What is Metacognition?

Metacognition and self-regulation approaches to teaching support pupils to think about their own learning more explicitly, often by teaching them specific strategies for planning, monitoring, and evaluating their learning.

Interventions are usually designed to give pupils a repertoire of strategies to choose from and the skills to select the most suitable strategy for a given learning task.

Self-regulated learning can be broken into three essential components:

  • cognition – the mental process involved in knowing, understanding, and learning
  • metacognition – often defined as ‚Äčlearning to learn’; and
  • motivation – willingness to engage our metacognitive and cognitive skills.

Using metacognitive knowledge and regulation is a good way to boost your learning, and the great thing about metacognition is that the more aware we are of our own thinking, including our strengths and areas to work on, the more efficient we can be with how we focus our attention and develop skills. The more we practice metacognition, the more strategies we have available to us when we come across new tasks – it's like building a collection of tools in a toolbox.

At St. Michael and All Angels, our staff have a secure understanding of how children learn best and we are determined as a school to develop children’s self-awareness skills. Ensuring that our children leave St. Michaels with a secure understanding of how they learn and can call upon a bank of strategies to support them is integral to us. Research carried out by The Educational Endowment Foundation’s (EEF) on Metacognition underpins our thinking in school. 






Metacognition is defined as 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 learner rather than the teacher to take control of their own learning, this is not to say that our teachers have no role to play. Indeed, our teachers and staff are fundamental to the development of younger pupils’ metacognitive skills.

Metacognition at St. Michael and All Angels.


When thinking about how to learn a new skill, learners are encouraged to consider what they are being asked to do. They then review which strategies they would use and whether any strategies they have used before would be helpful.


Monitoring- the "Do-ing" Part

While learning a skill, learners reflect on whether the strategy they have adopted is successful or whether they might need to try a different method.


Evaluating- Reviewing

Once the skill has been mastered, teachers ask learners to reflect on the effectiveness of the strategy they chose in order to identify approaches which could be used in other, different contexts.



Metacognitive strategies are embedded in our Teaching and Learning Policy.

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A desirable difficulty is a learning task that is not particularly easy and requires a desirable amount of effort to complete or solve. This effort, it has been found, can improve long-term memory and performance (Bjork, 1994; Bjork & Bjork, 2011).

However, compared with other teaching methods or strategies, desirable difficulties can initially slow learning down and seem counterproductive.

Bjork and Bjork (2011) suggest desirable difficulties can include: varying the conditions of learning; spacing practice sessions or study; interleaving topics as opposed to teaching them in blocks; using the generation effect; and using tests. 

(Caution: Those working with pupils with SEN, English as an additional language (EAL), or even apathetic pupils, will have some concerns that desirable difficulties, if implemented rashly or clumsily, could cause more damage than good; that they will become, essentially, undesirable difficulties (see Beale, 2020 for a good discussion on this). This risk is also acknowledged by the cognitive scientists proposing the idea. Therefore, any application of desirable difficulties needs to be adapted and pitched according to pupils’ abilitiies.

What is Metacognition?

Metacognition, often referred to as "thinking about thinking," is a crucial cognitive skill. It involves understanding how we learn, the strategies we use to learn, and our awareness of our own learning processes. In essence, metacognition encourages students to become mindful of their learning journey. By fostering metacognitive skills, educators empower students to monitor their progress, set goals, and adapt their learning strategies accordingly.

What is Self-Regulated Learning?

Self-regulated learning (SRL) is the ability to take control of one's learning process. It encompasses setting goals, planning, monitoring progress, and adjusting strategies as needed. SRL encourages students to become active participants in their education, making decisions about what and how they learn. By developing self-regulated learning skills, students become more independent and efficient learners, ultimately leading to better academic outcomes.

What is Reflective Learning?

Reflective learning involves the practice of looking back on one's learning experiences and extracting valuable insights. It encourages students to think deeply about what they have learned, how they learned it, and how they can apply this knowledge in different contexts. Reflection fosters critical thinking, self-awareness, and a deeper understanding of the subject matter. It also encourages students to connect their learning to real-life situations.