Metacognition Research in Science

As many headlines have highlighted, GCSE’s are getting harder. Expectations have risen, questions delve deeper and new skills need to be gained – no more true than with the new Science GCSE’s. Coursework will soon become a distant memory and new challenges will arise. So far we know that students will be assessed solely through terminal exams. 15% of the total mark within these exams will be dedicated to their understanding of scientific experimentation, something which has been acknowledge by Ofqual as being a large enough proportion to have a significant effect on a students’ grade. With this in mind my proposed research question is

‘What impact does incorporating a metacognitive process into feed forward tasks have on the attainment scores achieved by 10 set 1; for standard to high level exam questions and specifically focusing on the required practical element of the new GCSE specification?’

Unlike in previous years, our students hoping to gain top grades will be required to engage with complex calculations and demonstrate their high level of practical skills through evaluative and analytically focused exam questions. Therefore highlighting the importance of changing the way we work with our students to develop specific skills and to build their resilience to succeed.exam Q

Metacognition can simply be described as ‘Thinking about thinking’. Guiding students through a series of tasks to develop their awareness of their own learning; enabling them to set goals, monitor and evaluate their own development. The Education Endowment Foundation highlights the great impact these strategies can have.


Throughout our schemes of learning students are required to complete formative assessments and accompanying feedforward tasks to highlight understanding and aid progress through a topic. For the new GCSE these assessments will primarily focus on the required practical element, where feedforward tasks enhance the high level skills needed for the exam.

Initial research has highlighted stages that can be used alongside these formative assessments focusing on the metacognitive process. Fogarty (1994) suggests a ‘Plan, monitor and evaluation’ structure which can be used alongside complex calculations and evaluations, allowing students to be systematic and strategic in problem solving. Using this to compliment techniques which are commonly used in classroom; leading students through exam questions (demonstrated here by John Tomsett) and working with peers to share strategies, will hopefully provide a measurable impact on attainment.


Interventions will take place with our top set year 10 pupils within each triple science lesson. Students will conduct a baseline assessment at the start of the year to measure their current ability and resilience when tackling the standard and high level GCSE questions. A control group, a top set non triple class, will be used as a comparison at all stages to measure impact.

From this point, I aim to implement the above strategies into lessons and support the other triple teaching staff to do the same. Further research will be carried out into additional strategies as well as supplementary ways to assess impact.

Fogarty, R. (1994). How to teach for metacognition. Palatine, IL: IRI/Skylight Publishing.

Miss L Stephenson

Teacher of Science


About smcascience

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