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Thinking School Process

Whether you are seeking accreditation as a Thinking School or not, we have developed a model of working with schools designed to support them in successfully embedding a sustainable, whole school approach to metacognition - our 'Core Approach'.

This Core Approach puts schools in a position to seek and be confident in gaining Exeter’s Thinking School accreditation. It is aimed at schools who don’t have a history in the explicit development of metacognition in their learners. The Core Approach consists of the equivalent of six full training days with the whole staff and the support of one of our consultants working with a school ‘Drive Team’ to embed the approach across the whole school. It typically takes three years.

For schools who are already explicitly developing areas of metacognition, we design bespoke programmes, based on elements of the Core Approach. Given our belief in the impact of a whole school approach (where there is a common vision, goals, language and measure of progress) we insist on one element which is that we work with a school’s 'drive team' to support whole school change. 

The following graphic gives a outline of our Core Approach.


  • Initial Consultation: Our work starts with time spent between a Thinking Matters adviser and the School Head and Senior Leadership team. We explore your school’s context and the purpose of your interest in adopting the change to a whole school approach to the teaching of thinking. We provide input to your plan to bring about that change, advise on selecting the right drive team to implement your strategy, how best to evaluate its effect and how the approach supports government inspection requirements.

Phase One

  • Day 1 - What is a Thinking School: Once your drive team has been selected we spend a day at your school with your drive team, sharing best practice from the schools we have worked with on how best to embed metacognition at a whole school level.  We explore why 'Thinking Matters'look at the TM Big Picture and the science of learning, and discuss what it means to be an 'agent of change'.  The day is designed so that your school's Drive Team will go away with a clear vision of a Thinking School and the framework of an action plan in how they are going to support the roll out of metacognitive pedagogy across the whole school staff.

    Following the Drive Team Day we continue to provide both proactive and reactive support to your Drive Team in their role as 'agents of change' in making metacognition whole school. 

Phase Two

  • Day 2 - Developing Metacognition: Thinking Processes and Visual Tools.  Further in-depth training with whole school staff on the use of Metacognitive Visual Tools and developing Thinking Processes across the school.
  • Day 3 - Deepening Understanding: Developing Metacognition: Thinking Processes and Visual Tools. We work with whole school staff to develop mastery in the use of metacognitive visual tools.

Phase Three

  • Day 4 - Developing Metacognition: Creating and Breaking Habits of Mind - whole school staff training on intelligent learning behaviours and making and breaking Habits of Mind.
  • Day 5 - Developing Metacognition: Motivation, Feedback and Thinking Routines - whole school staff training on understanding motivaiton to engage learners, the value of feedback and
    implementing Thinking Routines to develop to develop thinking.

Phase Three+

  • Thinking School Accreditation: For those that seek accreditation this is carried out independently from Thinking Matters with the University of Exeter.

Phase Four

  • Advanced Thinking School Accreditation: For those that seek accreditation this is carried out independently from Thinking Matters with the University of Exeter.


  • Ongoing Support: Throughout the process of becoming a Thinking School we continue to work with your leadership, drive team and whole school staff by providing support on implementing and sustaining the appropriate change process, evaluating its effects and providing training expertise on the thinking tools, behaviours and pedagogy that underpin the Thinking Matters approach.

Take a look at our brochure outlining the Thinking Matters Approach and how we work with your school.

View Brochure