Equity Metacognition Motivation

Promoting Metacognition through EdTech Tools

What does it look like when students use edtech in the classroom? If you picture students working independently at computer stations, you’re not alone. In this blog post from Digital Promise*(link opens in new tab/window), the author shares ideas for stimulating metacognition in the classroom by moving away from individualistic tasks and moving towards opportunities for reflection and connection.

Siloed Learning

After students read an article, watch a video, or complete an assignment, they no doubt have many thoughts to share. What happens when they don’t have a peer to share these ideas with or they don’t have a place to capture their thoughts? The author argues that this is where educators can leverage educational technology to ensure that students have opportunities to discuss, reflect on, and iterate on their learning with each other.

“How can we use edtech to provide opportunities for learners to exercise metacognition (thinking about one’s thinking), which is key for making sense of content and understanding ourselves as learners?”

Tech Tools to Promote Metacognition

  1. Discussions
    Opportunities for student–student and student–teacher interaction help develop metacognition. Consider creating online polls, using a quiz or game app like Quizlet or Kahoot, or allowing groups of students to record themselves answering discussion questions using Flipgrid.
  2. Reflection Journals
    When emphasizing the importance of reflection, the author quotes John Dewey: “We do not learn from experience…We learn from reflecting on experience.” He points out that tools such as Google Docs can be a simple reflection journal for all students. With speech-to-text available in multiple languages, all students can access this reflection option.
  3. Charting
    Data display charts can help students see how they and their classmates are working towards their goals. Teachers can share the data with their students to empower them.

Building Metacognition with SMARTS 

Metacognition is at the heart of the SMARTS curriculum; students need to know themselves and think about what they know and don’t know about what they are learning. Metacognition is so important that it kicks off the SMARTS curriculum. Lesson 1.1 in SMARTS Elementary (How Do I Think About My Thinking?) and SMARTS Secondary (What is Metacognition?) get students ready to think about strategies to reflect, self-regulate, and direct their work.

What edtech tools do you use to promote metacognition in your classroom?

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

*Digital Promise(link opens in new tab/window) is a global nonprofit that shapes the future of learning and advances equitable education systems by bringing together solutions across research, practice, and technology.

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

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Equity Metacognition Quick Tip

Examining Implicit Biases Through Metacognition

On the third Monday of January, we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As we honor Dr. King’s work in the Civil Rights Movement, we invite you to consider one way to answer his call to combat racism — to examine implicit bias in education.

Behavioral Science & the Civil Rights Movement

In September 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered an address entitled The Role of Behavioral Scientists in the Civil Rights Movement. In the last year, behavioral scientists have answered the call(link opens in new tab/window)↗ and begun examining the role they can play in combatting racism. They describe that, while outward expressions of racial discriminatory behavior are widely unacceptable, there is a gap between “expressed behaviors regarding race (explicit) and what is thought: implicit bias.”

Implicit Bias in Education

Implicit bias in education can manifest as unconscious racial or socioeconomic bias towards students, which can affect how teachers help students set goals and understand their learning profiles. Assumptions about a student’s background and aspirations can be harmful as it is important to consider the student as an individual and understand their unique identity and goals. This is a topic ResearchILD staff have explored with our 2022-2023 cohort of Executive Function and Equity Fellows.

How Educators Can Answer the Call

One way that educators can answer the call to combat racism is to examine their own implicit biases(link opens in new tab/window)↗; this is an important part of developing metacognition and self-understanding to become more equity-minded in our approach to EF strategy instruction. To understand your assumptions about students’ learning profiles and their capability for academic success, explore these tools for measuring implicit bias(link opens in new tab/window)↗.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

Equity Executive Function Metacognition

Promoting Equity through Executive Function

How can executive function curricula help level the playing field in education? Our mission at ResearchILD is to empower ALL students to learn how to learn and to promote persistence and resilience through executive function strategies that build academic and life success. 

Executive function (EF) processes—goal setting, cognitive flexibility, organizing and prioritizing, memorizing, self-checking and monitoring—are critically important for learning and social behavior.

