ReflectED Meta-cognition

The ReflectED programme was developed by Rosendale Primary School to improve pupils’ metacognition—their ability to think about and manage their own learning. This includes the skills of setting and monitoring goals, assessing progress, and identifying personal strengths and challenges. ReflectED consists of 28, weekly, half-hour lessons, which teach pupils strategies they can use to monitor and manage their own learning. Pupils are supported to apply and practise these strategies throughout the rest of the curriculum; reflect on their learning; and record audio, photographed and written notes of their reflections on Evernote, a note-taking app. Pupils are then encouraged to review and reflect on these records over time, so that they can observe their progress and consider which strategies seemed to work well. Teachers can also look across these records to get an overview of the areas that pupils are enjoying or struggling with, and identify specific pupil needs. For example, a teacher could explore the notes that a pupil has tagged as “maths” and “difficult” to see which ones they struggled with, and examine which strategies seemed to help them with this.

In this project, Rosendale Primary School trained teachers from 30 schools in five areas throughout England to deliver ReflectED over the academic year 2014/15. At the beginning of the year, participating teachers received a pack of lesson plans and supporting resources, and an initial day-long training session. This was followed by three additional half-day training sessions throughout the year. A website, digital resources, and weekly reminders and tips were provided by the London Connected Learning Centre. The National Education Trust supported school recruitment and test administration. The programme was co-funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), KPMG Foundation and Nominet Trust, and was part of a funding round focused on digital technology.

The impact of the programme on the attainment of pupils in Year 5 was evaluated using a randomised control trial involving 1858 pupils. Year 5 teachers within each of the 30 schools were randomly allocated to either participate in the programme or to a control group which continued with their usual teaching. The primary outcome measure was pupils’ maths attainment. The evaluation also examined the impact on pupil’s reading attainment and attitudes towards reading and maths, and the impact on the maths attainment of pupils eligible for free school meals. Class observations, interviews and focus groups were conducted to examine how the programme was implemented and adapted by teachers, explore activity in the control group, and identify factors that might affect the impact of the programme. The close involvement of the original developer in the delivery of the programme means that this was an efficacy trial. Efficacy trials aim to test whether the intervention can succeed under ideal conditions.

Key Conclusions

The following conclusions summarise the project outcome

  1. Pupils who participated in ReflectED made an average of four months’ additional progress in maths compared to pupils who did not.

  2. Pupils who participated in ReflectED made an average of two months’ less progress in reading compared to pupils who did not.

  3. The findings for the schools in this trial have moderate to high security. However, the analysis conducted suggests that we cannot conclude from this trial alone that the intervention would have a similar impact in other schools.

  4. Most schools were already teaching metacognitive and reflective skills similar to those encouraged by ReflectED. This might have limited the additional impact that ReflectED had on teachers’ practice and pupils’ outcomes.

  5. Teachers suggested that ReflectED would work best as a whole-school programme, and that they could deliver the programme more effectively after the first year of delivery. Future research could examine the impact of implementing ReflectED across all year groups in the school and allowing more time for the programme to become embedded.

What is the impact?

In this trial, pupils who participated in ReflectED made an average of four months’ additional progress in maths compared to pupils who did not. Pupils who participated also developed a more positive attitude towards maths compared to the control group. On average, FSM-eligible pupils made two months’ additional progress in maths, but it should be noted that this result is less secure than the findings for all pupils. All pupils who participated in ReflectED made two fewer months’ progress in reading and developed a slightly less positive attitude towards reading compared to the control group. The evaluator tested whether these results provide good estimates of what would happen in other schools using a widely-used statistical method. According to this test, we cannot conclude from this trial alone that the intervention would have a similar impact in other schools.

The process evaluation suggested that most schools were already teaching metacognitive and reflective skills that are similar to those encouraged by ReflectED, and this is likely to have continued in the control group classes. This might have limited the impact that ReflectED had on teachers’ practice and pupils’ outcomes. However, many teachers praised the systematic approach that ReflectED brought to their attempts to develop metacognition. The majority of teachers reported that the programme and materials were useful, and that pupils responded well. Few teachers appeared to make major adaptations to the programme. Some teachers reported that they found it hard to find time to fit in all of the lessons and struggled to use the database of reflections to inform their teaching.

Teachers suggested that ReflectED would work best as a whole-school programme. This would enable the school to more easily embed the programme in its work; tackle issues with timetabling; and enable children to develop a reflective approach to learning earlier in school, so they have time to build on it throughout primary school. Teachers also suggested that it would be easier to effectively implement the programme once they had delivered it for the first time, indicating that the programme might have a greater impact after the first year of delivery. 

OutcomeNumber of schoolsEffect Size (95% confidence) Estimated months’ progressEEF security ratingEEF cost rating
Mathematics300.30 (-0.04,0.63)4 months
Reading30-0.15 (-0.59, 0.29)-2 months

How secure is the finding?

The findings for all pupils involved in this trial have moderate to high security. Both the design and analysis were appropriate and well-conducted, and pupils who received the intervention were similar to the pupils in the comparison group. There was no evidence that activity in the control group was changed by the delivery of the programme in the intervention group. One padlock was removed from the security rating because more than 10% of pupils did not complete all of the necessary tests and were not included in the final analysis.

How much does it cost?

Assuming that a school has the tablet or laptop computers required to record reflections on Evernote and delivers the programme over three years, the annual cost of the programme would be £18.72 per pupil. This includes the cost of training, photocopying, and the license to use Evernote. Participating teachers were required to attend two and a half days of training over the course of the year.

EEF commentary

ReflectED is a programme that aims to develop pupils’ metacognitive skills - their ability to monitor and manage their own learning – by teaching specific learning strategies and encouraging pupil reflection. The EEF funded this trial because there is evidence that improving pupils’ metacognitive skills is a powerful way to improve academic outcomes, but there is a shortage of programmes which support teachers to do this effectively. It was funded through the EEF’s 2013 Digital Technology funding round because the programme utilised digital technology to help children record their reflections.

The findings from this evaluation are mixed, but overall they suggest that the ReflectED approach is promising. The impact on maths was positive: children who received the ReflectED programme made four months of additional progress in maths compared to children who did not. However, there was an unexpected negative impact on reading: children who received ReflectED made two months less progress compared to other children. It is important to remember that this was a small trial which indicates the impact of ReflectED in the schools involved in the study. Further research is required before we can be confident that similar impacts would be found in other schools. The positive maths result is promising enough that the EEF, the National Education Trust and Rosendale Primary School will explore the potential for developing the approach further and testing it in a larger number of schools.