Evidence for Learning: Metacognition and self-regulation

Metacognition and self-regulation

A summary of the research evidence on metacognition and self-regulation in the Australasian context.

The Teaching & Learning Toolkit focuses on impact; it presents an estimate of the average impact of metacognition and self-regulation on learning progress, based on the synthesis of a large number of quantitative studies from around the world.

This page offers a summary and analysis of individual Australasian studies on metacognition and self-regulation. In contrast to the Toolkit it includes studies which do not estimate impact, but instead investigate the implementation of interventions and how they are perceived by school leaders, teachers and students. This information is valuable for school leaders and teachers interested in finding out more about particular examples of metacognition and self-regulation interventions that have been delivered in Australia and New Zealand.

This Australasian Research Summary was generated by Melbourne Graduate School of Education in 2016.

Metacognition and self-regulation approaches (sometimes known as learning to learn’ approaches) aim to help learners think about their own learning more explicitly. This is usually by teaching students specific strategies to set goals, and monitor and evaluate their own academic development. Self-regulation means managing one’s own motivation towards learning. The intention is often to give students a repertoire of strategies to choose from during learning activities.

Bannister-Tyrrell and Clary (2014) highlighted ways through which teachers can teach students aspects of metacognition within the New South Wales English curriculum. However, there were no student outcome measures in the study. Another study (Bird, 2015) in two New Zealand primary schools focused on various methods teachers can use to teach, and help students develop, self-regulated learning (SRL) skills. The findings indicated that teachers implemented SRL skills in various ways, depending on their teaching style and classroom context. Fried (2010) conducted a study in Western Australia highlighting the emotional and motivational aspects of SRL. Even though students benefited from practising emotion and motivation regulation, more studies are required to uncover ways in which students can cultivate emotion and motivation regulation for SRL skills.

There is some evidence that students do practice SRL skills with guidance and help from teachers. Tan, Dawson and Venville (2008) conducted a study on students’ use of cognitive organisers and found that, unless prompted, students were not able to use the organisers autonomously during class or to prepare for assessments. They concluded that students’ familiarity with the organiser is an important factor that affects their learning approach. In their case study of factors that affect Year 8 students’ self-regulation in learning English in a low SES school, Harrison and Prain (2009) found that under supportive conditions, students have the ability to demonstrate self-regulatory behaviours in English learning. They also found that students show self-regulatory learning capacities when the task is seen as meaningful and relevant, and when they receive feedback from teachers and peers.

Another case study (Salter, 2014) proposed a whole-school integrated approach to developing students’ SRL skills rather than individually or in classrooms. The study involved two phases: 1) an online survey of 54 secondary schools in Sydney, and 2) a mixed-methods case study of one best practice school. Phase 1 findings indicated that all schools agreed on the important role schools play in helping students develop SRL skills. However, their approaches were inconsistent. The outcome of Phase 2 is a set of guidelines for developing students’ SRL skills using an integrated whole-school approach. This approach requires a supportive school environment, regular evaluation of practices, and processes to ensure teacher accountability.

Using data from PISA 2009, Kaur and Areepattamannil (2012) sought to examine influences of metacognitive and self-regulated learning strategies for reading on mathematical literacy of adolescents in Australia (n=14251) and Singapore (n=5283). Student demographic variables, gender and SES were considered by the study. Metacognitive and self-regulated learning strategies for readingwere measured using the PISA 2009 indices. The study found that both metacognitive and self-regulated learning strategies for reading were positively correlated with mathematical literacy of adolescents in Australia (adjusted R2=0.32) and Singapore (adjusted R2=0.31). However, two self-regulated learning strategies (memorisation and elaboration) were negative predictors of mathematical literacy for both Australian and Singaporean students.

Roberts et al. (2016) conducted a randomised controlled trial involving 452 children with low working memory, aged 6 – 7 years from 44 schools in Melbourne. The children underwent a computerized adaptive working memory intervention program (Cogmed). Half of the children were given the intervention, comprising 20 – 25 training sessions of 45 minutes’ duration at school. The remaining half acted as the control group. Directly assessed academic outcomes (reading, maths and spelling scores) and working memory were assessed. Benefits were found for visuospatial short-term memory at six months (ES=0.43) and 12 months (ES=0.49), but not at 24 months. No other benefits were associated with the intervention, and math scores of children in the intervention were worse after two years.

Bannister-Tyrrell, M., & Clary, D. (2014). Taming the Many Headed Monster’: Metacognition, self-regulation and the new NSW English syllabus. mETAphor, 2014, 1, 15 – 25.

Bird, L. (2009). Developing self-regulated learning skills in young students (Doctoral thesis, Deakin University, Australia). Retrieved from http://dro.deakin.edu.au/eserv/DU:30027481/bird-developingself-2009.pdf

Fried, L. (2010). Understanding and Enhancing Emotion and Motivation Regulation Strategy use in the Classroom. International Journal of Learning, 17(6), 115 – 129.

Harrison, S., & Prain, V. (2009). Self-regulated learning in junior secondary English. Issues in Educational Research, 19(3), 227 – 242.

Kaur, B., & Areepattamannil, S. (2012, 2 – 6 July). Influences of metacognitive and self-regulated learning strategies for reading on mathematical literacy of adolescents in Australia and Singapore. Paper presented at the 35th Annual Conference of the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia Incorporated (MERGA 2012) on Mathematics education: Expanding horizons”, Singapore. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10497/14369

Roberts, G., Quach, J., Spencer-Smith, M., Anderson, P. J., Gathercole, S., Gold, L., Sia, K. L., Mensah, F., Rickards, F., Ainley, J., & Wake, M. (2016). Academic Outcomes 2 Years After Working Memory Training for Children With Low Working Memory: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Pediatrics. Published online 7 March 2016. DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.4568

Salter, P. E. (2014). Exploring a whole-school integrated approach to developing students’ self-regulated learning (SRL) skills (Doctoral dissertation, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia). Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10453/34455

Tan, K., Dawson, V., & Venville, G. (2008). Use of cognitive organisers as a self regulated learning strategy. Issues in Educational Research, 18(2), 183 – 207.

  • Google Scholar
  • ERIC
  • ERC
  • A+

Meta-cognit*; executive function; self-regulat*; Australia; New Zealand; academic; schools; education.