Research has shown that executive function mediates socioeconomic status (SES) disparities in school achievement; therefore, interventions targeting executive function could help to close the SES-related achievement gap. Executive function represents a powerful tool for developing equitable and anti-racist educational systems. 

From the earliest grades, academic tasks require the coordination and integration of numerous processes as well as the ability to think flexibly and self-check. Consider common academic tasks like reading for meaning, solving math problems, elaborating in writing, summarizing, note-taking, and studying. Each of these requires students to set goals, organize and prioritize information, shift perspectives, think and problem-solve flexibly, memorize, and self-monitor. These executive function processes impact the accuracy and efficiency of students’ performance in academic and social situations.

Executive function strategies are for all students. When EF strategies are systematically taught, new pathways are opened as students learn to successfully navigate novel situations in their classrooms, schools, and personal lives. You can read ResearchILD’s complete white paper on executive function and equity here

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development:

Equity Motivation Recommendations

Motivation Monday: Cultural Responsiveness

Why we need to consider culture when assessing student motivation

As educators, we talk a lot about using research-based practices. However, data shows(link opens in new tab/window) that 96% of participants in educational psychology research are from WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic)(link opens in new tab/window) countries, even though only 12% of the world population live in WEIRD areas. In light of this stunning disparity, 21st-century researchers have begun investigating whether patterns of motivation vary across diverse populations.

So far, the answer to this question has been a resounding yes; it is inequitable to solely rely on models of motivation based on WEIRD research. The distinctions in motivational forces across Western and Non-Western, collectivist and individualistic(link opens in new tab/window), and even generational and community cultures call for student and family-centered adaptations of motivational theories to classrooms.


You may be wondering, what can I do if “research-based practices” might not apply to my students?

 The good news is that many motivation experts, administrators, and educators have suggestions for how to account for and embrace cultural diversity when addressing student motivation in the classroom. These suggestions include:

  • Reflect on your own biases and assumptions regarding whether and why some students are “inherently” motivated or unmotivated. How can you challenge any assumptions you identify?
  • Consider using a beginning-of-the-year questionnaire(link opens in new tab/window) to ask caregivers what motivates their children. You might be surprised by the variety of extrinsic, intrinsic, relational and aspirational motivators parents and guardians name.
  • Adopt culturally sustaining teaching practices. Culturally sustaining pedagogy extends beyond the reach of culturally relevant pedagogy by incorporating rather than simply complimenting students’ diverse wealth of cultural knowledge into classroom instruction.

Interested in more information about theories of learning and motivation? Take a look at our posts on Behaviorism, Goal Orientation Theory and Growth Mindset, Expectancy-Value Theory and Self-Determination Theory.

  • Taylor McKenna, M.A., SMARTS Intern

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

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Cognitive Flexibility Equity Metacognition

Preparing Students for Global Citizenship

As the world grows more interconnected and interdependent, how can we prepare our students for global citizenship? Help them to develop their skills in metacognition and cognitive flexibility.

Preparing Global Citizens

In the Curriculum for Global Citizenship, Oxfam proposes key knowledge, skills, and values students need in order to thrive as global citizens.

s the world grows more interconnected and interdependent, how can we prepare our students for global citizenship? Help them to develop their skills in metacognition and cognitive flexibility.

Many of these elements, such as exploring the complexity of global issues, engaging with multiple perspectives, and self-reflection, ask students to shift perspectives, XXX and XXX. In short, they rely on metacognition and cognitive flexibility.

Metacognition and Cognitive Flexibility 

Metacognitive awareness is an integral component of academic and lifelong success. You can promote students’ self-awareness by helping them think about their thinking and understand their strengths and challenges.

Students also use metacognition and flexible thinking to develop the social awareness and relationship skills that are essential for connecting with others. It is also important for students to develop self-awareness of their values and judgments–they understand the world through the lens of their cultural identity, experiences, and personal values. Students should understand that conflict arises out of misunderstanding and that exploring multiple perspectives on a situation is a path towards mutual understanding or resolution. When students can step into their peers’ shoes XXXXXX.

 Perspective Taking: 3 Whys 

The 3 Whys thinking routine (also available in Spanish) from Project Zero can get students thinking beyond their own experience.

