HITS: Using metacognitive strategies

Leadership Partner Dean Bush explains how using the High Impact Teaching Strategy – Metacognition can result in almost eight months of additional learning gain.

Metacognitive strategies teach students to think about their own thinking. When students become aware of the learning process, they can gain control over their learning.

Leadership Partner Dean Bush has used the High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) in his work, which has involved exploring how metacognitive strategies can empower students to take control of their learning and have a richer education experience as an independent learner.

'We want students to develop a drive to learn, to be accountable for their own learning and to have a voice in what they learn,' Dean said.

'Where a student says "I don't know what to do!" – they will ultimately not be engaged in their work and not see the worth in what they're learning and why they're learning.'

Top tips to build metacognition in your students and your teaching

A teacher who is successful in employing metacognitive strategies in their classroom will be collaborating with children to identify appropriate goals to progress their learning, while also modelling and developing students' critical, creative and higher-order thinking skills. Dean outlines some key tips for schools and teachers below to introduce this High Impact Teaching Strategy into their work.

'Where students have developed strong metacognitive skills, we see them evaluating and sharing evidence about their thinking,' said Dean.

'When questioned they should also be able to state their learning goals and what they need to do to achieve them. They will be engaged, they will question what their learning is about and they will usually self-assess.'

Professional learning can empower teachers to deliver the strategy

Professional learning is a powerful tool for teachers and schools to develop consistent, effective approaches to employing HITS.

Dean suggests schools look for opportunities to gain some development, and to make some allowances for the changing strategies to give teachers time to confidently teach these skills.

'Ideally, you will be able to create an environment where teachers are able to set goals, monitor and evaluate them with students.'

'Think aloud' when delivering whole-class instruction

The 'think aloud' approach sees teacher's verbalising their thought train to lead students to understanding the steps involved in the learning intention.

'I'm a big fan of the 'think aloud' approach, which is something that supports a number of the HITS already,' said Dean.

'We really need to be modelling thought processes to children about how we come to an answer and how we solve problems.'

Create prompts and rubrics to drive independent learning

By defining classroom routines for students with worked examples, and leaving spaces and resources that students can access materials to support their own learning, teachers can help develop strong independent learners.

'You can create prompts, anchor points, rubrics, checklists and capacity matrices to scaffold self-assessment opportunities.'

'Because again, we can't expect students to be able to analyse their own learning if we're not building their skill in doing that. These are some key tools that you can use to build those metacognitive strategies for students.'

A top tip for high-performing teachers is also the use of QR codes as opportunities for students to independently revise or further develop their skills. This approach sees teachers employing not just the HIT of metacognition, but also differentiation and worked examples.

'QR codes can link to worked samples, which give students further opportunities to become more independent with their learning, which is the ultimate goal. This code can link directly to a video that shows the teacher teaching the skill.'

Value students questions and make them visible

Teachers should value the questions and wonderings of their students and record them in a visible space, because ultimately if we're not aware as teachers of the questions that students have, students are not going to value the act of questioning itself.

Involve students in learning intentions and success criteria

Use learning intentions and success criteria to scaffold understanding, with explicit teaching and work samples, because with having a clear understanding of where they need to go, students can work towards that individual expectation with confidence.

Employ complementary HITS to drive success

In order to take full advantage of metacognitive strategies, Dean suggests that teachers need a strong understanding of substantive talk as a skill, and the other HITS.

'The HITS interlink and complement each other and metacognition is really hard to teach in isolation.'

'The other HITS are going to be able to contribute to and support you to develop these skills.'

Dean suggests that some of the closest HITS, include:

  • Setting Goals, where students can set and reflect on their own learning goals
  • Explicit Teaching, as worked samples show students exactly how to achieve a particular skill
  • Questioning, because teachers can support students to think critically by developing questions and posing problems from multiple perspectives
  • Feedback, as this guidance can help challenge students to review, reflect on and refine their knowledge.

To explore this High Impact Teaching Strategies in more detail, watch Dean's full presentation below.

Explore metacognition in the
High Impact Teaching Strategies

One of ten most effective approaches to have an impact in your classroom