Practical tips for integrating metacognition and self-regulated learning into the classroom

The evidence is clear that metacognition and self-regulated learning can accelerate student learning, but what does this look like in the classroom?

Rob Mason

Building Student Self-regulation and Metacognition

In our first two blog posts, we took a look at two related concepts from the world of learning science: metacognition, and self-regulated learning. We explored types of metacognitive knowledge and skills, the three phases of self-regulated learning, and some of the benefits of using these approaches for student learning outcomes.

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In this blog post, we’ll take it one step further and start to think about some practical ways to grow your students’ ability to self-regulate and develop metacognitive skills and knowledge. The evidence is clear that metacognition and self-regulated learning can accelerate student learning, but what does this look like in the classroom?

3 strategies to promote self-regulation and metacognition in the classroom

2. Explicitly modelling different strategies and discussing how and when they can be useful
3. Building student capacity to self-assess and work towards goals independently

1. Building metacognitive reflection into your lessons as a regular process

Evidence suggests that metacognitive skills can be taught (Schraw, 1998), but a critical part of this is providing opportunities for students to build their skills over time in reflecting upon and evaluating their own learning. Just as a piano student won’t improve their scales if they don’t rehearse them, students who aren’t given the opportunity to reflect on the effectiveness of their learning will not improve these reflective abilities.


One way to do this may involve providing exit tickets for students as the lesson comes to a close. While not a new concept, building a library of possible exit ticket questions and using these regularly can help students to tap in to and grow their metacognitive knowledge.


Questions could be centred around each of the three elements of metacognitive knowledge. For example:

  • What strategies did you use to complete today’s task? (Knowledge of strategies)
  • Did the strategy work for today’s task? Would it work as well for (last week’s/a different) task? (Knowledge of task)
  • How easy/difficult did you find today’s task overall (1 = very difficult, 10 = very easy)? How could you make the task easier next time? (Knowledge of the learner)


The possibilities with exit ticket questions to promote metacognitive thinking are endless. However, the important part is that students are given regular opportunities to consider a range of questions designed to help them reflect on their learning. Evidence suggests that it can take some time for students to start thinking about their learning when the concept is first introduced – but as the habit develops and they become familiar with the approach, they begin to adopt it autonomously (Tan, Dawson & Venville, 2008).

2. Explicitly modelling different strategies and discussing how and when they can be useful

In order for students to develop a ‘menu’ of strategies from which they can select, an important first step is explicitly teaching these strategies. Often, the most relevant strategies in one subject are different to those in another subject, so it can be useful to discuss metacognitive strategies in the context of a particular learning situation rather than running generic “one-size-fits-all” sessions on learning strategies.


As an example, consider the use of think aloud routines. These involve the teacher narrating through their own internal thought processes when working through a learning task, such as completing a maths problem or constructing a paragraph. Articulating the thinking required to plan, monitor, and complete a task can serve as a model for students to then begin to think aloud through their own tasks.


Encouraging students to begin to model strategies themselves is the next step in creating comfortability and familiarity with metacognitive thinking in the classroom. Get students sharing what works for them, and what they’re thinking about when completing a learning task. Having a student think aloud through a maths problem themselves can not only be a useful task for the student presenting, but for other students who may recognise effective methods or even misconceptions that they also hold.

3. Building student capacity to self-assess and work towards goals independently

Several methods can help students to monitor their own progress towards learning goals, a key element of self-regulated learning. By providing students with checklists, marking rubrics, and exemplar pieces of work to compare to their own, we can develop their capacity to self-assess.

Schraw (1998) proposes a series of questions in a checklist that students can use to help plan, monitor, and evaluate their learning. These include:



  • What is the goal of my task?
  • What kind of information do I need?
  • How much time will I need?


  • Do I have a clear understanding of what I am doing?
  • Am I moving towards the learning goals?
  • Do I need to change strategies?


  • Have I reached the learning goal?
  • What worked? What didn’t?
  • What would I change for next time?


Additionally, providing students with a copy of the marking rubric – provided that it contains sufficient detail for the student to judge their work against it – helps to make success clear to students. Avoiding arbitrary letter or number grades in rubrics, and instead creating clear level descriptors that articulate what is required at each level of performance, will help to make rubrics a more useful tool in developing self-regulation.


For example, students may not know the difference between a 3 and a 4 out of 5 when being marked on shooting a basketball, but can more readily understand the difference between “can make a layup with dominant hand” compared to “can make a layup using either hand”. This clarity helps them to be able to use a rubric to self-assess performance without the need for external feedback.

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How do teachers currently promote self-regulated learning in the classroom

As part of our series on learning science research, and how it applies to the classroom, we will be taking a deep dive into a handful of recent learning science research papers. While looking into some current research, we will pull out practical recommendations that can be implemented into the classroom.

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Bibliography & suggested further reading

Owen, D., & Vista, A. (2017). Strategies for teaching metacognition in classrooms. Retrieved from:


Schraw, G. (1998). Promoting general metacognitive awareness. Instructional Science, 26(1/2), 113-125.

Tan, K., Dawson, V., & Venville, G. (2008). Use of cognitive organisers as a self regulated learning strategy. Issues in Educational Research, 18(2), 183-207.


Another useful resource is the Victorian State Government’s High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) website. Their page on metacognitive strategies can be found here:

For further reading on creating descriptive developmental rubrics, see:

Griffin, P. (2014). Assessment for teaching. Port Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.


The Science of Learning Partnership Schools Initiative connects research and practice, to enhance educational outcomes in Schools.

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