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Walney School

Metacognition and self-regulation

Metacognition = thinking about learning

Self-regulation = the ability to understand and manage your own behaviour and reactions.  Self-regulation helps children learn, behave well, get along with others and become independent.

Equipping all teachers and students with a better understanding of how we learn is a social responsibility. (Howell: The Revision Revolution)

Research indicates that novice learners benefit from feedback about the process of learning, so they can see how well the strategies they used to learn knowledge and vocabulary worked and whether they need to tweak them, continue, abandon, try something new next time. In other words, how can they improve the effectiveness of their retrieval strategies.

Research shows for example that errors made with high confidence are easier to correct than those made with low confidence (Agarwal & Bain: Powerful Teaching). This is called hypercorrection.  But you need to know whether or not you were confident.

Supporting students with metacognition (adapted from Four Steps of metacognition in Powerful Teaching):

  1. Close books.
  2. Give students a set of questions – can be multiple choice, from a text, from last lesson, etc.
  3. Before they answer, students place a star next to those questions they believe they can answer and a question mark next to those they cannot answer.
  4. Students then answer only the questions they marked with a star.
  5. Next students look up all the answers for those questions they marked with a question mark – from their exercise books, knowledge organisers, textbooks, etc.
  6. Finally, students verify all the questions with a star (that they were confident about) were correct.  Correct in purple pen.

This means that students are helped to see what they genuinely know, from lucky guesses/flukes.  This helps to avoid false fluency, where you believe you know more than you actually do. The teacher and student can see what gaps genuinely exist.

Students become explicitly aware of what they know, and what they don’t know and need to revise in future. (Howell: The Revision Revolution)

Metacognition after retrieval practice (adapted from The Revision Revolution)

A key part of retrieval practice is the final step where students cross-reference their answers with the information in their exercise books, textbooks, knowledge organisers, etc. and fill in missing information with a purple pen.

This is where they become aware of the gaps in their knowledge and can reflect on which parts they struggle to remember.

Following the retrieval practice exercise, we need to support students to reflect on their learning – whether they completed this for homework, in lesson, etc.

  1. Which parts of the information were hard to remember?  Why do you think that was?
  2. Is there anything you didn’t understand or would like to go over in class?
  3. What are you going to do now to make sure you remember this next time?