Facilitating student metacognition and reflection

A question I’ve asked myself often since becoming a teacher, but even more so since I became a critical reflector, is “how do I assist students to recognise their thoughts processes and harness it to their own learning benefit?”.  It’s not easy when they are still developing cognitively and are still developing their awareness of how their brain works but I think if I keep that in mind it is a great place to start, understanding how the brain works in different situations, but particularly when learning.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading into the facilitation of student metacognition and critical reflection and come across many different ideas from a range of researchers.

Jenson (2011) wrote an article entitled Promoting self-regulation and critical reflection through writing students’ use of electronic portfolio’ and she researched critical reflection in first-year writing courses that utilised an electronic portfolio system.  The study was very in-depth and thorough in the sample of students used and its methods. The author identified that the depth of critical reflection demonstrated by first-year students showed a great deficiency in self-regulation, therefore, the aim of her research was to identify ways to facilitate increased depth reached within written reflections.  A series of surveys designed by the author, “designed to explicitly reveal to students what they were and were not doing to reach their writing goals; they were intended to help create self-regulated learners” (p.53) were implemented as activities to be completed on the day of handing in an assessment task.  I love this idea and would very much love to implement this in my own school.

Analysis conducted on the word count of student reflections focused on six categories that pertained to their depth level.  These categories ranged from reflections that only identified a task by name to reflections demonstrating self-regulation and real-life application within multiple contexts.  I’m not sure that looking at word count is very helpful in the overall study but what the author also looked at was the depth of the reflections and she rated them based on links they made to learning outcomes and different contexts, as well as the language of self-regulation they used.  I found it very helpful and would definitely utilise the method myself.

“[Excellent reflective statements] …relate practice or experience to an understanding of learning; demonstrate an ability to link course work to practice; give insight, with examples, as to how learning has taken place or standards have been met; and demonstrate an ability to project future short-term and long-term goals.” ~ Jill Jenson


Quinten and Smallbone (2010) had a different approach also related, however, to assessment.  Their idea of how to best facilitate student reflection looked at the quality and types of feedback provided to students as a catalyst for their critical reflection.  They had this to say about reflective students: “A reflective student will practise and demonstrate transferable self-knowledge, based on a questioning approach to themselves, their situation and the roles of others, in order to create a new and different frame of reference” (p.126).  They looked at Gibbs (1988) model which looked a like the image below, taken from page 126).

Gibbs 1988When the authors implemented their methodology with students to look at the impact of feedback on critical reflection for students they asked the questions: “What do I feel about this feedback?”; “What do I think about this feedback?”; and, “Based on this feedback what actions could I take to improve my work for another assignment?”.  I think this is a great idea as students often get feedback on assignments and don’t do anything with it but if they are encouraged to use it they may make more intentional goals towards improving.

There is a lot more research on methods and strategies for implementing student critical reflection so I will make an effort to summarise it more in a visual way.


Jenson, J. (2011). Promoting self-regulation and critical reflection through writing students’ use of electronic portfolio. International Journal of ePortfolio,1(1), 49-60.

Quinton, S., & Smallbone, T. (2010). Feeding forward: using feedback to promote student reflection and learning–a teaching modelInnovations in Education and Teaching International47(1), 125-135.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s