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The Academic Insights

  • Writer's pictureMichael Chan

Metacognition is a learning concept that encourages individuals to reflect on their learning strategies, set clear goals, and actively monitor their progress to achieve effective and efficient learning outcomes. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is one organization that promotes metacognitive concepts as a means to empowering learning.

Infographic: John Spencer explains metacognition's critical role in the classroom.

Metacognition: what is it?

A simple way to understand Metacognition is as self-aware learning. In academics and exams, students who demonstrate self-awareness are known to do better. Once a student becomes self-aware, they can self-evaluate to identify knowledge gaps. This will help them use tuition time effectively, eventually helping enhance their study skills and allowing learning to become proactive instead of spoon-fed.

Ultralearning, a concept popularized by author Scott Young in his published self-help book of the same name, emphasizes the importance of metacognition in the learning process. Read more about Ultralearning on our blog.

At Bridge Elite, self-awareness and metacognitive strategies are incorporated so that students may gain an edge over their studies. Here are some strategies:

  1. The Tutor as a learning coach

A tutor has the unique advantage of functioning as a learning coach on top of the traditional teaching role. Students normally feel less intimidated, and find their tutors more relatable, more closely resembling a respected peer, and are able to share their opinions, feelings and learning difficulties. Similarly, the tutor can relate by sharing their recent experiences in school and how they themselves solved these challenges effectively, building an personal relationship that make students more open-minded to take charge of their own learning (subconscious metacognition). Benefits of using metacognitive teaching have been explored in academic mentoring in university. Since university-level learning involves more complexity than at secondary-level, novel approaches are always being tried in a bid to find more effective ways to learn. The same learning strategies can help secondary students learn better, and get an early start on study skills in the tertiary playing field.

Backer and colleagues (2011) investigated the impact of peer tutoring on university students’ metacognitive knowledge and regulation.

Students who engaged in peer tutoring showed improved metacognitive regulation skills, including self-evaluation and planning.

The role of an academic consultant or professional tutor functions to develop such study skills. Tutors encourage students to enhance and acquire awareness proactively, guiding them to learn better, and more importantly understand which skills to use in which context in a 1-1 setting.

To learn more on Academic mentors, read our Academic Consultant profiles.

2. Improving exam effectiveness with metacognition (awareness)

An important aspect of metacognition is the ability to identify and communicate knowledge gaps. In a mentor-mentee setting (tuition), the tutor is both a teacher and peer reviewer - not only does the tutor teach academic knowledge and skills, the tutor also help students develop self-awareness and metacognition, which is transferrable to other subjects.

Equally important is exam skill and exam technique. Exam strategies include:

  • Knowing exam prompts and executing the correct response style

  • Time management

  • Scoring strategies and scoring rubrics (when to answer, and how much time to allocate each question)

  • Complete factual recall and familiarity with answer formats

Metacognition is learning awareness, and awareness informs strategy. Learning strategy makes a huge difference, and when a student actively develops their own learning strategy with a tutor’s guidance (instead of being spoon fed), the impact on their learning is much greater than when a student is given a system to blindly follow. In our 1-1 classes, tutors encourage students to take the learning resources and adapt their learning strategies to fit their individual strengths and weaknesses.

To learn more on Academic mentors, read about our Academic Consultants or book a class.

With our UK students back to school and distance tuition resuming, we thought the timing would be great to share a few tips on study strategies for online learning.

  1. Make digital notes. They’re coffee-proof, loss-proof and dog-proof!

  2. Resourcefulness: add links to your favorite explainer videos, and any diagrams and study resources

  3. Past Paper Strategy: with the correct professional tools, online tutoring is an efficient way to review past papers.

Everybody has a different approach for attempting past paper questions. Some people are more time-efficient than others.

We guide them from the beginning to work smart by:

  • Teaching them how to appropriately structure a response to different question styles

  • Teaching them to identifying key terms in a good answer takes experience, and there is a way to do it efficiently.

We always help students with their study strategy to maximize the effectiveness of their learning. It is always good for students to practice their understanding of a module with past paper questions quickly after learning while knowledge is fresh. The goal is to maximize knowledge retention through active learning and recall.

Once the foundational understanding of the topic is solidified, we then help supplement any marks missed. The difference between B grade and A grade students is usually due to structural flaws in the response or not knowing key terms. Sometimes, it is also due to not knowing the topic in as much detail as they think they do. Our online sessions are tailored to helping students gain a clear idea of the exact changes they need to make to improve their mark.

4. Tutor Guidance: ask your tutor for advice and guidance on how to self-study for exams. They went through the same process themselves! Take their secrets and make them your own.

School takes up a substantial portion of our time. But you might be surprised to learn that the best students don’t always study the most number of hours.

There is a difference in the way top students study. We'll explore them here.

The difference between A and B grade students is in how they learn. And the difference in how you learn will be the deciding factor between having free time outside of class to do the things you love - or having no free time at all as a mountain of study materials pile down on you.

There is a gap in the mindset and skill of B grade students. At Bridge Elite, we are here to bridge that gap.

Some students mistakenly rely on putting extra hours into assignments and revision, calling it extra effort, without first spending a bit of time first to gain a clarity which is crucial. Successful students have a clear overview over their study materials. This clarity is the make-or-break differentiator for top scorers.

In this post, we’ll briefly explore why.

  • Smart students devise study plans As a smart students, review your taught modules in advance. Rather than avoiding reality, spend a few minutes to gain a clear overview of which modules you need help with. That way, you can bring those modules to their teachers and tutors to devise a study strategy together.

Once that overview is made, you can clearly break down the syllabus into a to-do list and start to estimate the amount of time you plan to use to catch up on the module. This alleviates overwhelm, and allows you to repurpose that time for studying rather than worrying. Effective use of time translates to better grades.

Organization allows for strategy. Having a strategy then reduces chaos. With a clear overview of what you need to do, the subject feels less overwhelming and you can focus better, thus using your time more effectively.

  • Smart Students know their exam format The smartest way to use a tutor is:

  • Review a subject with them to a. Gain new knowledge and new perspectives b. Fill knowledge gaps / make sure you fully understand the topic in GCSE terms c. Obtain study materials d. Obtain past paper resources (gain an advantage by being familiar with the exam format. Past Paper questions force you to apply your new knowledge into your Exam Board’s specific scoring criteria and exam format)

  • Smart Students are resourceful Smart Students do the best they can to obtain new resources from their teachers and tutors. An they have a killer instinct for how to use those materials in their unguided study time! (More about the killer instinct here: link to the importance of habits)

  • Smart Students make effort with their teacher (even if they hate them) Last but not least, interpersonal skills are everything. Your teachers and tutors are people, after all. Until your teachers get replaced by AI, how you show effort and initiative towards your studies will influence how much they are able to help you in return.

It only takes 30 minutes of organization to gain back hours of effective study time. Then, make a habit out of it.

Leverage your tutor One more thing you can do to gain an edge: ask your tutor lots of questions to better understand your exam format and how they aced their exams when they went through what you did, and be proactive in presenting your own study plan to your tutor. These things will maximize your time in class, in tutoring sessions and in self-study time. B Grade students work with what they are given. A Grade students make what they are given work for them. So to wrap it up, study smart to bridge the gap - devise your own study plan instead of letting your school decide for you.

After all, time is limited and every hour counts!

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