Meta-Learning by Mr. Tovell

Posted on: 15/09/2017

Last year, I was given the opportunity to blog about my Master’s journey, which I was half way through at the time. It covered the beginnings of my research for my dissertation and how meta-learning had not only transformed my teaching methods in school but also my skills as a parent. The aim of my research was to uncover children’s perceptions of meta-learning: did they enjoy it; did they see value in it and did they believe it made them better learners? I have now submitted my dissertation and am delighted to have found that the children in my class not only enjoyed being meta-learners, but also felt it really helped them as learners. My research also complements the largest study ever in education - with a sample size of two hundred and fifty million students - which found that meta-learning is the second biggest contributor to child progression behind effective feedback (a link to an article in The Economist which analyses these findings can be found at the bottom of this page). As a result, St. Helen’s College is now to become a school of meta-learners.

In essence, meta-learning is about understanding yourself as a learner so you can become the best learner you can be. For this to be achieved, learners must be exposed to different ways of learning (what we are referring to as learning strategies) before being given an opportunity to reflect on how effective they were and in which other situations they can be used. Therefore, the focus is on how they learn (the process) as opposed to what they have learnt (the output); an approach which is proven to drive student attainment.

Chris Watkins states that for meta-learning to be effective, we must make learning an object of attention, conversation and reflection, and then apply what has been learnt.

Consequently, we will be focussing on providing children with opportunities to talk about, understand and then use strategies needed to be outstanding learners. These include:

  • Collaboration
  • Critical thinking  
  • Resourcefulness
  • Resilience
  • Independence
  • Precision
  • Being methodical
  • Being responsible

Once children have learnt in a certain way, they will be asked to reflect on their learning and it is this ability to reflect on and then improve their future learning which really drives progress.  

At home, please discuss with your children what they have learnt and what they did to learn it as it is the development of these learning strategies that will allow them to become independent, lifelong learners.

In academic writing, I always like to conclude with a quote as it is so often the case that the sentiment I wish to convey has been expressed more eloquently by someone before. In my last blog, I followed this same process and included a quote from a ten year old boy from  a piece of research I had read where he stated meta-learning was a ‘good thing’. Now, I am in the fortunate position to be able to quote directly from a Helenian who was explaining why he would recommend meta-learning to other children. 

‘I describe myself as an outstanding learner now, because I really pick up things 
and meta-learning really helped. Otherwise, I would still be a good learner and not a great learner’.

My thoughts exactly!

Mr. Tovell