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Hattie’s Metacognition for the Classroom

Aug 27, 2017 by

Increasing Academic Achievement through John Hattie’s ‘Metacognition’ Practices.

This is a how to guide for Hattie’s theory of Metacognition and how it can improve teaching in your school.

A school principal or superintendent needs to commit to continuous improvement for the sake of the school and for the students. As part of this they need to be open to the latest theories and strategies about education and how they can improve the development of their students and staff’s capabilities. A school leader needs to constantly integrate the latest research into their school so that their teachers, staff and students have every advantage and can do better in school every day and optimize their learning. One of the most interesting developments in the field of education is John Hattie’s ideas on Metacognition and how they can be used in the classroom. Hattie’s ideas are growing in popularity and are very progressive and ideal for the needs of 21st century educators. Here there is a discussion of the ideas of Hattie, their relevance to a school principal and how strategies can be developed from the theory of Metacognition that can transform students and their proficiencies.

What is Metacognition

Metacognition is the practice and the act of reflecting upon your learning.  To put it in a more accessible way, it is thinking about thinking. Successive studies have shown that those learners who think about their learning have better outcomes. This was demonstrated in a study by John Hattie that involved a way for students to reflect and think about what they are learning. Metacognition is higher order thinking whereby a student has active control over their cognitive processes.   School principals need to help teachers to create learning environments where students can think about thinking.

Activities that are essential in promoting this control over learning are planning, collaboration, task-based learning and monitoring comprehension. It can be described as a form of self-knowledge where a student is aware of the influence of some instruction or set of ideas on their mental processes and outlook. Metacognition can be best understood as a form of active learning, it involves a student engaging with the classroom and curriculum in a new way. No longer are students passive learners but they are critically engaged in what they are learning and this can lead to improved academic results and even enable their cognitive development. Understanding is key to education and Metacognition allows students to have a better understanding because they are reflecting upon what they are learning.  As they are aware of their learning and what is happening their mental processes are better able to adapt to what is being taught. This is very important as a young person will retain more knowledge and most significantly be able to critically engage with what they have learned. This can help to optimize their learning in the classroom.  In the classroom students should be encouraged to reflect and review what they have learned and to challenge it. In this way, they are not only fully engaged with the class but they are encouraged to become autonomous leaners.

Teaching Strategies for Metacognition

There is no one way to teach students Metacognition. Every teacher will have to find their own style and one that serves the needs of each class individually. A school principal can explain to the teaching staff that they should aim at helping students to ‘self-nurture’ their own learning and cognitive development.  A school principal can develop a supportive system for teachers as they nurture their students and encourage them to develop their Metacognitive capabilities.

School principals need to provide training on the issue and to hold discussions with their staff on how to foster Metacognition.  This can be done by reading together as a school one of John Hattie’s books. Below are some ways that teachers can incorporate strategies that encourage Metacognition into their teaching style and practice.

One of the first things that should be done is to have a class on Metacognition. Students need to be instructed on the concept in language that they can comprehend. They should be incentivized to engage with Metacognition and to see it as a goal.  During evaluations, questions need to be incorporated that encourage students to critically reflect on their learning. For example, how certain ideas they had helped them in their tasks. These questions need not be particularly challenging and they could be as basic as “Did I spent enough time on the task or was I well prepared”?  A particularly good way to encourage Metacognition is to set written assignments or reports on students’ reflections of some task, activity or project.  This emphasizes to students the importance of self-reflection in the learning process. In the classroom students can be asked probing questions that encourage them to reflect such as ‘what did you do right’ or ‘How would you do things differently’.  A set of questions can be asked of the class and they can respond, individually. Among the questions that can be asked by the teacher are ‘what do the students need to know,’ ‘what do I still need to learn’ and ‘How much more have I learned’. This promotes in students a habit of self-reflection. After every class or activity, a teacher may ask these questions regularly and they are committed to challenging their students to think about their thinking.  Feedback is very important. Hattie explains ‘the power of feedback’ and how it can lead to self-reflection on the student’s part regarding their education.

It is important for an educator to show students that their opinions are central and crucial when it comes to Metacognition and this helps them to engage in autonomous learning. When a student is engaged in some thinking about their learning they should be praised to reinforce that behavior.  It is very important that a teacher constantly reviews their activities and practices to ensure that they are helping students to have a greater awareness of their thinking in relation to the curriculum, their education and their life goals.

Keywords: Metacognition, Metacognitive strategies, student thinking, Hattie, self-reflection, autonomous learning.

Comment Below on how can Metacognition be nurtured in your school or school district?


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Hattie, J., Biggs, J., & Purdie, N. (1996). Effects of learning skills interventions on student learning: A meta-analysis. Review of educational research, 66(2), 99-136. Retrieved from

Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of educational research, 77(1), 81-112. Retrieved from

Hozien, W. (2017, July 2). Relevant Teacher Professional Development. Education News. Retrieved from:

Landine, J., & Stewart, J. (1998). Relationship between Metacognition, Motivation, Locus of Control, Self-Efficacy, and Academic Achievement. Canadian Journal of Counselling, 32(3), 200-12. Retrieved from

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