Free CPD materials: Metacognition in the classroom

Written by: Steve Burnage | Published:
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In this series, Steve Burnage offers CPD workshop ideas that can be adapted for you and your school, including via remote working. Here, he looks at metacognition and self-regulation in the classroom

This purpose of this article is to provide a 45-minute interactive training outline that could be suitable for a staff meeting, staff development group, small group CPD session or for individual study. The training outline is included here while the PowerPoint slides and an accompanying handout is available to download by clicking the button above.

Slides 1 & 2: Welcome and introduction

The objectives of this bite-sized training are:

  • To understand what metacognition and self-regulation are, and why should your school adopt them.
  • To be able to plan learning strategies to enable students to identify the different ways they could approach learning overall and to select the most appropriate method for an activity.

Slide 3: What is metacognition

Metacognition describes the processes involved when learners plan, monitor, evaluate and make changes to their own learning behaviours. Metacognition is often considered to have two dimensions: metacognitive knowledge and self-regulation (EEF, 2018).

Metacognition: Also from SecEd

Getting started with metacognition theories, April 2019
Metacognition: Classroom strategies, November 2018
In the classroom: Metacognition explained, November 2018

Slide 4: Your own metacognitive knowledge

Activity: Participants are to use sticky notes to record their response to three questions before sharing:

  1. What do you know about your own thinking abilities?
  2. What do you know about how challenging you might find today’s training?
  3. What do you know will be successful in terms of learning strategies to help you engage with today’s training?

Slide 5: Self-regulation

Self-regulation refers to what learners do about learning. It describes how learners monitor and control their cognitive processes.

  • Planning: At this stage, it is helpful for learners to ask themselves: What am I being asked to do? Which strategies will I use? Are there any strategies that I have used before that might be useful?
  • Monitoring: As students work through the task, it will help them to ask themselves: Is the strategy that I am using working? Do I need to try something different?
  • Evaluation: To promote evaluation, students could consider: How well did I do? What did not go well? What could I do differently next time? What went well? What other types of problem can I use this strategy for?
  • Reflection: Reflection is a fundamental part of the plan-monitor-evaluate process. Encouraging learners to self-question throughout the process will support this reflection.

Slide 6: Understand self-regulation

Consider this scenario: You have been asked to put together a 15-minute presentation on metacognition and self-regulation for a staff meeting. You have tried searching the internet for available resources, but this has not worked. What learning strategies could you use instead?

Individually, work through the three initial stages of self-regulation – plan, monitor, evaluate – to come up with a better learning strategy to achieve your learning goal. Now share with the group and reflect on what you have learned about self-regulation.

Slide 7: Four levels of metacognitive learners

David Perkins (1992) defined four levels of metacognitive learners and these provide a useful framework for teachers:

  • Tacit learners are unaware of their metacognitive knowledge.
  • Aware learners know about some of the kinds of thinking that they do such as generating ideas, finding evidence etc.
  • Strategic learners organise their thinking by using problem-solving, grouping and classifying, evidence-seeking and decision-making etc.
  • 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.

Slide 8: Metacognitive differentiation

Using the four levels of metacognitive learners – tacit, aware, strategic and reflective – can be an interesting way to differentiate the planning of learning activities.

Slide 9: Clarifying learning goals

In order to think well, and to think about their learning, students need clear learning goals that focus on the learning not the task to be completed.

Slide 10: Applying effective thinking across subjects

Students can use strategies across different domains of the school curriculum. For example, a strategy that they have applied in a maths lesson might also be effective when studying a language.

Slide 11: Developing skills to plan, monitor and evaluate

Keeping a thinking journal can be a highly effective way for learners to develop their ability to plan, monitor and self-evaluate.

Slide 12: Reciprocal teaching

Reciprocal teaching is a strategy used to develop reading comprehension Working with small groups of students, the teacher models the use of four key strategies that support reading comprehension: Questioning, Clarifying, Summarising, Predicting.

The students are then asked to take on the role of teacher and teach these strategies to other students.

Slide 13: Metacognitive talk

Metacognitive talk involves a person saying out loud what they are thinking while they are carrying out a task. Talking out loud can help learners to focus and monitor their cognitive processing, as well as helping them to develop a deeper understanding of their own thinking processes.

Slide 14: Exam wrappers

Exam wrappers are worksheets containing reflective questions that help learners to review their performance in a test or exam. Exam wrappers can be given to learners both before and after they receive the results of the test and other feedback.

Slide 15: Where next?

This checklist could help you reflect on how to embed metacognitive thought and self-reflection in your own teaching practice:

  • Have I included clear learning objectives?
  • How am I going to encourage my students to monitor their learning?
  • How can I create opportunities for learners to practise new strategies?
  • How can I allow time for learner self-reflection?
  • Does the classroom environment support metacognitive practices?

Steve Burnage has experience leading challenging inner city and urban secondary schools. He now works as a freelance trainer, consultant and author for staff development, strategic development, performance management and coaching and mentoring. Visit and read his previous articles for SecEd, including his previous CPD workshop overviews, at

Further information

EEF: Metacognition and self-regulation, Teaching and Learning Toolkit, last updated August 2018:


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