Meta-cognition, learners “knowledge of their knowledge”, is a promising area for research at the moment. The EEF report ‘Metacognition and self-regulated learning‘ from April 2018 is a must read for all teachers.

Bright ideas is a new section in Sandagogy where the research is digested down to very small practical tips that we have either observed in out school or read about.

I wanted to draw your attention to the power of delayed summaries. Most teachers’ instincts are to ask students to summarise a text almost immediately after they have read it. Paraphrasing and summarising has a clear link with memory and retention.

Research by Anderson and Thiede had students reading a text passage and then writing a summary of the text either immediately after reading it or after a delay (a control group wrote no summary at all). Students metacognitive judgements about their own learning were more accurate after a delay compared to those who wrote an immediate summary (where the outcomes didn’t differ much from the control group that wrote nothing!) Another study showed that building banks of keywords generated from the text after a delay found a similar positive effect.

In summary, it seems that delaying the summarising or deriving keywords from a text improves metacognition. The assumption is that engaging with a text immediately leads to a focus upon disconnected ideas, whereas allowing a delay forces re-engagement with the text and prioritises conceptual understanding and the ‘big picture ideas’ ahead of the detail.


Learning Scientists (2017) How to improve your metacognition and why it matters?

Anderson, M. C., & Thiede, K. W. (2008). Why do delayed summaries improve metacomprehension accuracy? Acta psychologica, 128, 110-118.

Thiede, K. W., Anderson, M., & Therriault, D. (2003). Accuracy of metacognitive monitoring affects learning of texts. Journal of educational psychology, 95, 66-73.