Research School Network: Metacognition and self-regulation in geography Head of geography Sam Atkins explains how he has been helping students develop their metacognitive regulation .

Metacognition and self-regulation in geography

Head of geography Sam Atkins explains how he has been helping students develop their metacognitive regulation .

by Durrington Research School
on the

Since September, I’ve found myself commenting all the more regularly that lessons and learning appear to just be happening to a number of the students I teach. This cohort aren’t owning their education in the way they need to in order to be successful. I hope I’m not alone in being greeted by a look of total bewilderment on the faces of one or two students arriving for my lesson in which they will be completing an assessment, as they apparently discover for the first time that their geography knowledge and skills are about to be tested. This is despite my delivery of a revision lesson the previous week which itself followed several weekly online and face to face reminders of the upcoming test. Notwithstanding this, once the assessment is over, for some students the moment they stride out of my classroom and into the afternoon lunchbreak this important benchmark in their learning journey has been totally forgotten about before they finish their Wagon Wheel. Of course, this isn’t all of my students, thankfully far from it, but what can I do to improve ALL of the students taught in geography as learners so that they ALL get better at self-regulation?

One tool we have been using and developing this year is a student self-review task which is completed as part of our post-assessment feedback routine. Sir Kevan Collins in writing his foreword to The Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning Guidance Report from the EEF said we should “…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.”

Through the student self-review process we use in geography, I am confident that we are now doing this much more effectively.

There are two main aims of this approach:

1 – Support students in being able to analyse their own performance in summative assessments. To look back and reflect.

2 – Use the findings of this analysis to inform their next steps so that they perform even better from the very next lesson hopefully culminating in an improved outcome in the next summative assessment. To look forward, plan and take action.

Through these two aims, we want to improve the overall effectiveness to which our students plan, monitor and evaluate their work in geography.

We use this approach across all KS34 year groups, adapted according to what is appropriate for KS3 compared to KS4. Here I have shared some examples of what this looks like in practise and explained how some aspects of the seven key recommendations of the Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning Guidance Report from the EEF can be seen in this work.

Student self-reflection post-KS3 assessment:

Geography 1

The KS3 example demonstrates how recommendations one and two of the report manifest here. In this example we are providing students with the opportunity to learn more about themselves as learners – perhaps for the very first time – and making them more self-aware of their own strengths and weaknesses in geography so that they can more confidently plan, monitor and evaluate their work going forwards. This task is also an opportunity for structured reflection. Most students, including those with high starting points, need a lot of support with this. As a team we carefully narrate our own thought processes alongside worked examples so that students are able to see and hear what this looks like in practice, before they attempt to articulate their own reflections more effectively.

Student self-reflection post-KS4 assessment:

Geography 2
Geography 4

Our KS4 example above was recently completed by Year 11 students following their mock exams. Recommendations three, four and five of the guidance report include:

Teachers should verbalise their metacognitive thinking (‘What do I know about problems like this? What ways of solving them have I used before?’) as they approach and work through a task.”

Following the more granular quantitative self-review on the front page, comes the requirement for students to respond more qualitatively across questions 1 – 12. As with KS3 students, students need a lot of support with articulating their responses here (questions 7,8,10& 12 in particular). This is where we as practitioners are so important in being able to blend subject specific language with commentary on what makes an effective self-regulating learner, whilst linking to questions completed less effectively, so that actionable next steps emerge.

Pupils must have the motivation to accept the challenge.”

In question twelve there is a requirement for students to commit to change – or not – with reason why. Their findings following this self-review process should enable them to arrive at the realisation. For instance, that certain revision approaches were more or less effective for them, or that certain areas of subject knowledge are weaker. With this information, they can put down in writing very specific next steps with such clarity that actually taking those steps feels more achievable and will therefore prompt a useful response from them.

Dialogue needs to be purposeful, with teachers guiding and supporting the conversation to ensure it is challenging and builds on prior subject knowledge.”

People in general find it difficult to be critical of one’s own performance. It should come as no surprise then that children require a lot of support from us as they attempt to diagnose their own traits as learners alongside knowledge gaps, before putting these down in writing and committing to action. Excellent examples from anonymous peers are really useful to use here. Spending time with a student to help them unpick and articulate precisely why they dropped two marks on the four-mark corrie formation question – and what to actually do to address this – is so much more effective than having a student thumb through their marked mock papers and tell themselves they just need to get better at glaciers. This document provides the space for this to happen.

Student self-reflection post-KS4 assessment – adapted for use in History:

Geography 3

We can see above an adapted version used in History. Here the process of self-review has been streamlined to great effect, with more time allowed for responses to metacognitive questions. Recommendation six of the guidance report advises that students receive timely, effective feedback and strategies to be able to judge accurately how effectively they are learning. This version is certainly facilitating that.

Finally, a huge benefit to following the student self-review processes shared here is the positive impact it is having on our own professional development. Recommendation seven (Schools should support teachers to develop knowledge of these *seven* approaches and expect them to be applied appropriately) of the guidance report states:

Develop teachers’ knowledge and understanding *of metacognition and self-regulation* through high quality professional development and resources.”

Metacognition shouldn’t be an extra’ task for teachers to do but should be built into their teaching activities.”

Through the careful planning and application of this student self-review process across our curriculum, our team is becoming ever more skilled in supporting the students we teach to become more effective self-regulating learners as an ongoing process. We are continuing to refine our approach with each new term and are beginning to see the positive impact it is having on our students as learners, as they become learners who can verbalise where their strengths and weaknesses lie, and what they are going to do next to get even better (hopefully at explaining corrie formation!)

Key actions and considerations for next steps:

  • Continue to refine this approach so that it more effectively supports disadvantaged students in particular. Indeed, as stated in the EEF guidance report on Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning, The Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit — which summarises international evidence — rates metacognition and self-regulation’ as a high impact, low-cost approach to improving the attainment of disadvantaged learners.
  • Ensure the self-review work completed by students here exists as a living document, that is regularly referred to in lessons, used in support of homework and in informing contact with home (these documents, once completed, are highly effective at informing face to face conversations at parent/​carer consultation evenings).
  • Explore ways of supporting parents/​carers to engage with the self-review findings so that the benefits of this process extend beyond the physical boundaries of our school setting. Might it be possible for parents/​carers to evidence the steps taken by their child as part of this self-review process?
  • Ensure these self-review documents are quality controlled! It would be great if we could trust ALL of our students to reflect deeply on their learning and write really specific insightful analysis and goals. We can’t – so make sure the impact of these reviews is maximised by recording and sharing your own student specific feedback as part of your assessment marking process. Have students complete the self-review process first, then share your own feedback so they can see how close to reality their own observations were!

By Sam Atkins

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