The Practices: Learning
The Professional Practices: Learning
Metacognition and self-regulation approaches aim to help pupils think about their own learning more explicitly, often by teaching them specific strategies for planning, monitoring and evaluating their learning. Metacognition – the ability to know oneself, to self-evaluate, to mentally simulate what would happen if we acted this way or that way – plays a fundamental role in human learning. The opinions we form of ourselves help us progress or, in some cases, lock us into a vicious circle of failure (Dehaene, 2020). Essentially, self-regulation is about the extent to which students are aware of their strengths and weaknesses and the strategies they use to learn. It describes how they can motivate themselves to engage in learning and develop strategies to enhance their learning and to improve. It will look different for students of different ages, and for different tasks, but teachers will recognise these characteristics in their most effective learners. The potential impact of these approaches is high, but can be difficult to achieve in practice as they require pupils to take greater responsibility for their learning and develop their understanding of what is required to succeed (EEF, 2018).
The learning practices (framed as ‘brilliant learner’ characteristics with students) help to develop metacognition as a habit that will create resilience. Resilience is the ability to react to adversity, challenge, tension, or failure in an adaptive and productive manner and is an essential quality for learning and for life (Hattie, 2012). The most important message for our students is that we all have truly amazing brains – and that being a brilliant learner grows our brains – so the harder we work, the smarter we become. Highly effective teachers never underestimate students’ ability to learn, understanding both the power of brain plasticity (Dehaene, 2020) and also that those who believe they can grow their intelligence through struggle and effort make more progress (Dweck, 2006).
Metacognition and self-regulation – being a brilliant learner – helps students to manage their thinking more constructively, to take their automatic thinking less seriously and to see for themselves how to react to challenges with empathy and grace (Beere, 2020). This is important for two reasons: First, for individuals who, unless they embrace the fact they think about life in different ways, severely limit the chances of finding the person that they are meant to be (Robinson, 2009). And second, for the world, as we urgently we need to learn how to think in ways that let us deal more effectively with the situation we have created for ourselves. We need thinking skills and habits that fit in the twenty-first century context of enormous human power and technology on a now-fragile planet (Berners-Lee, 2019).
Extensive evidence from intervention studies supports explicit teaching of metacognitive and self-regulation strategies (for example, Donker et al., 2014; Hacker et al., 2009). However, there is no simple recipe for developing students’ metacognition and self-regulation and most of the teacher behaviours that have been found to be effective for activating students’ thinking are quite complex (EEF, 2018). What works in one context may not work in another but the learning practices provide a starting point for encouraging accountability and increasing students’ agency.
Beere, J. (2020) The Complete Learner’s Toolkit. Carmarthen: Independent Thinking Press.
Berners-Lee, M. (2019). There Is No Planet B: A Handbook for the Make or Break Years. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dehaene, S. (2020). How We Learn: The New Science of Education and the Brain. London: Allen Lane.
Donker, A. S., de Boer, H., Kostons, D., Dignath van Ewijk, C. C., & van der Werf, M. P. C. (2014). Effectiveness of learning strategy instruction on academic performance: A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review, 11, 1-26.
Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Ballantine Books.
Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). (2018). Metacognition and self-regulated learning: Guidance report.
Hacker, D. J., Dunlosky, J., & Graesser, A. C. (Eds.). (2009). Handbook of metacognition in education. Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.
Hattie, J. (2012). Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning. Abingdon and New York: Routledge.
Robinson, K. with Aronica, L. (2009). The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. London: Penguin.