Metacognition and Self-Regulation for students

This week, my colleague and I created a report based on feedback from our staff about Remote Learning 2.0. An important theme which came through in this feedback, was that students struggled with meta-cognition and being self-regulated learners. Evidence from the “Evidence for Learning” Teaching & Learning Toolkit suggests that the use of metacognition and self-regulation can lead to learning gains of +7 months over the course of a year, when used well. Nonetheless, it can seem an elusive topic. a Self-regulated learning includes the cognitive, behavioural, motivational, and emotional aspects of learning. By teaching our students specific strategies for planning, monitoring and evaluating their learning, we can increase their success, confidence and engagement, but how do we go about doing that? 

My colleague and I asked our staff these two questions which were meant as a starting point for a discussion within the faculties. Our staff’s answers can be found by scrolling down to the bottom. 

  1. What do you think are the attributes/skills of a self-regulated learner?  
  2. What are some of the strategies we could use (online and offline) to help our students become more self-regulated learners?

Much has been written about self-regulation and meta-cognition, and I continue to learn more every week. Here are some good articles to start off with: 

The metacognitive regulation cycle for a learner (Quigley et al., 2019, p.10).

The metacognitive regulation cycle for a learner (Quigley et al., 2019, p.10).

This is a good talk by Alex Quigley who has done so much interesting work in Metacognition: 

What do you think are the attributes/skills of a self-regulated learner?  

  • Organised, self-motivated.  
  • Self-efficacy – confidence to ask for help when needed. Knowing how to clarify the learning task and assessment criteria – what they are aiming for.  
  • They are active listeners in class. Active listening involves fully concentrating on what others in class – teachers and peers – are saying. It involves much more than hearing what is said. As active listeners, successful students actively engage with others 
  • They practise the skills they have acquired. By practising, successful students maintain current skills and consolidate new skills. 
  • They set specific short‑term goals for themselves and monitor their performance for signs of progress. To do this, they use metacognition (knowledge about themselves as a learners), strategies that are effective and available, and knowledge of the task they are undertaking. 
  • In planning, successful students ask themselves: what is the goal of my task, what kind of information do I need, and how much time will I need? In monitoring, they ask themselves: do I have a clear understanding of what I am doing, am I moving towards the learning goal, and do I need to change strategies? In evaluating, they ask themselves: have I reached the learning goal, what worked and didn’t work, and what would I change for next time? 
  • this is all about their attitude as a self-regulated learner – successful students believe they control their learning, and actively take control of their learning. 
  • Effort is worthwhile and feedback when we get things wrong is positive as it guides our improvement. 
  • Resilience: ability to persevere with content that they might not initially understand with the belief that effort (not natural talent) is the key to success. 
  • Having a growth mindset 
  • Self-regulated learners can approach a task and create a planning approach – setting achievable goals both within learning tasks and towards overall learning outcomes 
  • Knowing when they need further support/help from the teacher and having the confidence/skill set to ask for help 
  • Ability to read and follow clear instructions 
  • Being comfortable with the inquiry learning approach 
  • Knowing how they learn best, having the ability to identify which techniques and learning approaches are successful for their own learning 
  • Willingness to persevere through challenges 
  • Honest self-evaluation skills of what their own knowledge base is of content or overall work task understanding 

What are some of the strategies we could use (online and offline) to help our students become more self-regulated learners?  

  • Show them videos about the Science of Learning, by Jared Cooney Horvath 
  • Discuss with students that highlighting is not the most effective way to study a text, they should do something active with the text like adding annotations, summarising etc.  
  • Helping students to ask questions that help them to be metacognitive: eg: (I find students need a lot of clarity about the nature of the task – especially online!) 
  • I think it’s really important for students to understand the quality criteria – what does success look like? –  and ‘where they are now’ –  as a basis for setting goals…strategies like peer / self-assessing. Think charts eg: Column 1: my initial thinking…(response) Column 2: My notes /developing thinking (seeing how others respond); Column 3: my improved thinking (response…)  – using graphic organisers to help structure metacognition in One-Note. 
  • Using models and worked examples to make your own thinking “visible”. Visible thinking strategies and routines here:  
  • Who is available to support students? Working together to support their learning and aligning? How might a subject teacher’s role in this process differ from that of a homeroom teacher/tutor or a parent? Can we do more to communicate what strategies students can adopt at home specifically at this time (also useful for improving poor rates of homework during a normal year) 
  • It is worth considering where and how students should store their ‘toolbox’ (useful transdisciplinary documentation) so they retain and build on it throughout the years- perhaps the e-portfolio on WiSE? 
  1. Metacognition and self‑regulated learning | Evidence for Learning | (2020). Retrieved 23 September 2020, from  (back)