Metacognitive Leaners

Metacognition describes the processes involved when learners plan, monitor, evaluate and make changes to their own learning behaviours. David Perkins (1992) developed an idea that there are four different types of metacognitive learners. These four types of metacognitive learners (outlined below) create a useful framework for teachers. This blog aims to demonstrate some of the behaviours students exhibited during their lessons at Durrington High School during lesson drop ins, throughout all four levels.

Perkin’s four levels of metacognitive learners (1992):

  • Tacit learners are unaware of their metacognitive knowledge. They do not think about any particular strategies for learning and merely accept if they know something or not.
  • Aware learners know about some of the kinds of thinking that they do such as generating ideas, finding evidence etc. However, thinking is not necessarily deliberate or planned.
  • Strategic learners organise their thinking by using problem-solving, grouping and classifying, evidence-seeking and decision-making etc. They know and apply the strategies that help them learn.
  • Reflective learners are not only strategic about their thinking but they also reflect upon their learning while it is happening, considering the success or not of any strategies they are using and then revising them as appropriate


Traits of tacit learners observed:

  • In science, Y9 students had not reflected on the information they had written down or its wider significance.
  • In business, Y10 students were not able to explain any of the strategies connected to the task they were performing.

Traits of aware learners observed:

  • In maths, Y7 students were applying maths strategies to “real world” problems. The students managed to solve the problem but showed limited awareness of the best strategies to use.
  • In D&T, a Y9 student could identify that they always over-complicate their designs, which leads to them not finishing. However, they had not been able to act on this or change behaviour.
  • In English, Y7 students were able to describe a PEE paragraph but not explain its purpose.
  • In science, Y9 students asked elaborative questions showing a desire to think more deeply, however these were not particularly strategic

Traits of strategic learners observed:

  • In geography, Y7 students were able to make a reasoned comparison of the different methods to measure height on a map and explain why one was better than another.
  • In history, Y7 students were able to evaluate what had gone well and badly in an assessment and give a description of what they would do differently next time (lack of deep reflection on why).
  • In maths, Y7 students were selecting a particular strategy to solve a problem without prompting (lowest common multiple). They knew the strategy to use but not why they were using it.
  • In French, Y7 students were able to explain their strategies for translation. They said they would first sound it in their heads to see it was similar to an English word, then use a dictionary and then use either their books, a partner or the teacher. They were not able to explain why one might be better than another.

Traits of reflective learners observed:

  • In D&T, Y9 students were able to verbalise a strategy from a different project earlier in the year (drawing a safety line) that they had applied to their current project. They could explain the value of the strategy.

James Crane

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