Reflections from the Festival of Metacognition 2024

Unleashing the Power of Metacognition and Self-Regulation within an AI Augmented World.

What a great day at the Festival of Metacognition and thank you to all members of the Thinking Schools’ Network that attended. This year’s conference focused on exploring the incredible potential of metacognition and self-regulation, especially in an AI-augmented world. 

Throughout the day, experts from various fields shared their insights, strategies, and research, helping educators and learners alike to harness the power of thinking about thinking. It was a great opportunity to: take time away from school and consider what is important; pick up a few tips to implement and add to action plans; and most importantly network with other TSN members.

Dr. Kirstin Mulholland kicked off the morning with one workshop, very enlightening on developing metacognition through peer collaboration and dialogue. She emphasised the importance of ‘thinking aloud’ as a strategy to enhance students’ metacognitive skills. By engaging in collaborative discussions, students can reflect on their thought processes and learn from each other. 

In another workshop, Priory Integrated College from Holywood in Northern Ireland presented their innovative approach to embedding a culture of oracy within the classroom. They demonstrated how promoting spoken communication helps students articulate their thoughts clearly, fostering a deeper understanding and reflection on their learning processes. How many times do you hear a student say: ‘I know what I want to say and I know what I mean, but I don’t have the language’. This is why a common language of thinking and learning is a key feature to support students’ oracy, enabling them to articulate their ideas and reflect upon their own thinking. Thank you to Deirdre Scarlett and Claire Crawley for sharing their tools that have been effective at raising students’ attainment.

At the same time, Amarin Hans from Westbrook Primary presented a practical session on the benefits of end-of-unit metacognitive reflections. She shared effective techniques for encouraging students to review and assess their learning journeys, which helps consolidate knowledge and identify areas for improvement by using thinking frames. It was good to be reminded of the importance in supporting learners to reflect on themselves as a learner: HOW they learn, not just WHAT they learn!

After the break, Amarbeer Singh Gill addressed the common challenges students face in the learning process. He shared a quote from Jonathan Firth: ‘Students can think that short-term performance is a great indicator of their learning: in reality it is like painting a wall, we have to wait for the paint to dry before we paint the next layer’. It is too easy to consider that unit tests can successfully indicate the long-term performance of a student. His workshop provided insights into cognitive biases and misconceptions that hinder effective learning, and offered strategies to overcome these obstacles through metacognitive practices. 

For those interested in learning more about Metacognition in the Early Years, we had invited Victoria Playford & Thomas Powell from Mulberry House School. They explored the role of metacognition in early childhood education and highlighted techniques for nurturing young children’s ability to think about their thinking, laying a strong foundation for lifelong learning skills. Remember, even three-year-olds can think about their thinking! Lots of creative ideas shared from their Thinkers Toolbox which included Thinking Hats and Thinking Frames.

Dr. Claire Badger’s workshop, from The Godolphin and Latymer School, focused on applying Self-Determination Theory to boost student motivation: “Successfully motivating students… is often at the heart of effective teaching and learning.” She explained how fostering autonomy, competence, and relatedness can enhance students’ intrinsic motivation and support their metacognitive development. As students reflect on their academic achievement, this is one of the levers to help drive them forward as their motivation is increased. 

Our first Keynote speaker was presented by Professor Rose Luckin, UCL and Founder of Educate Ventures Research. She was considering: ‘What We Should Be Teaching Learners for Them to Thrive in an AI World.’ Prof. Luckin delivered a thought-provoking keynote on the essential skills and knowledge learners need to thrive in an AI-dominated future: “A roadmap is hard to produce as we do not really know where our AI world is going – hard to predict! What’s better to know what skills we have to navigate the world ahead”. In this rapidly evolving era of artificial intelligence, it is crucial for education to adapt both curriculum and teaching strategies to prepare students for a future where AI is ubiquitous by helping them to develop advanced human intelligence and sophisticated thinking expertise. She discussed the challenges and opportunities for schools and teachers in leveraging AI effectively, including the power of AI to help us better understand our own human intelligence and the extent to which our students are progressing in the sophistication of the advanced thinking skills they are developing.She emphasised the critical role of metacognition in adapting to rapid technological advancements and preparing for the jobs of tomorrow.

The second Keynote focused on ‘Metacognition and Memory: How Are They Related and What Does That Mean for Learning and Teaching?’ It was presented by Professor Daniel Muijs, Queen’s University Belfast and co-author of the EEF’s guidance report on Metacognition and Self-Regulation. He explored the intricate relationship between metacognition and memory. He discussed how understanding this relationship can inform teaching practices and improve learning outcomes by helping students better retain and apply knowledge. As we consider memory and metacognition, it is helpful to remember ‘the emotions that we attach to a memory help us to remember it and help it to hook into our long-term memory.

In the afternoon, Dr Natasha Robson presented a workshop on ‘Integrating Critical Thinking into Your Classroom’. She provided practical strategies for integrating critical thinking into everyday classroom activities. Apophenia is all about us looking for patterns whether we are observing experiments or making sense of information, but the danger is when we start seeing patterns where there are none and therefore draw false conclusions. This sometimes happens with our students as they rely on what they think they can see or know. She highlighted the importance of fostering a critical thinking mindset that compliments metacognitive practices and therefore enhances the overall learning.

In the main hall, Charles Dickens School, recently awarded Thinking School status, shared their experiences: Enculturation: Raising Attainment and Monitoring Impact – A Thinking School Journey. Charles Dickens School shared their journey of becoming a ‘Thinking School.’ They started with sharing what had prompted this journey and what they noticed was missing from their students with their attitude towards learning. The workshop  discussed the process of enculturation for both staff and students by creating a culture of aspiration and establishing a learning community. It was encouraging to hear the impact of metacognitive strategies on student attainment and overall school performance.

The final workshop with Alastair Gittner was on ‘Metacognitive Strategies to Improve Mathematical Problem Solving.’ His session focused on applying metacognitive strategies to enhance students’ problem-solving skills in mathematics. He provided examples of how to teach students to plan, monitor, and evaluate their approach to complex mathematical problems.

The day was a remarkable event, shedding light on the transformative power of metacognition and self-regulation in education. From engaging workshops to insightful keynote speeches, the festival provided valuable knowledge and practical strategies for educators and learners. As we move forward in an AI-augmented world, embracing these concepts will be crucial for fostering adaptive, lifelong learners.

TSN members will be able to access all the slides and download them to support their own CPD: Festival of Metacognition 2024 Slides

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