Drighlington Primary School, Moorland Road, Drighlington, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD11 1JY

0113 2853000

Drighlington Primary School

Nurturing, supporting, believing, achieving!

Metacognition and Self-Regulation

What is Metacognition and Self-Regulation?

Metacognition is not simply “thinking about thinking”, it is much more complex than this. Metacognition is actively monitoring one’s own learning and, based on this monitoring, making changes to one’s own learning behaviours and strategies.

Although a metacognitive approach typically focuses on allowing the child rather than the teacher to take control of their own learning, this is not to say that the teacher has no role to play in our school. Indeed, the teacher is integral to the development of younger children’s metacognitive skills. For our children to become metacognitive, self-regulated learners, the teachers must:

  • Set clear learning objectives.
  • Demonstrate and monitor children’s metacognitive strategies.
  • Continually prompt and encourage children along the way.

Metacognitive skills can be developed from an early age, and in our school, we start as soon as children join our early years.

Metacognition and Self-Regulation

Metacognition describes the processes involved when children plan, monitor, evaluate and make changes to their own learning behaviours. It is often considered to have two dimensions: metacognitive knowledge and self-regulation.

Metacognitive knowledge refers to what pupils know about learning. This includes:

  • The child’s knowledge of their own cognitive abilities (e.g. “I have trouble remembering my eight times tables”).
  • The child’s knowledge of particular tasks (e.g. “the spelling of some “-tion” words is difficult”).
  • The child’s knowledge of the different strategies that are available to them and when they are appropriate to the task (e.g. “If I create a timeline first, it will help me to understand what happened during the First World War”).

Self-regulation, meanwhile, refers to what pupils do about learning. It describes how children monitor and control their cognitive processes. For example, a child might realise that a particular strategy is not giving the results they expect so they decide to try a different strategy. Self-regulated children are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and can motivate themselves to engage in, and improve, their learning.

The metacognitive cycle

The planning stage: Children are encouraged to think about the learning goal the teacher has set and consider how they will approach the task and which strategies they will use. It is helpful for children – prompted by the teacher or a peer – to consider:

  • What am I being asked to do?
  • Which ways of working will I use?
  • Are there any ways of working that I have used before that might be useful?

The monitoring stage: Children implement their plan and monitor the progress they are making towards their learning goal. Children might decide to make changes to the methods they are using if these are not working. As children work through the task, it is helpful – prompted by the teacher – to consider:

  • Is the way of working that I am using effective?
  • Do I need to try something different?

The evaluation stage: Children determine how successful the way of working they have chosen has been in terms of helping them to achieve their learning goal. To promote evaluation, it is helpful for children – prompted by the teacher – to consider:

  • How well did I do?
  • What did not go well? What could I do differently next time?
  • What went well? What other types of problem can I use this way of working for?

The reflection stage: Reflection is an integral part of the whole process. Encouraging children to self-question throughout the process is therefore crucial.