Ever since the Education Endowment Foundation reported that metacognition adds an average of 7 months additional progress and is one of the cheapest strategies based on a strong body of research, many teachers and senior leaders are looking to implement it at their school. But what actually is it? And most importantly, how can we help students develop it?

Metacognition is often defined as ‘thinking about thinking’. However, it is actually much more than that. It covers students’ ability to reflect and critically analyse how they think. Essentially, it is about developing student’s self-awareness, so that they can better monitor, reflect and analyse their own performances. As a result, they become better independent learners.

How Can Schools Develop Student Metacognition?

As metacognition covers a broad range of thinking strategies, there are numerous ways that teachers and schools can help students improve it. We have highlighted four possible ways they can do this.


Teachers can develop their students’ metacognitive skills by helping them break down the task into three areas; before, during and after. By ensuring that they take time to plan how they are going to do a task, monitor their progress during and evaluate afterwards, their self-awareness, self-reflection and performance next time should all improve. Specifically, this could include:

  • Before a task – encourage students to identify whether their task they are performing is similar to others they have done in the past. This will encourage them to identify helpful strategies and boost their confidence. An additional area to target could be identifying clear goals and how long they think each task will take (in the research, this is known as helping them to avoid ‘the planning fallacy’).
  • During a task – provide a structure that allows them to monitor their performance as they go along. This ensures any road bumps or hiccups can be nipped in the bud, ensuring that they stay on task and on track.
  • After a task – Having completed the task students should look to learn from their experiences, by reflecting on what went well and what they could improve on for next time. This provides a firm platform for future learning.