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One of the most important elements of education is to empower students to take charge of their learning and lives. It’s no surprise that many of the low-cost, high-impact interventions recommended by the Education Endowment Fund focus on fostering independence. One of the most effective approaches, supported by scientific research and pilot studies in schools, is the development of independent learning through self-regulation, which includes motivation, cognition, and metacognition.

Motivation is our willingness to engage our cognitive and metacognitive skills and apply them to learning. One motivational strategy is to convince yourself to perform complex revision tasks in preparation for future tests.

Cognition is the mental processes involved in knowing, understanding, and learning. Cognitive strategies, such as memorisation techniques, are fundamental to acquiring knowledge.

Metacognitive strategies refer to methods that learners use to monitor and control their own learning, such as ensuring the accuracy of their memorization techniques.

The Sutton Trust/EEF acknowledges that associated techniques are highly effective compared to other interventions, and they are inexpensive to employ. These techniques are also integrated into quality teaching, which helps to improve all levels of achievement and cater to different needs.

What is Metacognition?

Metacognition is the process of actively monitoring and directing one’s own learning. It is often referred to as ‘thinking about thinking’ and ‘learning about learning’. While it may seem complex due to its association with neuroscience, the concepts and strategies involved are actually quite simple.

Both the teacher and learner need to have a clear understanding of the task at hand, including prior knowledge and the strategies that can be employed to achieve success. Additionally, the teacher and learner must be self-aware, identifying any known or unknown areas of knowledge and habitual aspects that may hinder or facilitate learning.

What is the science behind it?

Meta- is a prefix that generally means “after” or “beyond”. When it comes to cognition, metacognition refers to the abstract background of how we think, and the methods we use to improve our learning. When we’re encountering a new task, we have choices about how we use our experience and habits. We can learn from our past mistakes, rather than repeating them. Additionally, when we complete a task, we can reflect on it and consider what we can do differently the next time we face a similar challenge. These are straightforward examples of using metacognition for better learning.

Recent research in neuroscience has shown that the brain is “elastic”. It can expand and contract. When we apply skills to a task, the neurons in our brain form connections in response to our thoughts, actions, and sensory input. This process is known as synaptogenesis. As we create these pathways in our brain, they can be reused. The more we use these neural pathways, the more habitual and efficient our approach to a task becomes. Since the brain is not static, we can encourage successful neural pathway development and discourage the ones that are not successful. By doing so, we can learn the best ways of learning and be more efficient!

Knowledge and technique in Metacognition
Metacognitive Regulation

Teaching and Learning with Metacognition

Our goal is to integrate metacognitive approaches into our lessons, to encourage learners to employ them and eventually become more independent, resilient, and effective learners. In our curriculum, knowledge and strategies are at the core of metacognition. They foster mastery in mathematics, reading, and writing. Some strategies are specific to a particular subject, while others are transferable. Therefore, metacognition and the Mantle of the Expert are complementary, and success in one area leads to success in the other. The fundamental purpose of the MoE approach is learning in context, and children are required to learn how an expert habitually thinks and acts, which is at the core of metacognition.

To achieve this, we use teaching and learning strategies that help to activate prior learning, explicitly encourage metacognitive strategies, model learning, develop memorization strategies, guide practice, promote independence, and provide ample opportunities for reflection. Our aim is to develop habits that foster learning in children at school, in future academic settings, and provide vital skills for lifelong learning and the workplace.

A Parent's Guide to Metacognition and Self-Regulation

Growing up, your child learns about metacognition and self-regulation. Metacognition refers to a person’s ability to think about and reflect upon one's thinking processes, while self-regulation involves managing one's emotions, behaviors, and attention. These related concepts are necessary for their own learning, mental health, and overall well-being.

Here you can download a guide written by an Integrative Children’s Mental Health Expert

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