Metacognition & Self-regulation in Education

Welcome to the world of transformative education, where the journey towards success begins with two powerful concepts: metacognition and self-regulation. Here, we introduce you to these game-changing ideas and how they can revolutionise your teaching approach.

Since 2004, Thinking Matters has helped schools create a culture where self-regulation and metacognition is highly valued and where teachers nurture metacognitive learners. It is our belief that in these Thinking Schools students will be armed with the minds and mindsets to succeed in a fast changing future. 


Metacognitive learners are able to regulate their own approach to learning, are able to evaluate different learning strategies and choose the most effective ones for a particular task. By understanding their strengths and weaknesses, students can select appropriate approaches to problem-solving, information processing, and knowledge retention. This enhances a learner’s ability to think critically, to evaluate evidence, and generate solutions to complex problems and promotes deeper understanding and higher-order thinking skills.

At Thinking Matters we feel it is too narrow to confine metacognition to reflecting only on our thinking processes. We believe that being metacognitive of our learning behaviours and dispositions also fall under the ‘meta’ umbrella, as well as an understanding of what drives our skills, knowledge and behaviour – our motives.

There are numerous studies showing the positive impact of metacognition on academic progress. The highly respected EEF, has recently shown it to be amongst the most powerful and cost effective of interventions, one that adds an additional seven months to learner progress. That translates to an accelerated progress beyond predicted scores. If routinely practiced at a whole school level, this maximises the opportunity for students to rehearse and apply strategies in a wide variety of disciplines with increasing confidence and independence. More on the Impact of Thinking Schools.

By providing students with the most effective metacognitive tools and strategies and helping to make thinking explicit and ‘visible’ in the classroom, teachers are able to model and develop effective thinking routines for their students. For effective learning to take place throughout the curriculum, we must recognise the role of metacognition in enabling students to plan, monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their own thinking; to become self-directed, confident and independent learners, capable of reaching their full potential. 

Self-regulation in learning relies on three critical components:

Cognition is a term that refers to the mental process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses. Teachers will use strategies that support student’s capacity to process and store information; to build knowledge and develop understanding.

Metacognition is the act of thinking about how we think and learn. When equipped with the right teaching and learning tools and strategies, students can be helped to develop metacognitive skills that allow them to plan, organise, and evaluate their own learning, leading to greater autonomy and academic success.  More on metacognition

Motivation plays a key role in learning. Intrinsic motivation is the inherent sense of satisfaction and a perception of personal growth felt when engaging in activities. It is an oversimplification to assume that simply through achievement, we become motivated. Students must have the motivation to accept the challenge and teachers should also support students’ motivation to undertake the learning tasks. More on intrinsic motivation

EEF - Venn Diagram (1)

The evidence indicates that explicitly teaching strategies to help plan, monitor and evaluate specific aspects of their learning can be effective.

EEF Metacognition & Self-Regulation Guidance Report, 2018

Self-regulation in learning refers to the ability of learners to independently control and direct their cognitive, emotional, and behavioural processes to achieve specific learning goals. It involves a set of well developed metacognitive, motivational, behavioural and cognitive strategies that learners use to monitor, manage, and adapt their learning experiences. More on self-regulated learning

Self-regulated learners take an active role in their learning process and are more likely to be successful in achieving their educational objectives. 

If you would like to explore budget-friendly options to enhance metacognition and self-regulation for your school, students and staff, contact us to book a conversation.

If you are a school leader looking for professional development opportunities for your staff or you are an individual teacher looking for a course that will improve your own knowledge and practice, take a look at our Professional Development Opportunities.

To thrive in the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ will require humans to be able to adapt and to do so quickly. We will all need a ‘tool kit’ of learning strategies to make fast improvements. To choose the right tool we will need to be able to reflect on what’s working for us and what isn’t.

Alisdair Wade, CEO

We support schools seeking formal accreditation as a Thinking School ​

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