Metacognition and Revision (2) – Feedback


This post was written by Vicki Barnett

Revision support through metacognition

I outlined in this post how I worked with year 11 students to develop strategies for approaching exam papers using metacognition. This was the first of two sessions, which formed part of our overall revision support programme.

Feedback- what do you do with it?

The aim of the second session was to get students in the group thinking about how they could use previous work, and more importantly the feedback that they’d received, in their revision. Students were asked to bring an exam answer with them that they had submitted for marking, with associated teacher feedback. On entering the room, students were asked to respond to a question about how they respond to feedback.

VBA blog pic

(There were fewer students in attendance at this session compared to Session One so this is something to take into consideration when examining their results. Also: this was a session specifically aimed at students identified as needing support with study).

Metacognition: Key Questions

I got each student to re-read the answer they’d brought with them and the teacher feedback they got. They then had a mini-whiteboard and pen to answer the following four questions about that piece of work:

  1. Why did you answer the question that way?
    This is the classic “thinking about thinking” approach – why did you do it that way? Did you think it was the right structure, was it down to timing?
  2. On reflection, was it the best way? Why?
    Students had to reflect on their work, using their knowledge and teacher feedback about whether this was the right approach and why. It could be that they needed an additional paragraph, perhaps they hadn’t shown their working out effectively, it could be that the structure was exactly correct – it is important for the students to identify this rather than just read it on feedback, which from discussions isn’t always taken on board.
  3. What would you do differently next time? (Exam Technique focus)
    Following on from the above point, they had to identify one key thing they would do differently in terms of exam technique next time. It could be to use the right structure, give themselves more time, and be more analytical.
  4. What do you need to know next time? (Subject Knowledge focus)
    This was about them identifying gaps in their subject knowledge for the exam. It could be a section of their answer wasn’t convincing and they need to polish up on that prior to the exam.


Once they had done those four questions, we spoke about how their previous answers could be used for revision.

  • It could be that the answers and feedback were confidence boosters: the feedback was good, they had answered the question correctly in terms of knowledge and structure, and so they could conclude that don’t need to spend a long time on this question type/subject area.
  • It could also be that the feedback helps focus their revision:
    • They didn’t quite get that structure right so they need to spend some time practising (for example) 9 mark questions,
    • The paragraph on a particular topic let them down so they’re going to spend some time revising key examples for it
    • They always run out of time before they have answered a certain type of question properly so they’re going to come up with some methods about how to solve that problem.

It was very much a student led discussion with the students themselves identifying how metacognition could be used, rather than me, their teacher, trying to convince them of metacognition’s virtues!



The aim of these sessions was to provide a way of using metacognition to help students revise. They were both delivered in 20-25 minute sessions at lunch time and students were invited to attend but not forced to be there! It was very much about them thinking about what they already do and how to adapt it for their needs.

I asked the students to complete a questionnaire before leaving reflecting on the two sessions – I wanted to see if the students had got the main ideas out of it that I wanted them to, as well as to see if it was a worthwhile session to run with them (I am aware that Year 11 can fall victim to death by revision at this time of year). Below are some of the comments they gave:


I asked students to reflect on the four steps of metacognition we’d looked at last time, to discuss how they had been using them (if they had), and give me some feedback on it. Some of their ideas include:

  • “I found it helpful to be encouraged how to break down and plan the questions before answering them.”
  • “I would recommend others to plan before answering questions to avoid errors.”
  • “It has encouraged me to spend some time planning out my answers in the exam rather than just writing them.”
  • “It has helped me think about what I need to do to get full marks rather than just write what I know.”

Feedback about the second session included

  • “I have found it useful as it has helped me identify errors in my working and thought processes.”
  • “Metacognition has helped me identify my weaker topics in subjects.”
  • “I liked the idea of ‘Was it the best way?’ when reflecting on work I’ve already done.”
  • “It has encouraged me to spend some time planning out my answers in the exam rather than just writing them.”

Again, it has reaffirmed to me the impact that metacognition can have in the classroom. Students thinking things through for themselves, both in terms of exam technique and subject knowledge as well as how things are going have had a big impact in my students, and I hope that helping them to embed this across subjects will help students in the run up to exams.

Starting early

We are looking at running similar sessions with Year 10 students prior to their summer mock exams to see what impact it will have on them, and whether running it with them from the beginning of their GCSEs and following it up throughout will have a positive effect on results overall.




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