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Improving grades using metacognition

Improving grades using metacognition

Teachers and parents are constantly looking for ways to help improve student grades. Whilst there are many methods that claim they will achieve this, very few have scientific evidence to support of them. Metacognition is different.

So, what is metacognition and what scientific evidence is there which proves its worth?

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What is metacognition?

Metacognition is the ability to critically analyse and monitor the way we think. For students, this means preparing for, monitoring, then evaluating their performance so that they can decipher what caused their successes and failures. For more information about metacognition and metacognitive strategies, check out our Metacognition in the classroom guide page.


Does metacognition improve grades?

One fascinating study sought to explore whether providing students with metacognitive training can improve their grades. To investigate this, students were split into two groups, with one of the groups receiving metacognitive training and the other not. Metacognitive training required students, before taking assessments, to predict their overall scores and their abilities on different chemistry concepts. Students in this group were also required to use topic feedback to identify their weaknesses and create study plans for the future that would allow them to make improvements.

The metacognitive training group had an average score in their final exam that was 4% higher than those who had not received the training. This effect was particularly prominent amongst lower performing students, who when given metacognitive training saw their scores increase by an average of 10%. Metacognitive training also removed the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is where low performing students overestimate their abilities.


What other benefits does improving metacognition give?

Improves decision-making

Enhancing metacognitive skills makes students more aware of when they are making suboptimal choices. This identification then encourages students to change their mind to make choices that encourage a higher level of learning and performance.

Improves interactions with others

Strong metacognitive skills facilitate better communication between students. This can enhance classroom discussion and debates surrounding the topics being taught, hence increasing learning.

Application to different settings

Developing metacognitive skills gives students tools that are not only useful for inside the classroom, but can also be transferred to life outside it.


How else can we develop metacognition?

Ask good questions

Students need to ask themselves psychologically smart questions that encourage them to think deeply about tasks and the best ways to proceed. Examples of such questions include ‘What do I want to achieve?’, and ‘Is this similar to a previous task?’.

Monitor your performance

Students should keep track of their progress so that they can identify what is going well and what they need to improve on for next time. Keeping a diary is a great way of doing this.

Set goals

Teachers and parents should set goals for students that are both realistic and challenging. Giving students goals gives them something to aim for and can increase their effort, attention, and persistence.


Final Thought

Teaching students metacognitive strategies is an effective way to improve grades; and it could easily be integrated by encouraging students to predict their scores on assessments, then use the feedback to create a study plan of topics to work on for next time.

The concept of metacognition is exciting for teachers and parents, as learning such strategies not only boosts grades, but also develops many other areas, such as student’s abilities to interact and make good decisions.

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