Research School Network: Metacognition and Modelling We know that modelling is a key part of metacognition, but how do we do it well?

Metacognition and Modelling

We know that modelling is a key part of metacognition, but how do we do it well?

by Kingsbridge Research School
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You’re going to use a past paper in a lesson next week. Make a list of the things you would have students do in that lesson. For example, you might have them highlight key words in each question.

The EEF’s model of metacognition distinguishes between Metacognitive Knowledge – itself subdivided into Knowledge of Task, Knowledge of Strategies and Knowledge of Self – and Metacognitive Regulation, again subdivided into Planning, Monitoring and Evaluating.

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Why the split between knowledge and regulation? Because we often use metacognitive knowledge before a task and metacognitive regulation during a task. If I join a karate class and the sensei announces we’re going to work on Gankaku, I’ll be at a complete loss without prior knowledge! If on the other hand I’ve been practising karate for a while, I’ll know that this is a kata, a sequence of moves. My knowledge of strategies will tell me that, when beginning, it’s better to focus on slowly getting the stances right rather than aiming to be the fastest, and my knowledge of self will tell me that I need to stay relaxed during turns as I often tense up, making them more difficult – so this is something I will plan to focus on during the kata.

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As well as planning, Metacognitive Regulation also includes monitoring and evaluation. How am I doing at the moment? Am I still relaxed or can I detect my shoulders tensing up? At the end, how did that go? Which parts still need improvement? What shall I focus on next?

Look again at the model and apply it to something you do: learning to drive, learning a language, practising a particular sport, playing a musical instrument, or preparing for an exam.

Even if we lack knowledge of the task – perhaps it’s our first lesson – we are thrown back on knowledge of strategy (last time I did something like this, I…) In other words, metacognition always rests on cognition – what you know.

Go back to the list you made earlier. How many of the items were tasks? How many were strategies? Were any focused on knowledge of self? Did any explicitly address monitoring or evaluation?

As teachers, we are often very good when it comes to explaining or modelling the task, but we perhaps spend less time on other equally valuable aspects of metacognition. This is not to say that we don’t do it at all. If you use walking, talking mocks’, you probably spend a lot of time thinking through or even scripting what you’re going to say, verbalising your thinking as a student, flagging up useful strategies and modelling the sort of positive self-talk that keeps you motivated throughout a lengthy exam. Ideally, this is what we would do in the classroom as well.

So how do we model a strategy or an evaluation process? Is there a way to do that well? Generally, we would explicitly model the strategy, guide the students through some practice, and then have them try it independently. We’d scaffold the process:

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The EEF’s Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning Guidance Report offers a more nuanced process to ensure that whatever you are modelling stays modelled. Not only do we carefully construct the scaffold, we also plan to remove it piece by piece:

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Here, we deliberately start by activating prior knowledge: what do we already know about this novel, painting, sport or piece of music? If we don’t do this, we are adding to the cognitive load: not only do students have to contend with learning a particular strategy, they also have to search their memory to access relevant content.

After explicitly explaining the strategy (‘we’re going to highlight the key words and make a plan that addresses them’), we model it, thinking out loud as we go. Then a step that’s often missed: we memorise the strategy, because what use is it if we can’t recall it when we need it? Perhaps we use elaborative interrogation or spaced practice to do this.

Some guided practice – maybe a collaborative learning exercise – gives students the chance to practise using the strategy with some supervision and correction. This is followed by independent practice. Finally, we provide some structured reflection – again, often a missing step. Why did we use this strategy? How did it help? What were the steps? Of those steps, which seem the most important? And so on.

So, you’re going to use a past paper in one of your lessons next week. Make a list of the things you would have students do in that lesson.

Want to find out more?

For more detailed advice surrounding the modelling process, look at Recommendation 3 in the EEF’s Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning Guidance Report here.

We are running a three-day course on Metacognition beginning in January. If you’d like to sign up, you can find the details and booking link here.

If you want to find out how to model memory strategies, look out for our Research Breakfasts – we will add links to our events page when these sessions become available.

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