Metacognition is the practice of thinking about thinking – or about how we best learn.
It involves individuals in developing knowledge and understanding of their own cognitive – learning – processes.
Through teaching metacognition skills, children will become aware of their own behaviours and thoughts, and how this can help them to control and develop their own thinking and learning processes.
By practising metacognition skills, children can identify when they are making progress and the strategies that best help them achieve specific learning objectives; all of this also contributes to and enhances emotional self-regulation skills.
Modelling metacognitive awareness and skills
The Education Endowment Foundation recommends that teachers: "Demonstrate effective use of metacognitive and self-regulatory strategies by modelling their own thought processes. For example, teachers might explain their thinking when interpreting a text or solving a mathematical task, alongside promoting and developing metacognitive talk related to lesson objectives." Read the full Education Endowment Foundation report.
Metacognition in PSHE – how SCARF supports this approach
Metacognition skills are central to effective PSHE education. The pedagogy that underpins SCARF’s curriculum and lesson content is rooted in metacognition principles and practice. Through its spiral curriculum, children learn and practice strategies for understanding and managing their emotions, critical thinking, goal-setting, and making informed decisions.
For example, children learn to identify and label their emotions, and to understand the connection between thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. They also develop skills in setting goals and reflecting on their progress towards those goals; they practice the skills needed to make informed decisions by critically analysing information and understanding the relationship between actions and their consequences – positive and negative – and about how decisions will affect themselves and others.
Opportunities for practising and developing these metacognitive strategies are threaded through SCARF’s active learning strategies, including:
- Whole-class discussions
- Paired and group work
- Evaluating information
- Decision-making activities.
- Regular reviewing
- Regular self-reflection opportunities
- Growth mindset approach
SCARF's embedded growth mindset and metacognitive approach
A growth mindset approach is at the heart of SCARF.
Research tells us that in order to develop this mindset – central to the development of metacognitive skills – children need to learn and practice the skills that develop it; knowing about it is not enough.
For this reason – and starting in the early years with lessons throughout the whole of their primary years – SCARF helps children learn about the skills and attitudes that they can develop that help them be resilient and confident learners.
In addition to its spiral curriculum, SCARF provides the following tools to embed and enhance this approach:
Ready for learning
A range of calming strategies that help children settle quickly to learning during the often hectic school day. SCARF’s Ready for Learning tools provide a rich variety of options; teachers can therefore tailor these to the children’s needs and vary them to maintain engagement. Find out more and view the Ready for Learning resources
Lessons that specifically teach the principles and skills needed to practice developing a growth mindset – from R to Y6. Read more about SCARF and a growth mindset and view the SCARF lessons that explicitly teach about growth mindset
Using SCARF assessment tools to support metacognition
The three SCARF assessment tools can each play a part in developing children’s metacognition skills. Teachers are free to choose one or all of these tools so that they best fit the school’s assessment policy and practice:
Formative Assessment: SCARF progress
The pre- and post-unit assessment tools can be used to engage children in determining their learning journey: their existing strengths and areas for development. Pre- and post-assessment tools can be found for each year group on the SCARF half-termly units page (search pre and post on this page).
Summative Assessment: SCARF success
Children can be involved in deciding where on the scale of ‘I can…’ summative assessment statements they are. In turn, this will help them to reflect on what they’ve learned and where they can develop their learning. Summative assessment statements can be found for each year group on the SCARF half-termly units page (search ‘summative’ on this page).
Reflections on learning: Wearing my Scarf
Possibly the most valuable assessment tool in relation to metacognition, children can use Wearing my Scarf for personal reflections, including what has impacted on their learning and attitudes so that they can build on this in the future. Find out more about the Reflections on learning tools.
Pupil Voice and metacognition
SCARF’s Whole-school Approach to children’s health and wellbeing toolkit includes a dedicated Pupil Voice page. There are tools here to supports teachers in engaging children in their learning, embedding metacognitive skills at the start of each half-termly unit. View the Pupil voice page.
SCARF provides key questions for each age group with questions based around the content of each of the six suggested half-termly unit themes. These challenge children’s thinking skills and contribute to a metacognitive approach. View the Key questions.
Confidence with Numbers
Coram Life Education has been funded to develop resources to develop children’s confidence with numbers. Available in the spring term, 2023, this set of assemblies and related resources focuses strongly on metacognitive skills. Children learn how to approach new, sometimes difficult or challenging work, with a positive attitude and to overcome their fears, particularly in relation to maths.
Research indicates that children and young people are most able to develop metacognitive skills between the ages of 12-15 – at secondary school. However, by fostering their understanding and use of these skills at primary school, it’s possible that these early foundations will enhance their learning journey through secondary school and beyond.