Teaching Metacognition in the Classroom


Metacognition enables students to recognise the limit of their knowledge and to figure out how to expand that knowledge. This is an incredibly valuable tool.

It is this metacognitive awareness that initiates the student to take charge of their own learning. For a learner agency to be successful there has to be a fundamental shift from teacher to student in the responsibility for – and the control over – learning.

As teachers, we not only have to relinquish some control to students, but we must also use our expertise to set up conditions where students can assume control of their own learning. This allows students to assemble their own personal learning toolkit to enable them to continue being successful learners when their teachers are no longer around.

Metacognition strategies 

Teachers can use the following strategies to teach metacognition in the classroom:


Partner with students to assist them in taking charge of furthering their own learning.

Pedagogical insights 

Share all your pedagogical insights with each student so that they can understand themselves as learners.


Guide students to recognise their learning needs and preferences and assist them to identify their learning gaps.


Provide opportunities for self-assessment, self-analysis and self-reflection on knowledge and tasks.

Graphic organisers 

Use graphic organisers to structure knowledge.


Discuss alternative learning and problem-solving strategies.


Analyse errors and discuss common misconceptions.


Evaluate successes and challenges.

These are all reliable strategies for teaching metacognition in the classroom. Let’s go further and apply them in the Conceptual Framework, drafted by Tracey Butchart, for Reflective Learning. This is ‘Metacognition 2.0!’

The Conceptual Framework for Reflective Learning

The Conceptual Framework for Reflective Learning was borne from an intervention that enabled fifty Grade 10 South African learners to catch up backlogs of three to six years within one school year – an incredible achievement!

The framework is based on a ‘metacognitive model’ and the science behind it is backed by hundreds of research papers and studies.

This ‘metacognitive model’ is based on the following key components:

A cognitive-constructivist theoretical framework.

This instructs how people learn by linking new knowledge to prior learning. It incorporates new findings in neuroscience and psychology which run throughout Reflective Learning’s materials to empower learning.

Visual learning pathways.

These help students understand the conceptual dependencies for high performance. Reflective Learning uses 81 conceptual landmarks to form a full set of visual learning pathways.

Transformative assessment.

This is a diagnostic assessment undertaken by each student which provides measures of learning gaps in units of grade years at the concept level.

Individually customised catch-up courses.

A customised learning journey is created – based on the transformative assessment results – to ensure that the individual student’s needs are met.

Metacognitive strategies.

These help students to learn the metacognitive language, guide self-analysis, facilitate discussion and help to understand their own thinking in order to accelerate learning and increase the potential for academic success.

How long does this framework take to work?

The advantages and benefits offered by this framework are substantial. The evidence indicates that a metacognitive approach to teaching and learning helps students catch up rapidly. According to the ‘EEF – Metacognition and regulation review, 2020,’ metacognition can accelerate grade-level learning by the equivalent of an additional 7+ months’ progress. In terms of catching up learning backlogs, Reflective Learning measures improvements of four to six grade levels in a mere six months!

The end result of teaching metacognition

With a metacognitive approach to learning, students are able to better understand themselves as learners. They acquire the skills to drive and control their own learning, inspiring them to take a greater interest in their learning and empowering them to enjoy greater success.

As teachers, our focus on metacognition enables us to successfully hand over the baton of learning from ourselves to our students and equip them for their future success.

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