Research School Network: Developing Metacognition Schools support officer Kevin Beston, shares his experience of developing metacognition.

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Developing Metacognition

Schools support officer Kevin Beston, shares his experience of developing metacognition.

by Carmel Research School
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Collaborating with schools has always been a privilege, supporting leaders in making informed decisions around the curriculum is exciting. So when a school decides to review teaching and the way pupils learn incorporating a metacognitive approach, that support takes on a whole new dimension.

The journey was straightforward, yet impact was high and the outcome was that pupils were taught how to learn, the aim was to develop pupils’ knowledge of themselves as a learner, of strategies that provide creativity and flexibility when working on tasks, and of tasks themselves associated with that learning. The shift was from procedures and processes to developing pupils resilience, memory, self-awareness, reasoning skills, and problem-solving abilities in their everyday life.

It started with introducing the idea of metacognition as a series of steps — beginning with activating prior knowledge and leading to independent practice and ending in structured reflection across different subjects, ages and contents.

Next, we identified strategies that would support the training, Development and implementation of a metacognitive approach. Professional development work centred around:

- identifying pupils learning style and needs.

- planning for a task.

- gathering and organising materials (Worked examples etc.).

- monitoring mistakes.

- evaluating task success.

- evaluating the success of any learning strategy and adjusting.


The school worked together with numerous people to investigate how this approach could impact upon pupils learning and it centred around lesson design and the seven stages of explicit teaching outlined in the EEF Metacognition and Self-Regulation Guidance Report:

1. Activating prior knowledge;

2. Explicit strategy instruction;

3. Modelling of learned strategy;

4. Memorisation of strategy;

5. Guided practice;

6. Independent practice; and

7. Structured reflection.

This would be the cornerstone of their lesson design, beginning in Mathematics. The impact was immediate, consistency across school was measurable, pupils understanding improved as strategies, techniques and thinking evolved and teachers confidence in the delivery of mathematics improved.

It quickly became necessary to focus upon modelling, for this the school turned to a university and EEF guidance for help and began investigating worked examples’ focusing on the acronym FAME approach (Fading, Alternating, Mistakes and Explanation). Once again the quality of learning improved, pupils understanding, confidence and desire to learn increased; the thinking’ aspect empowered pupils to rise to the challenge through the cycle of knowledge of task, self and strategies within their lesson design. Designing lessons that consider the task and what experience pupils have and need to compete the work allows space to then reflect on their current understanding (What do I know already). Teachers were able to incorporate strategies around the process of planning the journey of the task, monitoring its completion and evaluating current thinking and next steps (what do I keep, what do I amend and what has deepened my thought process) all of which enables pupils to become significantly more independent and self-regulated learners.

The school have only begun this journey but already implementation has created an awareness about how we think and teach using planning, monitoring, evaluating and adjusting to instructional goals and teaching strategies in accordance with pupils needs. 

The aim is to provide pupils with an opportunity to transmit that knowledge and understanding across tasks, subjects and contexts in a curriculum that by definition are interconnected in so many ways.

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Kevin Beston

Bishop Hogarth Catholic Education Trust

Read more aboutKevin Beston

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