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‘Meta-cognition’ instruction has been highlighted in the Sutton Trust EEF Toolkit (see here) as one of the most effective interventions in closing the attainment gap. These interventions have a very high impact on academic results, for low financial cost, giving an incredible return on investment. Students involved in meta-cognition programmes can experience an additional eight months of development over a single academic year.

So what exactly is it?

The abstract nature of the word makes it sound daunting, but put simply ‘Meta-cognition’ can be defined as ‘thinking about thinking.’ It refers to higher order thinking which involves taking active control over the mental processes engaged in learning. Activities such as planning how to approach a task, monitoring comprehension, and evaluating progress toward the completion of a task are meta-cognitive. Because it plays a critical role in successful learning, it is important to study meta-cognitive development and adopt strategies to assist students in better applying their cognitive resources through meta-cognitive control (phew).

Meta-cognition consists of both knowledge and experiences. The knowledge refers to awareness of cognitive processes. For example, a student may be aware that their study sessions will be more productive if they worked in the school library rather than at home where there are many distractions. The experiences involve the use of meta-cognitive strategies. These are sequential processes that one uses to control cognitive activities and to ensure that a learning goal has been met. For example, after reading a paragraph in a textbook a student might question herself about the concepts explained. If she finds that she cannot answer her own questions, she can then decide what needs to be done to ensure that she meets the goal of understanding the text.

Cognitive and meta-cognitive strategies

Research shows that students can learn how to develop and regulate their cognitive activities. Most often, meta-cognitive instruction occurs within CSI: Cognitive Strategy Interventions. Encouragingly, the evidence suggests that teaching ‘thinking strategies’ tend to be particularly effective with lower achieving students and the benefits are likely to be noticed across all subjects. To achieve the best gains from these programmes, students need to take a greater responsibility for their learning through developing their understanding of what is involved in being successful.

The aim of MADE Training is to enable all students to become more independent, flexible, and productive in their learning, through sharing the best tools and strategies for thinking. Please call us on 0800 2707660 to find out how we can help you meet your current objectives.

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