Those four approaches in our Toolkit – peer tutoring, collaborative learning, feedback, and metacognition and self-regulation – all show moderate-to-high impact on pupil attainment for very low cost. This means they are approaches which schools are right to consider very seriously when deciding how to improve pupil attainment most cost effectively.
While many of these practices are used in classrooms to some extent, the evidence shows that high impacts shown in the Toolkit can be difficult to achieve in practice, and that teachers need specific skills to be able to help pupils develop these effective learning capabilities alongside content knowledge. Our evidence suggests that simply telling teachers about an approach is unlikely to be effective; they will need sustained support to apply them in the classroom. Likewise, teaching pupils about generic learning skills, but not helping to apply them in specific contexts, is less likely to improve outcomes.
Metacognition and self-regulation: A number of EEF-funded projects which employ metacognition and self-regulation approaches have found positive impacts on attainment:
- Thinking, Doing, Talking Science and Using Self-Regulation to Improve Writing – two of the EEF’s Promising Projects – both show how improving students’ abilities to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning can be effective when the skills are developed alongside specific subject content.
- Dialogic Teaching and Philosophy for Children – both EEF Promising Projects – demonstrate that improved classroom dialogue and supporting pupils to engage in reasoned discussion can be used to develop pupils’ learning skills.
- Changing Mindsets and ReflectEd – the latter an EEF Promising Project – aimed explicitly to develop pupils’ understanding of what effective learning looks like, with ReflectEd then supporting pupils to apply these skills in lessons. Both showed some promising results on attainment..
These findings are broadly in line with the wider UK and international evidence.
In contrast, the EEF evaluation of Let’s Think Secondary Science (LTTS), a project which aimed to use principles of metacognition to improve science attainment, provided no evidence of improved outcomes for students by the end of the programme. Because previous evaluations of CASE – the programme on which LTSS is based - suggest that it had a long-term impact on academic attainment, the EEF will be measuring the longer term impact on GCSE results once they are available for the participating students.
Our 'Big Picture' pages on Science, Mathematics and Language and Literacy provide more subject-specific findings.
Peer tutoring: The findings of two EEF-funded peer tutoring projects, Shared Maths and Peer Tutoring in Secondary Schools, suggest that effective independent learning can be hard to achieve. Despite the international and British evidence collected to date on peer tutoring being very positive, both projects failed to find evidence of impact on attainment outcomes.
These surprising findings may reflect the fact that these particular approaches to peer tutoring are not effective, that the projects were not well-implemented, or potentially that there are some contexts in which peer tutoring is not effective. This EEF blog discusses the results in more detail.
Collaborative learning is a high potential approach based on the wider evidence, but we have not found many programmes which effectively introduce such approaches and improve outcomes.
Feedback can also be used to support pupils’ development of effective learning skills. The Feedback and monitoring pupil progress 'Big Picture' page describes the evidence in more detail.