Is it important for your student to know that they have learned?

Diary submitted by Marianna O.

As an EFL teacher, I noticed that it was very easy to introduce students to the learning objectives. The reading material is titled with the subject of the session and I have found that asking students to read this at the start of the lesson is a good way to ensure that they know what they are supposed to be learning. This also presents an opportunity for me to assess what they may or may not already know about the subject.
Towards the end of the lesson, I like to ask students to pick out some sentences from the text that are associated to the learning objective to test their understanding. For example, for a lesson titled: past simple vs past perfect, I will ask students to show me that they can differentiate between the two tenses by picking out the sentences that contain the past simple and then the ones that contain the past perfect. I then ask students to use the grammar point and vocabulary associated to the lesson objective to make their own sentences. This shows me that my students have learned but I am not sure if they know this and if they even need to know.

The term metacognition, as defined by American developmental psychologist John H. Flavell, means knowledge about cognition and control of cognition. For example, a student that notices that they are having more trouble learning vocabulary than grammar, or that decides to double-check the -ed sound rule before accepting it as fact is engaging in metacognition. Flavell says that learners who use metacognitive self-assessment are aware of their abilities and perform better than those who are unaware (Flavell, 1976). This is because being aware of their weaknesses allows learners to dedicate more time to strengthening these areas. If my students do not feel that they have learned, they can ask me to explain again or can work on the topic at home.

A study conducted by Mehmet Altan Kurnaz and Sabiha Odabasi Cimer identified that, after self-testing, getting help from others was the second most frequently mentioned strategy used by students to assess their own learning (Kurnaz & Cimer, 2010). As part of this strategy, students described asking others to ask them questions or listen to them explain (Kurnaz & Cimer, 2010). Kurnaz and Cimer identified that students felt comfortable if others they trusted approved that they had learned (Kurnaz & Cimer, 2010). It is clear to me that in asking my students questions to ensure that they have learned, I can also make them aware of this by telling them or signalling that they have answered correctly.


Flavell, J. H., 1976. Metacognitive aspects of problem solving. In: L. Resnick, ed. The Nature of Intelligence. s.l.:John Wiley & Sons Inc, pp. 231-236.

Kurnaz, M. & Cimer, S., 2010. How do students know that they have learned? An investigation of students’ strategies. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, Volume 2, pp. 3666, 3668-3669.

Is it important for your student to know that they have learned? TEFL Trainer

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