  1. Why might this [topic, question] matter to me?
  2. Why might it matter to people around me [family, friends, city, nation]?
  3. Why might it matter to the world?

This routine ensures that students first establish a personal connection to the issue at hand. Students are then asked to switch perspectives and step into the shoes of the people and the world around them. This thinking routine aligns well with cognitive flexibility strategies featured in the SMARTS curriculum, such as the “I’m Wearing Your Shoes” lesson.

For both the elementary and secondary SMARTS curriculum, the lesson focus sorter (available under “tools” when logged in to SMARTS) is a great resource for selecting lessons that address areas such as flexible thinking, perspective taking, self-advocacy, social awareness, and self-understanding.

For more information on global citizenship, check out these resources: 

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development:

EF Conference Equity Executive Function

Promoting Resilience and Equity for All Students

ResearchILD’s 36th Annual Executive Function Conference brought together educators, researchers, and practitioners from across the globe to hear from speakers at the forefront of executive function research and implementation in schools. The focus of this year’s conference was on promoting resilience and equity for ALL students.

Connection and Relationships

To promote equity in schools, we must create learning systems and relationships that ensure all students experience a sense of belonging and feel supported in their own learning. Irvin Scott, Ed.D, senior lecturer on education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, shared this statement:

“Bias happens all the time for our students. It happens in a way that sometimes we don’t necessarily see the immediate impact.” 

These experiences compound over time and can impact students’ identities. Therefore, educators must seek to deeply know their students and create space to understand students’ stories and identities.

Putting students first and honoring their identities is key to building the connections that enable change. At the same time, educators must examine the systems and structures that are preventing students from accessing certain opportunities.

Paradigm Shift

Pedro Noguera, Ph.D., Dean of the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, also emphasized the importance of creating student-centered school cultures that are built upon strong relationships between students and the school.

In this student-centered model, Dr. Noguera emphasized that educators must devise strategies to break stereotypes and acknowledge the barriers that exist in schools and learning environments. Starting at the classroom level, we can support students in building self-awareness and self-management strategies, which can lead to more peaceful interactions between students and their peers. 

Dr. Noguera suggests that the pandemic has opened the door to an opportunity to shift our focus as we rebuild schools. Returning to “normal” is not an option: 

“The schools we have have been designed to get the results they obtain now…Schools reproduce inequality.”

As we create a new educational system, we must place equity, health, and social-emotional needs at the center of our work. This means recognizing that race and place matter when it comes to many issues, such as environmental impacts on children’s development. We know that environmental toxins and toxic stress impact students’ health and learning. Therefore, we cannot only focus on what is happening in schools. We must also consider the context of the communities in which schools are situated. 

Takeaways: Defining Equity

Equity means…

  • Acknowledging and addressing that different students have different needs. 
  • Giving students what they need to be successful both in school and in life.  
  • Examining implicit biases and how they impact day-to-day interactions. 
  • Addressing the barriers that exist in schools and classrooms and working to remove them.   

Build Your Executive Function Toolkit

Are you interested in building your Executive Function Toolkit? Join us in February and March to hear from EF experts on topics such as metacognition and motivation, strategies to support students with long-term projects and project-based learning, embedding EF in the general education curriculum, and the intersection of EF and social-emotional learning. Learn more and register here

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development:

EF Conference Equity Executive Function

36th Annual EF Conference Spotlight: Concurrent Presentations

This is the eighth post in a series that highlights the speakers of this year’s 36th Annual Executive Function Conference, which will focus on promoting resilience and equity for ALL students.

This November, we are honored to feature seven speakers who will offer recorded presentations addressing the close connections between executive function, stress, persistence, and school performance. Conference attendees can begin viewing these presentations on November 11, with unlimited access through January 31, 2022.

Sucheta Kamath is the founder/CEO of ExQ, LLC, a game-based online curriculum designed to systematically train fundamental cognitive skills. She is a speech-language pathologist, TEDx speaker, and entrepreneur in the Ed-Tech space.

Hate or Hurt: Rethinking Social Exclusion, Isolation, and the Need-To-Belong in ASD Youth
Sucheta Kamath, M.A., M.A., CCC-SLP, BC-ANCDS
Student Identity and Student Agency: Strategies for Engagement, Inclusion, and Equity
Kim Carter, M.Ed.

