Research School Network: Metacognitive Evaluation To Support Remote Learning – Ten Tips Chris Runeckles suggests ways teachers can support students to evaluate at a distance for more successful online learning.

Metacognitive Evaluation To Support Remote Learning – Ten Tips

Chris Runeckles suggests ways teachers can support students to evaluate at a distance for more successful online learning.

by Durrington Research School
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How often do you reflect on something you’ve done, once you’ve done it? Do you sit back after your weekend fry-up and consider whether you timed everything to perfection? Do you finish a garden project and reflect on whether you used the right tools for the job? Do you walk away from a lesson deciding whether you will teach it the same way next time?

If you do you, then you are exhibiting one of the most important elements of metacognitive regulation. Namely, evaluation.

Teaching students to evaluate their learning has always been important, and the most successful students have always done so. However, perhaps never more so than during remote learning. With the teacher less able to direct students to reflect, there is the risk they will move on without gaining the valuable insights that will help them do better next time.

The EEF’s rapid evidence assessment of distance learning says as much about the importance of evaluation in recommendation four (of five):

4. Supporting pupils to work independently can improve learning outcomes

Prompting pupils to reflect on their work … has been highlighted as valuable.

However, it is a phase of learning that students are often quite reluctant to engage in. Typically, once the task or lesson is complete students look to move on without going through a learning post-mortem. In the normal run of things we can force the issue by building structured reflection into our lessons. The EEF’s seven-step model for teaching metacognitive strategies proposes this as a highly student-led activity that comes at the end of a phase of teaching.


During this final phase of teaching a new strategy to students the teacher would encourage students to reflect on how appropriate the new strategy was, how successfully they applied it, and how they might use it in the future.

Furthermore, we can prompt students to evaluate by intervening with the right questions at the right time. These might be delivered verbally as part of a class discussion, or posed for students to complete independently. Here are some examples borrowed from the EEF resources connected to the Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning guidance report:

Evaluating the task as a whole:

  • Did I stick to my plan?
  • Did I accomplish my goal?
  • How successful was I in all aspects of the tasks?
  • How could I improve my performance next term?
  • What new knowledge and connections have I develop during this task?

Evaluating specific strategies used within a task or lesson:

  • Did I stick to my strategy?
  • Did my strategy work?
  • Would I use this strategy again next time?
  • Are there other resources or strategies that might be useful next time?
  • Could I do this with less support next time?

Evaluating themselves in relation to the task:

  • Did I successfully draw upon my prior knowledge and experiences?
  • Did I successfully manage my motivation and behaviour?
  • Did I successfully identify where the challenge might be?
  • Did I deal with the challenge successfully?
  • What have I learned about myself?

I would advocate using these questions as a starting point for your own, rather than to be lifted directly. While you certainly could use them verbatim, some adaptation to fit your phase, subject and context would likely make them more useful to both you and your students.

So to remote teaching then. Firstly, depending on your medium, you could use the suggestions above just as you would in the classroom. For example you could end a live lesson asking two or three of the questions above.

However, remote teaching is being delivered in a multitude of formats, some of which are outside of our normal classroom parameters. So, for that reason, here are ten suggestions for how you could build student evaluation of their learning into your remote teaching:

  1. During a recorded video or live lesson in which you are giving instructions on how to work through a task, explain why you have chosen particular strategies for them to use. Model you own evaluation of why, as an expert, you chose that particular strategy. Why is it particularly effective for that particular task?
  2. If you have produced a worksheet, Google Doc or similar for students to work through, include a few questions at the end, taken from the list above. These could be as simple as asking them to reflect on the parts of the lesson that found most difficult and why.
  3. At the end of a recorded video or live lesson in which you are explaining a tricky concept, include a few prompt questions, that will reveal to students whether they have fully understood the concept you have explained.
  4. On a class stream as the end of a lesson ask students to identify what strategies they have used during the lesson. Ask them to judge which have been most successful and how they will use them in future.
  5. A week on from a lesson, ask students to complete a mind-map from memory on what they can recall about the content of the lesson. Ask them to judge how successful the strategies they used were in helping them learn that knowledge.
  6. At the end of a unit, produce a checklist of what you wanted students to have learned. Ask them to RAG how confident they feel with each element.
  7. Using the same checklist, ask students to identify which parts they found trickiest to learn at the time. Ask them what strategies they used to help them learn these tricky elements.
  8. If using self-marking platforms, help students to see the progression of their scores over time by building in systems for them to record them. Encourage students to reflect on why elements may be improving or not based on the approaches they are using. 
  9. Ask students to rate which parts of your subject, or if primary the curriculum, they find it hardest to motivate themselves to complete. Structure some reflective discussion on why this might be and how to overcome it.
  10. When you can see students have struggled with a particular piece of online learning, rather than re-teaching straight away, use your feedback to unpick why they think they found it difficult to complete.

There is a risk factor here, which is cognitive overload. If we were to employ all of these strategies all of the time it would be overwhelming for both us and our students. My advice would be a judicious approach involving some trial and error. Either way, the more evaluation done now the better prepared students will be when the eventually walk back through our classroom doors.

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