Journal Club – Metacognition (part 1)

Post written by: NKA

This post summarises ideas that were tried by teachers from the Science department following our initial Journal Club meetingWe had read about how effective metacognition and self-regulation can be in helping students to progress. We wanted to encourage them to self-assess their work, taking time to think through what they’d done and why. We also wanted them to think about what they might do differently next time.

Example 1: using metacognition in test feedback

We used metacognition ideas to develop ways of giving test feedback at KS5. It was an effective way of getting pupils to think through their test answers, and learn from them, without increasing teacher workload.

We marked a set of tests, noted any common misconceptions, and fed back on these to the class as a whole. Students then either re-drafted questions completely, or improved them, but for certain questions (highlighted by the teacher) students had to explain why their answer was wrong, what the correct answer is, and then to explain why this answer is right.

Some students engaged with it from the start, while others took more time to understand what the point of it was. But, in all cases, students got better at this type of analysis as the year progressed.

This approach was particularly useful for multiple choice questions (MCQs). We have found that answering MCQs is a skill that has to be taught (and practised), just like any other exam technique, and this metacognition approach helped them to understand why the “red herrings” might have been chosen by the examiner, and to develop ways of approaching future questions.

Example 2: metacognition and (useful) feedback from students using Google Forms

We looked at ways of using Google Forms for metacognition and feedback, since we now have access to a school-based Google Drive.

KS5 Biology review homework

QHA used a questionnaire alongside an Easter review homework for KS5 Biology. He wanted to get students to think about the areas of the course that they found difficult, and to encourage them to do something about any “gaps” in their knowledge.

Students completed an online form once they had completed (and marked) their homework:


Some of the responses are shown below. The first column gave immediate feedback about the areas that students are struggling with most, so that QHA could follow up on this in a future lesson. Students had worked out why they found these questions harder, and had then fed back about what they did about it.

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QHA could also feed back on any questions they had in subsequent lessons:


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KS4 online multiple choice quiz (Kerboodle)

In the Science department, we set online multiple choice quizzes as homework. These give immediate feedback to students about their right/wrong answers, and the results are fed back to the teacher, so they can pick up on any common misconceptions.

I wanted to encourage pupils to really think through what they had done once they had been given their scores and feedback, and to take time to think about what they’d do differently next time. So I used Google Forms to help them analyse and feed back on any wrong answers in the quiz.

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Important: summarising key points, and feeding back on questions asked

One of the key things that all teachers agreed on, for all of these approaches, was that students had to feel there was a “point” to it, especially when you ask them to feed back to you about how things are going (and if they have any questions for you). It’s very important to take the time to answer any questions they ask, and to show that you have taken account of their feedback in your teaching.

For example, at the end of an online homework, I asked pupils to tell me about the aspects of the current topic that they found most difficult. In the following lesson, I displayed some (anonymised) representative responses from pupils on the board, and went through key points from them with the class.

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One pupil in particular was very worried about this topic. She’s a hard worker, and I know she would have spent a long time trying to figure out what was going on before she left me the following feedback:

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After I had gone through the points that were troubling her, she re-submitted her homework (I didn’t ask her to- this was her own choice). This time, the depth of her answers showed that she’d really understood the concepts behind the topic. She knew what she still had to work on, but her feedback was much more positive:

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Featured image by ÁWá (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons