Research School Network: Metacognitive strategies and informing language learning – a mid-way point reflection Sadie Thompson, reflects on how the HISP Metacognition training programme has challenged her thinking and practice so far.


Metacognitive strategies and informing language learning – a mid-way point reflection

Sadie Thompson, reflects on how the HISP Metacognition training programme has challenged her thinking and practice so far.

Sadie Thompson, Head of German…

Sadie 1

I think it is worth pointing out that all too often, generic school based CPD can be difficult to apply as a teacher of MFL. Concepts and activities need translating before being shared with classes and this can often lead to clunky terminology that never really rolls off the tongue and gets quickly forgotten about. Furthermore, our content is huge and embedding practices which will distract from precious teaching time when learners could be devoting class time to embedding thousands of individual vocabulary items to memory instead seems at the very least counterproductive.

I’ve been secretly quite pleased then with how seamlessly the metacognition and self regulated-learning training programme that I’m currently attending with the HISP Research School has fitted in to my planning. In actual fact, at times I’ve had to question if I’m missing a vital component or something too sciency’ has escaped me as it seems almost too like common sense, such are the strategies easily incorporated into lesson planning and curriculum design.

We’ve looked initially at why metacognition is so important, and the EEF guidance tells us that teaching metacognitive strategies to learners can increase their performance with high levels of impact for a relatively low cost, measuring an average of 7 months additional progress. For school leaders, it is almost a no-brainer. As a group we have gone on to then develop our understanding of what those metacognitive strategies are and it is at this point where I am now reflecting, roughly halfway through the programme, and exploring the research into memory and how we learn.

As a linguist, this type of research hasn’t always come naturally to me and I don’t necessarily engage immediately with heavy scientific terminology but the EEF report and corresponding tasks and explanatory paperwork have helped with this, so I would recommend this type of training regardless of academic background. I’m finding that this science of learning, this exploration and understanding of how we learn is applicable to MFL, in fact any subject area, and this is refreshing and exciting.

The most recent gap task we have completed asked us to experiment with planning a lesson / series of lessons using one of a choice of two models (given that we are in a period of remote learning, there is a second, more concise model available which takes this into consideration EEF home learning planning framework ). I have used the 7‑step model here to plan a year 7 German lesson, planning pupils to produce a spoken and recorded piece about their family pets.

Sadie 2

The use of this model to really focus in on and encourage me to think carefully about modelling the strategies pupils will be required to use as well as modelling an exemplar piece has been a turning point for me in terms of lesson planning. I had thought myself as something as an expert modeller’ as MFL lessons tend to be a constant stream of modelling target language production, but I suppose I hadn’t given enough credit to the value of modelling how to approach this and the thinking behind it.

Although every single one of us has learned to speak a language (or possibly even two or three!) at some point in our lives, those strategies have long been forgotten as we have all become fluent speakers of our mother tongue and this is where pupils lack resilience to persevere with their learning – it’s really hard work and the gains are slow! I’m looking forward to the remaining 5 sessions of this module and incorporating modelling, scaffolding and verbalising thinking into my every day teaching practice as I can see huge benefits for my classes from these carefully thought out and taught strategies.


EEF T+L toolkit

EEF metacognition guidance report

EEF Covid support resources for schools and parents

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