Heather Branigan

Psychology & School of Education, Stirling

Tenure since 2014

Using Metacognition to Enhance Educational Outcomes in Primary Education

Heather's research examines the transition of ideas from mainly laboratory-based psychology research into the primary school classroom, with particular focus on the ways children think about and manage their own learning (‘metacognition').Heather Branigan Picture

Despite evidence showing the value of metacognition for educational success (e.g. Georgiades, 2000; Adey & Shayer, 1993), previous research has revealed a general lack of knowledge of the term by teachers (Zohar, 1999), and erroneous beliefs regarding the metacognitive capacities of pupils (Robson, 2012; Raudenbush et al., 1993).

Utilising survey and interview methods, her research explores teacher’ beliefs about (and articulation of) metacognition and their metacognitive practices - examining the ways in which teachers develop metacognitive capacities of their pupils, and the reasons why they may not.

Additionally, developing a novel approach for observing metacognition in the everyday practices of pupils will characterise the metacognition within the primary school classroom. Providing insights into how teachers can support pupils to become successful learners and effective contributors will demonstrate how educational policy can be translated into practice. By providing new insights into practices which support the development of metacognition, this project aims to develop understanding about what is required to translate theoretical ideas developed from psychological evidence into classroom practice.


Heather gained her Bachelor's degree with Honours in Psychology in 2013, being awarded the BPS Undergraduate Award and the Peter McEwan Prize for the Best Single Honours Student.

Prior to beginning her PhD, she worked as a Research Assistant in Psychology at the University of Stirling,  investigating the 'Impact Agenda' for the Research Excellence Framework (REF2014). Whilst in this role, she developed her interest in metacognition by visiting primary schools to observe how children think about and manage their learning during lessons. Subsequently, in early 2014 Heather designed and hosted an elective for final year Psychology Undergraduates, which explored the concept of metacognition critically from a variety of perspectives.

Together, she feels her experiences have greatly contributed to her current research interests - particularly her focus on investigating how metacognition can make real impacts upon the educational experiences of learners in the classroom environment.

Current Carnegie-Caledonian Scholars

The full list of current Carnegie-Caledonian scholars is available here.

Carnegie PhD Scholarships

The next deadline for applications is 28th February 2017.

To learn more about this scheme and how to apply, please visit Carnegie PhD Scholarships.