A recent review of the research by the Educational Endowment Foundation found metacognition and self-regulation to be the most high-impact classroom strategy taking into consideration both evidence from research and implementation cost. According to psychologist Albert Bandura self-regulation is the process that allows people to “ exercise some control over their thoughts, feelings, motivation, and actions”. For this to be possible, students must have strong metacognitive skills or the ability to self-monitor and think about their own thinking. Students who are metacogntively, motivationionally, and behaviorally active in their own learning process are able to determine strategies that work for them in order to become successful at various tasks.
- set achievable school and personal goals
- use strategies to persist even when a task becomes difficult
- use strategies to manage the environment, time, and their own thinking
- revise what they are doing based on feedback and their own self-monitoring
- know when to seek help
- posess strategies to monitor their own progress towards goals
- believe that their efforts effect their outcomes
- apply creative problem solving when they encounter a problem
- are able to use what they have learned in one situation in another situation
Have you ever wished that your students were able to work more independently? If students do not currently possess the qualities of self-regulated learners, you may be wondering how they can acquire them. People are not born with self-regulated learning strategies; they must be taught. Teachers can add strategy instruction to their lessons each day so that students are not just being taught what to learn but also how to learn.
In the classroom, students need to learn cognitive strategies to help them perform a particular skill or think critically about the content they are learning. They also need to learn metacognitive skills to help make connections between themselves as a thinker and themselves as a learner. Self-regulated or independent learning can only occur when a student possesses the ability to use a metacognitive process to plan, monitor, and evaluate their own strategy use while learning.
We often wait to teach students learning strategies until they are struggling. This can be a mistake because they have already developed ineffective habits that are hard to break. They also may have become discouraged by failure and lack the motivation needed to change their learning behaviors. When students are taught a metacogntive process along with strategies to apply when they are learning, they gain more self-awareness and also more control of their learning. This may alter their perspective and help to increase their motivation. Learning becomes something they can choose to seek out and do for themselves instead of something that happens to them in the presence of a teacher. As the link between their own choices and the outcomes they experience becomes more clear, students develop ownership and agency. Through self-regulated learning, students can increase their achievement by transforming their mental abilities into academic skills they can use in school.
Nina Parrish is the author of The Independent Learner: Metacognitive Exercises to Help K-12 Students Focus, Self-Regulate, and Persevere.