Kim Carter is the founder and executive director of the Q.E.D. Foundation, an organization of adults and youth working together to create and sustain student-centered learning communities. The Q.E.D Foundation centers students’ voices and works with adults who are deeply invested in their students’ success.

Mindfulness, Metacognition, and Stress Reduction
Christopher Willard, Psy.D.

Christopher Willard is a lecturer in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a psychologist and educational consultant specializing in mindfulness. Dr. Willard works with parents, educators, and counselors, teaching them to embody and teach mindfulness skills to promote resilience in students of any age.

The Role of Working Memory in Speaking and Written Language
Anthony S. Bashir, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Bonnie Singer, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Anthony Bashir is a professor at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development and an educational consultant. Dr. Bashir was the director of the speech-language pathology department at Children’s Hospital in Boston for 25 years and is an honored fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Dr. Bonnie Singer is the founder and CEO of Vivido and Architects for Learning. Vivido offers professional development in language, literacy, and learning; Architects for Learning provides academic intervention, assessment, and consultation services.

Comprehension Strategy Instruction for Students with Executive Function Difficulties
Joan Sedita, M.Ed.

Joan Sedita is the founder of Keys to Literacy, a leading provider of literacy teacher training, curriculum, ongoing coaching, and materials to educators across the country. Since 1974, she has held the roles of teacher, school administrator, teacher trainer, and literacy consultant.

Transforming Trauma: Helping Schools Become Healing Places
David Melnick, LICSW

David Melnick is the co-director of Outpatient Services at the Northeastern Family Institute in Vermont and a fellow of the Child Trauma Academy. For 35 years, he has worked in many settings including outpatient, residential treatment, and public and day treatment schools. His expertise is in development trauma, family therapy, adolescence, attachment, and trauma-informed schools.

Learn More

You can learn more about the concurrent speakers and their work by attending ResearchILD’s 36th Annual Executive Function Conference on November 11th and 12th.

Raffle for New Registrants! All new conference registrants will be entered into a special raffle through October 17. Choose one of many prize options, including a full year’s access to the SMARTS Executive Function program, a seat at the upcoming Executive Function Essentials Workshops, or your own library of executive function resources!

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development:

Equity Self Advocacy

Lessons from ResearchILD’s 2020-2021 EF and Equity Fellows: Part III

All educators play a crucial role in counteracting systemic racism and developing equitable approaches that support the success of every student. Our Executive Function (EF) and Equity Fellowship brings together educators from across the US to explore how schools are addressing students’ executive function needs through an equity lens. This post, the last in a three-part series, highlights the lessons that emerged from conversations with our 2020-2021 EF and Equity Fellows and guest speakers. 

Draw on Your Community’s Shared Knowledge

During ResearchILD’s monthly EF and Equity gatherings, our Fellows and guest speakers shared their experiences honoring all students’ identities and teaching executive function strategies.

These gatherings and ensuing conversations underscored an important finding—our community contained a rich fund of knowledge and experiences from which we could all learn.

Here are three takeaways from our conversations:

  • Teach students to navigate the context of their school system. This can include teaching students how to access existing resources, determine what questions to ask, and understand their school’s culture.
  • Helping students develop greater self-understanding can enable them to develop their self-advocacy skills. Executive function strategy instruction begins with teaching students to understand themselves as learners and become aware of their strengths and challenges. 
  • Executive function strategies are for all students. Explicitly and systematically teaching executive function strategies can open up new pathways as students learn to successfully navigate novel situations in their classrooms, schools, and personal lives.

Conversations with our EF and Equity fellows reaffirmed that we don’t have to look far to find inspiration and ideas. Our colleagues and community members may offer ways to recognize and build upon students’ existing funds of knowledge to make the curriculum personally relevant for them. 

EF and Equity

Are you interested in becoming a 2021-2022 EF and Equity Fellow? Learn more about the fellowship and application process. If you would like to hear more from equity-minded educators, join us for the 36th Annual Executive Function Conference. Learn more and register today!

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Program Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development: