Thinking about Thinking

‘Thinking about Thinking’ is a programme delivered by WLZ Link Workers which aims to improve Maths and English academic outcomes for our secondary school settings by building students’ academic confidence and learning behaviours. It is a WLZ programme designed in-house with reference to external underpinning evidence that has been piloted across five secondary schools from January-July 2021.

At the start of the programme, 95% of students had low self-regulated learning and 88% had low academic self-efficacy. Of the young people who completed the full programme, 81% improved in self-regulated learning and 77% improved in academic self-efficacy.

The Why

Research in psychological and educational contexts has looked at how metacognitive practices can lead to success in academic subjects such as Maths and English. Metacognitive tools include resources and exercises that get students to think about 'how' they are learning and processing information rather than just 'what' they are learning. These strategies can help students make 7 months of additional progress. Several studies, particularly focused on English and Maths, show that low-achieving, older pupils and/or students from low-income families benefit the most from the implementation of this approach to learning.

The Programme

After getting feedback from a number of schools around the importance of developing these learning strategies, WLZ designed and piloted ‘Thinking about Thinking’, a programme that can be delivered by our Link Workers. It consists of two parts:

Part 1: Academic Confidence (building academic self-efficacy)
This includes activities such as mindfulness, identifying strengths, acknowledging personal and school-related successes and understanding resilience.

Part 2: Classroom Tools (metacognitive strategies that can be applied in the classroom)
This part focuses on three metacognitive tools so students can understand the strategies as a whole, and how it relates to their specific academic subject.

The programme has built-in flexibility, offering a range of activities that can be delivered based on different factors. Sessions vary between hands-on/creative activities, written tasks and group work. All sessions begin with a consistent journaling activity so students can check-in with their goals and accomplishments each week, and a closing activity that gets them to reflect on their learnings.


Impact, progress and quality of the programme have been tracked through a validated pre/post survey, Academic Self-Efficacy and Efficacy for Self-Regulated Learning, qualitative feedback surveys from the child, teacher and Link Worker along with end of year attainment grades.

Young people who completed the programme showed improvement in their English and Maths results - over 70% of young people who had previously been behind in English improved their English grade, and of these 64% were meeting age-related expectations by the end of the academic year.

One student who completed the programme showed specific improvement in their confidence to organise their schoolwork and to schedule time to do their tasks. Qualitative feedback also showed that they now find their academic work more interesting.

“I feel that this programme really helped me to persevere and I would recommend it to other students because it made me relaxed and joyful. It will help me most with maths because we used the skills to help on maths homework." Student at Ark King Solomon Academy

When asking teachers to reflect on their students’ progress, approximately 83% agreed or strongly agreed that their student’s confidence improved since taking part in ‘Thinking about Thinking’.

“I have seen a definite improvement in involvement and participation in lessons."
"Behaviour in general has improved for the better.”

‘Thinking about Thinking’ has been a successful intervention with much uptake from our students, school leaders and Link Work team. Link Workers who delivered the programme reflected:

“All of my students seem to have had a boost in confidence and motivation. They have each used something from Thinking about Thinking in their lessons and seem very happy with the programme."

"The journals worked really well as a tool to track their mindset and their goals and is something some of the students have taken forward - it has encouraged them to begin journaling.”

From January 2022, all Link Workers will be able to begin delivering these support programmes in school and we look forward to rolling ‘Thinking about Thinking’ out across all of our Secondary settings.

Julia Josephson, Impact Manager


Data taken from WLZ’s top-line summer term 2021 analysis using the Academic Self-Efficacy and Efficacy for Self-Regulated Learning validated measurement. 

Tian, Fang and Li, 2018 and Kraayenoord, 2010.

Cera, Mancini and Antonietti, 2013.

Education Endowment Foundation, 2018.

Zimmerman, Bandura, & Martinez-Pons, 1992; Chemers, Hu, & Garcia, 2001.

together, every child and young person can flourish.