Elevating Student Success Through Metacognition


Elevating Student Success Through Metacognition

Leveraging Canvas Tools to Foster Reflection, Self-Assessment, and Feedback in the Classroom

As a science teacher thrust into teaching language arts during the pandemic, I struggled to engage my students and help them use the writing process to compose texts. What I was doing wasn’t working, so I reflected on my approach and realized I needed to adjust my teaching strategies. Through self-reflection, I identified what worked and what didn’t, made adjustments, and my students started improving as writers. This process of reflection and adaptation is metacognition.

Simply put, metacognition refers to the awareness of your own thought process. It’s the act of thinking about thinking. In the classroom, this may look like students reflecting on how they approach a problem, assessing the effectiveness of their strategies, and adjusting their methods based on what they learn. As teachers, we can set students up for success by explicitly teaching metacognitive strategies, modeling reflective thinking, and creating an environment that encourages self-assessment and continuous improvement. Canvas offers many tools and features that can effectively foster metacognitive skills in students.


Reflection is a fundamental aspect of metacognition. Providing opportunities for students to reflect on their learning and thinking process will help students become more aware of the strategies they use and how they can make adjustments when needed.

In Canvas, teachers can create discussion topics and assignments to encourage students to reflect on what they already know about a topic, how they approached a particular problem, what challenges they faced during a lesson, or what strategy they used to complete an activity. Consider these discussion prompts:

  • What strategies did you use to complete your last assignment? How effective were they, and what might you do differently next time?
  • How does the material we covered today connect with what you already know? Can you give an example of how you applied prior knowledge to learn something new?
  • How did you manage your time while working on the recent project? Were there any strategies that helped you stay on track or any areas where you felt you could improve?
  • What study habits have you developed for this course? Have you had to adjust these habits as the course progressed, and if so, how?

Using these prompts in a Canvas Discussion lets students read each others’ responses to identify new strategies they could apply in their own learning.


Classic Quizzes also gives the the ability to create ungraded surveys where students can reflect on their own understanding of a topic and identify areas for improvement. Consider asking students:

  • How well do you think you understand the current topic? What specific steps can you take to improve your understanding?
  • What was the most challenging part of today’s lesson? How did you overcome this challenge, and what did you learn from the experience?
  • What goals have you set for yourself in this course? How are you tracking your progress toward these goals, and what adjustments have you made along the way?
  • Describe a problem you faced in a recent assignment and the steps you took to solve it. What did you learn about your problem-solving process?
  • Think about a mistake you made on a recent assignment or test. What did you learn from this mistake, and how will you avoid it in the future?

Soon, students will also be able to self-assess using the same Rubrics you are using to evaluate their work. This feature is on the Canvas Roadmap for a late 2024 release. 


Teacher feedback is important for helping students develop metacognitive skills. The feedback loop supports reflection and adjustment, helping students monitor their progress, set realistic goals, and identify learning strategies that work best for them.

Teachers should provide specific and timely feedback on student submissions, which helps students understand their strengths and areas for improvement. Feedback can be provided through the Speedgrader, which can include personalized comments and videos.

Peer feedback can also be a valuable tool for student growth. Teachers can enable Peer Review in assignments and discussions, in which you can manually assign peer reviews or choose to have Canvas automatically assign peer reviews for you. Providing peer feedback also allows students to reflect on their own learning and gain perspective into different strategies.


Integrating progress monitoring into their metacognitive practices allows students to become more self-directed and develop a deeper understanding of their cognitive processes.

Not only can students monitor their progress through the Gradebook, but teachers can provide another avenue for progress monitoring by enabling Requirements in Modules. When a student completes the requirement, they will see a checkmark next to the item in the Module, which visually tracks their progress and provides a sense of accomplishment and motivation to continue.

Please comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

Our Design and Curriculum teams offer a variety of services, including course templates, consultation hours, badging and certificate services, course reviews and evaluations, instructional workshops, course authoring, content reconstruction, and much more! If you would like to learn more about our services, please contact your CSM or a Learning Services Manager (Miranda McIntosh at mmcintosh@instructure.com or Lizzy Rodriguez at elizabeth.rodriguez@instructure.com).