Metacognition – Bright Spots

Regular visitors to Class Teaching will know that successfully implementing the principles of metacognition in Durrington classrooms has been an ongoing mission of mine for a number of years. In fact it has been over 5 years I’ve been at it. That feels a daunting amount of time, particularly when I think about how much we still need to do to to get student self-regulation to where we want it.

So it was with a certain amount of nervousness that I embarked on a fortnight of trace observations, dropping into lessons and talking to students about how they planned, monitored and evaluated their learning. This is something I have done many times before and with mixed results. To simplify our general position with metacognition it has been much easier (but not easy) to change teacher behaviour as opposed to student behaviour. Teachers may ask more metacognitive questions and model metacognitively but ultimately if that doesn’t elicit a change in the way our students think about their learning then it will only be a surface level impact.

However, I think, and this could well be my confirmation bias talking here, that this latest round of drop-ins did show a shift. Many of the students I spoke to across the dozen or so lesson that I visited were able to articulate the sort of thinking we are trying to arm them with through the explicit teaching of metacognition. To recognise this, here is a summary of some of those bright spots:


  • Y11 English student able to articulate the value of writing frames and structures but also how they could potentially limit their ability to write effectively.
  • Y10 history student able to explain the value of a metacognitive approach to planning a 20mark answer.  Confident that they would adopt the same method when facing a question independently.
  • Y10 performing arts students explained how they appreciate the freedom of choice of strategies within a performing arts lesson as opposed to other lessons where they felt constricted by the frameworks given to them by teachers.


  • Y10 art student was thinking deeply about the piece they were was creating.  Used the term metacognition unprompted!
  • Y9 PE student explained that they thought more about how they were progressing through PE lessons in comparison to other lessons as they enjoyed the lesson more.  Recognised motivation as a factor in how deeply they thought about their learning.
  • Y10 computing students were able to explain several elements that would make them either successful or unsuccessful in the task they were completing.


  • Y10 geography student able to explain the value of a retrieval practice quiz and what the quiz had revealed about their areas of strength and weakness.
  • Y7 science students talked about the differences between primary and secondary science and were able to articulate strategies for remembering.
  • Y11 maths students using a checklist to RAG questions from an assessment.  Explained that without this would still reflect on the success or otherwise of the test but would not be as precise.
  • Y8 Spanish student able to explain the purpose of doing DIRT activities.  Also explained that motivation played a significant role in how deeply they thought about their learning.

Chris Runeckles

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