Developing Metacognitive Talk In Students

Metacognition and self-regulation are amongst the most highly spoken about concepts in the world of education at the moment. A really good summary of the concept was the article that Alex Quigley and Eleanor Stringer wrote for the Charter College’s Impact journal last year, this can be found here –

In the article they suggest that one of the important ways for teachers to better understand metacognition and to teach pupils such strategies is to first dispel some common misconceptions about metacognition. Two of the key misconceptions they identify are:

  • Metacognition is a general skill that should be taught separately from subject knowledge
  • Metacognition represents ‘higher order’ thinking and is therefore more important than mere cognition or subject knowledge

Furthermore, the article suggests metacognitive talk as a key aspect of exploiting the lessons of metacognition. It is generally accepted that having a classroom where students are actively engaging in purposeful reasoning, discussion, debating and explaining it will not only elicit students thought but also develop metacognitive, reflective practitioners.

At Durrington High School in our teaching inquiry groups, explained here by Shaun Allison we discussed how we can develop the ‘metacognitive talk’ in our classrooms, in order to elicit thinking and promote metacognition, beyond the teacher-students dialogue, two examples of which are explained below.

-Shane Borrett our Curriculum leader of maths when tackling a complex GCSE exam question, will get all students to share their responses. He will then get students to explain how they came to their respective answers (ensuring they explicitly share all of the implicit processes) whilst explaining the strategy/procedure they used. Students who disagree will then explain how they came to their answer. At this point Shane will facilitate a discussion where students can debate what the correct strategy/strategies may have been and why, he then shares the correct response with the students and ensures any students who were not correct can explain where they went wrong and, perhaps, more importantly how they would tackle a similar problem next time in light of the previously had discussion.

-When teaching his GCSE class the impacts of technology Ryan De Gruchy, who is one of our PE teachers, also develops the metacognitive talk in his classroom. Ryan gives the students several minutes to make notes on either the positive impact of technology on sport or the negative impacts of technology on sport. The students will then explain their arguments, whilst taking questions and discussing all of the major points through reasoned arguments. The class then create and share closing statements on the impacts. The students not only strengthen their understanding of the GCSE PE technology unit, they also develop their metacognitive talk.

The two scenarios do come with a slight caveat, as both of the teachers have spent a considerable amount of time prior to the tasks, to guarantee the dialogue is purposeful, with the teachers guiding and supporting the conversation to ensure it is challenging and builds on prior subject knowledge.

The EEF guidance report also highlights the importance of metacognitive talk and outlines some practical implications for teachers in recommendation 5 which can be found here –

James Crane is a Deputy Leader of PE and Dance at Durrington High School.  He is also a Research School Associate for Durrington Research School and will be delivering our training on Memory and Metacognition. Details of our 2019-20 Training Programmes here


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