John Dewey believed that an individual actually learns more from ‘thinking about his experiences’ rather than from the ‘actual experiences’ themselves. Thus, this idea is not new but the practice of examining and reflecting on experiences, or metacognition, dates back to Socrates and continues to be explored by today’s neuroscientists.

Most simply defined, metacognition is most simply 'thinking about thinking', consisting of two components: knowledge and regulation.

Metacognitive knowledge includes knowledge about oneself as a learner and the factors that might impact performance, knowledge about strategies, and knowledge about when and why to use strategies.

Metacognitive regulation is the monitoring of one’s cognition and includes planning activities, awareness of comprehension and task performance, and evaluation of the efficacy of monitoring processes and strategies (Lai, 2011).

Metacognition also improves with appropriate instruction, with empirical evidence supporting the notion that students can be taught to reflect on their own thinking, so the role of the teacher in developing metacognitive skills is critical, and research has shown that young children are capable of rudimentary forms of metacognitive thought, particularly after the age of 3.

Being aware of how our minds work, including how our own biases can influence our reaction to situations, was a major consideration in Daniel Kahneman's 'Thinking Fast and Slow' award-winning book (Link to book on Amazon UK). There are a lot of parallels with metacognition within Kahneman's work, especially how we recognise two systems within our minds - one that thinks and reacts automatically to situations, and the other which is more considered, includes agency, and demands concentration. The connection here is being aware of our thought-processes, what strategies work for us when solving problems, and challenging our automated responses and biases to various challenges we all face.

Why should we be using Metacognition in Education?

Although @digicoled wrote an article showcasing 12 reasons why metacognition should be used in education, there are actually four main reasons which argue most strongly that metacognitive pedagogies should be used to enhance learning:

  • Meta-analyses completed by John Hattie. Hattie's ongoing work, focusing on the most impactful of pedagogical strategies across the world, based on research, showed that metacognition achieves a Pedagogical Impact Score Of d=0,69. With all things considered, Hattie found that the average effect size of all the interventions he studied was d=0.40. He considered d=0.40 to be the ‘hinge point’ that typified what should be a normal progression in a school year of our pupils. In his 2018 book, alongside Klaus Zierer, he adjusted the impact score higher to d=0,69, placing metacognition near the top ten of effective strategies.
  • Evidence published by the Education Endowment Foundation in the UK. The EEF explored the impact of metacognition, concluded metacognition as having ‘high impact for very low cost‘, giving 7+ months’ advancement as the likely impact on learning. Their initial calculation for 8+months advancement was amended in 2019, following further analysis from research (link).
  • The OECD (2014) highlighted how Singapore implemented metacognitive strategies in teaching and learning in the early 2000's. Their results speak for themselves.
  • Evidence shows that being metacognitively strong helps develop independent learning. Metacognitively aware learners are more strategic and perform better than unaware learners.

Challenging Biases

Being mindfully aware of your own decision, reactions and biases are a fundamental element of metacognition, and Daniel Kahneman (see above) provided a lot of considered attention to such awareness in our own minds when faced with certain situations in life. A study with primary school children came to positive conclusions and suggested that mindfulness-based interventions can develop metacognitive skills in individuals (reference). This makes sense, as being mindfully aware of your own thoughts, biases and decision-making processes are all major aspects of being metacognitively strong.

Metacognition Strategies that can be used in Education

Through research and pedagogical practice, @digicoled (Hill, 2019) has compiled a collection of over 60 metacognitive strategies (taken from research and his own professional practice) that can be used in schools, colleges, universities or businesses to enhance the successful implementation of tasks. There is a collection of core activities, that can be used in any setting which helps individuals understand and learn about metacognition, along with activities which are more suited for younger or older learners accordingly. To successfully implement metacognitive strategies, teachers (or leaders) need to consider the 4p's of metacognition:

  • Patience
  • Planning
  • Persistence
  • Permanence

Metacognition is no quick fix. It's not a strategy that can be implemented and resulting in immediate positive outcomes. Plan Metacognition strategies with colleagues, and patiently implement them into daily practice with your students, persisting with subtle language and question changes over a prolonged period.

The Education Endowment Foundation (ref) highlight 5 questions that teachers and school leaders should consider before implementing this strategy in your learning environment:

  1. Which explicit strategies can you teach your pupils to help them plan, monitor, and evaluate specific aspects of their learning?
  2. How can you give them opportunities to use these strategies with support, and then independently?
  3. How can you ensure you set an appropriate level of challenge to develop pupils’ self-regulation and metacognition in relation to specific learning tasks?
  4. In the classroom, how can you promote and develop metacognitive talk related to your lesson objectives?
  5. What professional development is needed to develop your knowledge and understanding of these approaches? Have you considered professional development interventions which have been shown to have an impact in other schools?

A Metacognitive Cycle

In a LinkedIn article written by @digicoled, a metacognitive cycle was developed (adaptable for education) offering a 5-pronged process to help develop metacognition thinking:

Ultimately, learning starts with the individual learner (Me!), and then through a process of planning, doing, reviewing and acting on feedback, questions should be asked and answered within the thought-process to help for successful outcomes.

Research & References

  • Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) - (Web Link).
  • Hill, Colin (2019) Why, what and How - Metacognition in Education - Presentation at The Education Show, 2019 (London) - Presentation slides, notes and references at
  • Lai, Emily R. (2011) Metacognition - A Literature Review, PEARSON, PDF available via this link.
  • Shraw, G. & Dennison, Rayne S. (1994) “Assessing Metacognitive Awareness”, Contemporary Educational Psychology, 19, 460-475 (link).

Additional Resources & Reading

  • Become Aware of your own Biases - Media Smarts article about being aware of your own biases, in terms of social media sharing (Link).
  • Dealing with stress during tennis competition . The association of approach- and avoidance-coping with metacognition and achievement goal theory perspectives. Research found links between players’ metacognitive thinking in training and the strategies they use to cope with pressure during tennis competition. PDF Link.
  • Designing Metacognitive Activities (2001) - A framework for analysing metacognitive interventions (PDF) by Xiaodong Lin (Link).
  • Improving Learning in Schools (2019), via Luke Sawyer (International Curriculum Coordinator at Fieldwork Education), remarks of metacognition presentation at The Education Show 2019 in London. (Link).
  • Metacognitive Awareness Inventory (MAI) - developed by Shraw & Dennison (1994) - An advanced and comprehensive questionnaire to see how metacognitively aware you are as a learner (PDF Link)
  • Rossendale Research School (2019), Blog post story about how one group of schools is examining and implementing Metacognition across their primary (elementary) schools (Link).
  • School Audit Tool (2019) A (PDF Link) from the EEF that helps schools assesses: Whole school approach to curriculum and teaching; Teacher knowledge, and; Pupil knowledge and behaviours.

Social Media

Social media individuals, groups and organisations interested in Metacognition in Education

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We invite you to edit, add and contribute to this page. To see how easy it is to join and contribute, please read this article on the ukedchat website.

metacognition.txt · Last modified: 19/06/2019 07:34 by digicoled