A simple way to introduce metacognition? Self-reflective scales for progress

Thomas Courtley, ex teacher and LessonUp education specialist

Thomas Courtley

Education Specialist

Teaching children about the immense value of their own understanding is so important. As their teacher, you have the opportunity to guide their focus and help them recognise moments when they might feel confused.

This approach will provide you with a clear understanding of the overall comprehension level in the classroom, as well as individual difficulties that can be addressed and supported.


Perfect for a brief wrap-up session, self-assessment scales serve as a valuable tool to determine your students' comprehension of the lesson. Encourage them to rate their understanding of the learning objective(s) or specific sections of the lesson using a scale suitable for their age. This approach promotes active engagement and empowers students to reflect on their own grasp of the material.

Regularly checking in with your students simplifies the process of determining whether to re-explain a concept using different words or methods. As for your students, they will develop the habit of evaluating their comprehension during your lesson or while doing their homework, and ask themselves: 'Do I get this?'


When working with primary school and SEND pupils, it is advisable to avoid using numbered scales or complex terminology as it may be too abstract for them. Instead, consider using a set of emoticons ranging from sad to happy faces. The visual nature of these expressions is likely to resonate with your pupils on an emotional level.

With both primary school and SEND pupils, before asking them to rate their comprehension, it can be helpful to go through the emojis together, identifying and explaining their meaning. Once all learners have completed the assessment, you can follow up by asking them: 'Why do you feel that way?'


With secondary age pupils, the use of language within your poll could be more advanced, ranging from ‘Absolutely’ to ‘None’ when rating content understanding. Right after, you could ask them to specify what they would like to re-examine together.

To engage exam groups, consider employing self-reflective sliding scales for self-assessment. For instance, you can ask students to rate their understanding on a scale of 1 to 10, providing them with a broader range to express their answers. Additionally, encourage them to provide further justification for their scores. This approach offers an excellent opportunity to introduce and discuss exam-based mark schemes.

Interested in why metacognition is so popular among teachers and schools?