Using post-it ‘notes to self’ as a tool for promoting metacognition among Year 5 girls

by Michele Tatman


My initial research question was: ‘To what extent do Year 5 girls reflect on their learning?’ However this proved to be too wide a question and was narrowed down to the use of one reflective tool; the ‘post-it’ note and it’s use in one Year 5 class. 

I chose to focus on this area from a sense of frustration! In classwork as well as assessment tasks, pupils would repeatedly make the same errors. This, despite receiving specific and relevant feedback from the teacher. 

This research explores the pupils’ level of engagement with a given reflection practice and it’s potential impact on learning. The target pupils were those in my own Year 5 class. This was due to practical reasons; I am with them a lot! So the practical aspects of the research, for example organising collection of data were easily achieved. 

Baseline data

Initial feedback from pupils suggested that they already do reflect on their work and find this useful. They particularly liked sharing their reflections with a partner. 

There was a wide difference in the girls’ perception of what they reflected upon, and how often they reflected on their learning.

As a teacher, I am aware that there was a lack of regular opportunities given to pupils for reflection due to perceived limitations of time.

Intervention 1 and intended impact

Intended Impact

In the light of the baseline data and everyday observations I wanted to explore a reflection tool that would:

  • Refine the pupils’ already existing self-reflection practices.
  • Focus on English writing tasks.
  • Incorporate this as a regular, routine and achievable part of the teaching and learning of writing.

Intervention 1

The first round of data collection related to two pieces of writing: a poem and a newspaper article. These reflections were made by pupils at the completion of each piece of writing during February and March 2019 (see photo examples below). The pupils were then given a short questionnaire to gain their feedback on the efficacy of this practice as a method of meta-reflection.

Impact data

The pupils found many aspects of the WWW/EBI (what worked well / even better if) on post-its a valuable and helpful tool. Many thought that reading others comments about successes and targets was a useful. They said that they enjoyed sharing successes and found the reminder of points to include useful. This may impact positively on their future writing.

I was surprised that several girls found significant limitations in the use of post-its. Many of their comments suggested that they were very interested in all of their classmates’ feedback. They expressed frustration that having the poster up on the wall was not accessible enough.

It was suggested by some girls that they do the same reflection activity using Padlet instead of using post-it notes. They suggested that this data could then be put onto the Cloud, or put directly into their writing books in hard copy (or both). This class data would then be fully available for them all to easily refer to prior to and during their next writing task.

Intervention 2 and Outcome

This second round of data collection was informed by the pupils’ meta-reflection from Intervention 1, using Padlet instead of post-it notes.

The data collection was regarding one piece of writing: a letter from Michael to his baby sister from the book Skellig, during May 2019, using Padlet. The girls were then given an adjusted questionnaire containing identical questions, but related to the use of Padlet as a method of meta-reflection. 

What did the pupils think of using Padlet as a reflective tool for writing?

The pupils continued to find the WWW/EBI format a valuable and helpful tool for reflection. Many thought that reading others comments about successes and targets could impact positively on their future writing. Here are some examples of their Padlet reflections:

From the survey data, I was surprised again, this time by their enthusiasm for the use of Padlet.

  • Many pupils said that the use of this technology meant that the whole class data collected was much more accessible.
  • Many found Padlet quicker, easier and more enjoyable to use.
  • Some girls mentioned that they enjoyed the option of anonymity using Padlet, given that their data was being shared in class.
  • A negative mentioned was that sometimes pupils comments were not helpful, although no comments were negative towards others.

Research ethics

The main concern in this study is the sharing of an individual’s successes and targets with the class. How comfortable or otherwise are the pupils to reveal their genuine thoughts? Importantly this might alter the content of some individual’s writing onto the post-its, undermining the usefulness and validity of the data collected.

The use of Padlet, as in intervention 2, allowed each pupil to remain anonymous if they wish. This might have generated more honest, and therefore relevant, comments on the reflection feedback notes.


Collecting data with regard to pupils’ views on different tools for reflection, it has been possible to take the positive parts of an existing practice and try out changes and potential improvements. Pupils’ responses indicate that these changes have provided more accessibility and clarity for learners, which may positively impact their future writing.

Completing this piece of work has shown me how achievable and valuable this type of self-reflection can be. I will continuing to use and – with the pupils’ continued input – refine this practice to use ongoing.

Impact on learning is hard to measure due to the qualitative nature of the research data and the brevity of the piece of work. However the girls are very engaged with this method of reflection and there have been some observable improvements in terms of the pupils’ readiness to edit and improve their writing in the light of reading the group’s collective feedback.

At the end of this project, I find myself wondering: how might the insights from this work be applied more widely?

As a next step, I plan to discuss this method of self-reflection with school council, to get feedback from a range of year groups.

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