Thinking About Metacognition – the new EEF guidance report

1 May 2018

Author: Kate Mouncey and Karen Roskilly - Sandringham Research School Leads

The Sandringham Research School team have been eagerly awaiting the publication of the EEF Guidance Report on Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning for some time, so were beside ourselves with excitement when it finally arrived last week. And it did not disappoint!

This guidance report is relevant to the teaching of all students, within any subject area.  Although the majority of the examples used in the report are from Key Stages 1 – 4, as predominantly Key Stage 5 teachers we feel that the recommendations in the report are equally as applicable here.

Firstly, the report clearly outlines what we mean by metacognition and self-regulated learning.  It states that self-regulated learning can be broken down into three essential components that we as teachers need to know about.  These are:

Cognition – the mental processes involved in knowing, understanding and learning.  Cognitive strategies, such as memorisation techniques, are fundamental to acquiring knowledge.
Metacognition – the way learners monitor and purposefully direct their learning.  Metacognitive strategies are strategies we use to monitor and control our cognition, such as checking that our memorisation technique was accurate.
Motivation – our willingness to engage our cognitive and metacognitive skills and apply them to learning.  Motivational strategies include convincing yourself to carry out a complex revision task now as a way of doing well in a future test.

It then provides a clear summary of seven evidence-based recommendations to support teachers to develop metacognitive skills and knowledge in their student, shown below.

Some key things that resonated with us were:

The idea that metacognition is an ongoing cycle for the learner, moving between planning, monitoring and evaluation. (Page 11)

Self-regulation and the development of skills is in part dependent on the opportunities that students receive outside of school and in the home, so we need to support specific students further where this input is limited. (Page 11).

Expert instruction’ combines explicit teacher instruction with interactive questioning and feedback; it is not lecturing or ‘telling’. Teachers should plan, monitor and evaluate the learning taking place in a specific task. (Page 12)

The importance of a firm grasp of subject knowledge – this is needed before a student can make their own decisions about how to learn something or undertake a skill in that subject area. (Page 15).

The science of learning is extremely important in helping students to understand effective strategies for learning, and for us to consider in terms of not overloading students with content at any one time. (Page 19)

Questioning is critical in developing classroom talk so that it has discussion and dialogue, moving far beyond closed questions where appropriate. (Page 21).

There is strong evidence that guided practice is needed to help students become more independent in their own learning, assuming more responsibility as they become more proficient. (Page 22)

To summarise, there is seven-step model for explicitly teaching metacognitive strategies for any subject and key stage (Page 14):

  1. Activating prior knowledge
  2. Explicit strategy instruction
  3. Modelling of learned strategy
  4. Memorisation of strategy
  5. Guided practice
  6. Independent practice
  7. Structured self reflection

What is also interesting about the report is that it highlights common misconceptions about metacognition, as follows:

  • Metacognition is only developed in older pupils.
  • Metacognition is a general skill that can be separated from subject knowledge.
  • Metacognition represents ‘higher order’ thinking and is therefore more important than  mere cognition or subject knowledge.
  • You can easily teach metacognitive knowledge and strategies in discrete thinking skills lessons.

Much more detail about all of this can be found in the full Guidance Report here.  We are running an afternoon session to explore this report is more detail on Wednesday 11th July and will have further specific teaching and learning strategies and resources to share.  For more details and to book your place, click here.

Posted on 1 May 2018
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