Thinking Matters Northern Ireland Conference

 – Conference Report

Thinking Matters' (TM) recent conference at the Hilton Hotel, Templepatrick in Northern Ireland, on 14th March 2024, which was positively enjoyed both by participants and delegates sought to explore the theme of Metacognition in Practice. 

Following a welcome by Alisdair Wade, Thinking Matters’ CEO, the keynote address was presented by Professor Daniel Muijs, Head of the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast and co-author of the EEF’s Evidence Review and Guidance Report on the topic of Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning. Daniel spoke on Metacognition and Memory – a subject of current interest to many schools – outlining key knowledge about memory and metacognition before considering what this means for teaching and how they are inter-connected.

The conference programme provided an opportunity for three Thinking School Network members to share stories about how they introduced and embedded metacognitive strategies across the whole school. Firstly, Rhonda Moles (Principal) of Cumran Primary School in Clough, County Down outlined the context of the school and the strategic approach taken over many years to embed metacognitive approaches across the school. Having recently been recognised as an Advanced Accredited Thinking School by the University of Exeter it was a great opportunity to hear about the different steps and their implementation timeline. Leanne Smyth (DTL), Pamela McDade (Vice Principal, SENCo and Literacy Leader) and Victoria Robinson (Maths Leader) outlined how Visual Tools for Learning are used across all years and all subject areas in the school.

Members of the Drive Team from Priory Integrated College in Holywood, County Down led a workshop entitled Insights into the Thinking Classroom. Thank you to Deirdre Scarlett (DTL and Leader of Teaching and Learning), Helen Clarke (Head of History), Pauline Pulford (Maths Teacher and SEND Team) and Declan Kelly (Leader of KS4 and Mathematics Teacher for leading this session. Their workshop included an overview of the strategic process which the school has taken to develop ‘whole school metacognition’ and an exemplification of how Thinking Frames were being used to improve student performance in History. They provided a number of examples of metacognitive strategies which made links with the Science of Learning and of Habits of Mind used to support students in the SEND context. It illustrated how these had been embedded and were student’s learning behaviours. To conclude their session, Declan described how metacognitive strategies underpin the school’s Assessment for Learning practices and target setting and outlined the impact this is having on outcomes for learners.

Ashgrove Primary SchoolNewtownabbey, County Antrim, faciliated a workshop entitled Strategies to develop deeper Creative and Critical Thinking throughout the Whole School. Robert Smith (Principal) introduced the team and explained the strategic process which this school has taken to embed metacognitive strategies across the school in the post-Covid context. This effective implementation process has had many benefits for learners and the school recently gained accreditation as a Thinking School by the University of Exeter. Robert was joined by two other members of the Drive Team, Dave McComb (Vice Principal) and Jill Carberry (DTL and Pastoral Care Coordinator). During the workshop, examples of classroom practice were shared to outline the range of metacognitive tools effectively used within the school: including Thinking Frames; Thinking Hats; Visible Thinking Routines; and Habits of Mind. Their examples included videos of pupils talking about the tools and their purpose; a very effective way to engage parents. A recent innovation was the introduction of a ‘Neuroscience Week’ which had enabled the importance of understanding the Science of Learning to be profiled in all classes.

Lorna Gardiner, TM’s locally based consultant in Northern Ireland brought the conference to a close, sharing some concluding thoughts on Making Connections: Developing Meta-Learners in the NI Curriculum. The examples of practice shared by the three schools in the workshop effectively demonstrated how very practical classroom strategies can make explicit the Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities Framework from the NI curriculum across a whole school, and can contribute positively towards the vision for the 21st century learner.

We would like to thank Professor Muijs, the teams from Cumran PS, Priory IC and Ashgrove PS and all who attended the conference and contributed positively to its success.

See upcoming events

Scroll to Top