Metacognition in action

Rosanna Primary School and Epping Secondary College have been able to empower their students to take control of their own learning.

Students who have the opportunity to exercise voice, agency and leadership in designing, developing and assessing their own learning have a greater chance of becoming resilient and independent learners.

Metacognition is key to this positive cycle of learning. Teachers should explore how metacognitive strategies can be explicitly taught to foster student independence and self-regulation.

At Rosanna Primary School and Epping Secondary College, metacognitive strategies have been used to empower their students to take control of their learning.

Co-designing learning to make it meaningful to students

Rosanna Primary School used metacognitive strategies to explore what deep learning looks like, and to co-design learning opportunities across the school.

Assistant Principal Jeff Jackson says the decision to embed metacognitive strategies into the students' learning tried to:

  • promote clearer and consistent expectations of learning for all teachers and students
  • create consistent language about learning in all learning environments across the school
  • share authorship and develop ownership of expectations with both teachers and students
  • support students to lead on the development of the resulting learning protocols.

'[Our journey] is a good reminder for us, as teachers and leaders, that what we think might work well does not actually suit students, and that students can actually offer a very different perspective,' Jeff said.

Starting with student leaders and developing a shared understanding of learning

School leaders at Rosanna Primary started to co-design learning by approaching the junior school council and involving student representatives from each class across the school.

'Students told us what was not going to work and what we could try as teachers to enable them to become co-creators and co-designers of the whole process,' Jeff said.

Together, teachers and students successfully developed a shared understanding of what surface and deep learning was, and created a visual model of deep learning that matched the learning process. Students and teachers can now refer to this model to monitor and guide their learning in class and beyond.

The co-design process assisted students to gain a greater understanding and awareness of the learning process, activating their metacognition.

The resulting deep learning process and protocols are the ideal tool to empower students to take ownership and responsibility over their own learning, which directly leads to developing intrinsic motivation and self-regulation in students.

Using metacognition to change student attitudes to learning

Epping Secondary College used metacognitive strategies to build the knowledge and skills that would help students improve their academic success as well as their mental and emotional wellbeing.

The school moved from encouraging students to demonstrate effort and persistence in work to explicitly teaching them the process and practice required to master new skills.

Epping Secondary College's vision was to:

  • create an environment where students felt connected, supported and were positive in their approach to learning
  • equip students with the skills needed to become self-directed and intrinsically motivated learners, so that they could aspire to and achieve greater goals
  • give students the opportunity to regularly review, reflect and carry out post-analysis of their work and achievement
  • use explicit student and teacher modelling to teach students how marking and feedback are an important part of learning
  • involve students in the co-design of both self-assessment and 'process rubrics' in all subjects.

Developing a process staff and students could both follow

To progress from metacognitive knowledge (being aware of the learning process) to being explicit in lessons about the use of metacognitive strategies (manage the learning process), Epping Secondary College co-designed 'process rubrics' collaboratively with staff and students.

The resulting rubrics reflected the process students use in each subject to improve and self-direct their own learning.

Students now use the rubrics to set goals and reflect on their learning, and to seek feedback and discuss progress with parents, guardians and teachers against their own personal learning goals.

As a result, students have been given time and opportunity to reflect on their own efforts, the different strategies they used, and the processes they employed to achieve a task.

Whereas teachers make it explicitly clear how and why students had learnt something, and how and why they improved, reinforcing that students are the active creators of their own learning can literally shape their brains as they cultivate skills to monitor and adjust their thinking to achieve their learning goals.

The grade 'not yet' replaced a failing grade. This growth mindset has become a hallmark of all assessments, rewarding students who challenged themselves, and who showed resilience and improvement.

Practical resources you can use in your classroom

Explore Professional Practice Note #14: Using Metacognitive Strategies to Support Student Self-Regulation and Empowerment: PPN #14 (PDF, 260KB) PPN #14 (DOCX, 521KB)

Other relevant tools and resources that can help you include: