9 questions to improve Metacognition

In today's fast-paced world, the ability to think critically and adapt to new situations is more important than ever – making it crucial to develop in our students as early as possible. One key aspect of effective learning and problem-solving is Metacognition, the process of thinking about our own thinking.

To support your students in this, we've tailored nine questions that directly foster these abilities:

  1. Is this similar to a previous task?
  2. What do I want to achieve?
  3. What should I do first?
  4. Am I on the right track?
  5. What can I do differently?
  6. Who can I ask for help?
  7. What worked well?
  8. What could I have done better?
  9. Can I apply this to other situations?

Making these questions part of your students' everyday learning will not only help them develop their metacognitive abilities but also create a more engaging and effective learning environment. So, why do these questions foster Metacognition in students? And how can you implement them in your classroom?

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Why is Metacognition important?

Metacognition is defined as the ability to critically analyse how you think. Essentially, it is best thought of as having self-awareness that enables individuals to monitor, reflect on and analyse their performance.

Research has found that students who learn metacognitive techniques achieve better outcomes, including improved reading comprehension and higher Science test scores. Furthermore, these skills have been found to be particularly beneficial for disadvantaged students and are transferable across various tasks and situations.

9 questions to improve Metacognition


To help students improve their metacognitive abilities, consider incorporating the following questions into classroom discussions and activities…

Before a Task

By using these questions, you will set the stage for successful learning. Picture it as the first step which constitutes the Planning phase within the "Plan, Do, Review" metacognitive cycle.

  1. Is this similar to a previous task?

By identifying similarities between tasks, students can learn from past experiences and apply previously successful strategies. This helps them avoid making the same mistakes and fosters a more efficient learning process.

  1. What do I want to achieve?

Setting clear goals allows students to focus their efforts and maintain motivation throughout the task. In fact, goal setting has been linked to greater academic achievement and self-regulation.

  1. What should I do first?

Prioritising tasks and creating a plan of action helps students allocate their time and cognitive resources effectively. Planning has been shown to enhance metacognitive skills and improve academic performance.

During the Task

This refers to the Doing phase of the Plan, Do, Review process. By introducing these questions, you'll empower your students to actively participate in their own learning, fostering a hands-on approach that encourages practical application and deep understanding.

  1. Am I on the right track?

Instil the habit of self-monitoring in students, empowering them to assess their progress and make real-time adjustments. This practice will lead to better learning outcomes and increased metacognitive awareness.

  1. What can I do differently?

Urging students to explore alternative methods fosters adaptability and resilience in problem-solving. This question further fosters a Growth Mindset in students, enabling learners to view challenges as opportunities for improvement.

  1. Who can I ask for help?

Recognising when help is needed and seeking assistance from peers or teachers can reduce frustration and enhance understanding.

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After a Task

By engaging in reflection, students can nurture a mindset of continual growth and development, ensuring success in future tasks. This Reviewing stage of the Plan, Do, Review cycle empowers students to assess their progress and identify areas for improvement.

  1. What worked well?

Reflecting on successful strategies and identifying areas of strength reinforces positive behaviours and builds self-efficacy. This process allows students to refine their Metacognitive skills for future tasks.

  1. What could I have done better?

Evaluating areas for improvement encourages a Growth Mindset and helps students develop more effective strategies for future tasks. Research suggests that self-assessment and reflection can lead to enhanced Metacognitive skills and academic achievement.

  1. Can I apply this to other situations?

Encouraging students to transfer their learning to new contexts promotes deeper understanding and generalisation of skills. Transfer of learning is a critical aspect of Metacognition, promoting lifelong learning and adaptability.

How do you apply Metacognition in your teaching?

Adding metacognitive strategies to your teaching can help students use the nine questions above more effectively. This enhances their ability to apply these strategies in various situations and subjects. Some practical applications include:

  • Modelling
  • Scaffolding
  • Feedback


Demonstrate your own metacognitive processes through think-alouds and self-reflection. For example, you can verbalise your thought process and the metacognitive strategies employed as you work through a problem. This transparency allows students to observe the application of Metacognition in real time, inspiring them to adopt similar practices.


Provide structured support to guide students in developing their metacognitive abilities. Encourage students to consistently ask the nine questions above and help them as they learn to navigate their thought processes independently.


Offer timely, specific feedback on students' metacognitive processes and strategies. By providing constructive feedback that highlights strengths and areas for improvement, you encourage students to reflect on their learning processes and make necessary adjustments.

Final Thoughts

Metacognition is all about enhancing self-awareness and improving the learning process. By encouraging students to use some of the above questions, they’re on a sure path to bolster their Metacognitive skills, fostering better understanding and deeper learning.

For more information on the subject, check out our Metacognition guide, or book our teacher CPD Metacognition workshop.

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