A professional learning resource to help teachers and leaders promote self-regulated learning

By: Dr James Mannion , Louise Stoll , Karen Spence-Thomas , Greg Ross


Products specifications
Attribute nameAttribute value
PublishedFebruary 2024
Size8.66 x 6.3inches
Pages13 x A5 cards, 68 x A6 cards, 1 x A5 booklet 24pp
FormatCard set

Created by James Mannion, Louise Stoll, Karen Spence-Thomas and Greg Ross, Activate is a card-based professional learning resource that aims to improve pupils’ experiences and outcomes by promoting self-regulated learning among leaders, teachers and pupils.

It’s widely recognised that self-regulated learners are more effective learners. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) suggests that metacognition and self-regulation are among the most important practices a school can focus on, providing ‘very high impact for very low cost, based on extensive evidence’ (EEF, 2022). However, teachers and leaders are often unsure what these terms mean, or what they look like in practice.

This resource enables teachers and leaders to ‘activate’ pupils to become the drivers of their own learning. Comprising six sets of resource cards (including 83 cards in total) and a clear and detailed facilitator guide – along with an extensive bibliography and additional downloadable materials – Activate has been designed to provide time-pressed teachers and leaders with an accessible means of understanding the theory and practice of self-regulated learning. Working through the activities will enable teachers and leaders to realise the potential of these powerful ideas when working with pupils, whilst helping them to regulate their own learning.

The cards are grouped into two sets – Research cards and Professional Learning and Leadership Learning cards. The Research cards cover the key concepts and characteristics of self-regulated learning and draw on the authors’ original research, offering a range of tried and tested strategies that teachers can put into practice in their own context. The Professional Learning and Leadership Learning cards and associated Scenario cards contain stimulating activities designed to help teachers and leaders promote and model self-regulated learning.

The resource has been developed by specialists at the UCL Centre for Educational Leadership, in conjunction with colleagues from the global Cognita schools system.

Suitable for all teachers and leaders looking to create more confident, proactive, self-regulated learners.

Picture for author Dr James Mannion

Dr James Mannion

Dr James Mannion is the Director of Rethinking Education, a teacher training organisation dedicated to improving educational outcomes through self-regulated learning, implementation science, and practitioner research. He has a Masters in Person-Centred Education from the University of Sussex, and a PhD in Self-Regulated Learning from the University of Cambridge. Previously, James taught in secondary schools for 12 years.  

Picture for author Louise Stoll

Louise Stoll

Dr Louise Stoll is Professor of Professional Learning at the UCL Centre for Education, IOE and an international consultant, focusing on how school and system leaders create capacity for learning. Louise is a former president of the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement and has worked with the OECD on several initiatives. She has co-developed many materials supporting leaders to connect research evidence and practice.

Picture for author Karen Spence-Thomas

Karen Spence-Thomas

Karen Spence-Thomas is a former schoolteacher and Associate Professor (Teaching) at the Centre for Educational Leadership, IOE. She specialised in designing and facilitating tailored professional development programmes for school leaders in the UK and internationally. She also co-led the centre’s R&D network of schools, promoting teacher inquiry as a basis for professional development.

Picture for author Greg Ross

Greg Ross

Greg Ross is an Associate Professor (Teaching) at the UCL Centre for Educational Leadership, IOE. He specialises in the design and delivery of evidence-informed professional learning programmes for teachers and school leaders, in partnership with ministries of education, non-governmental organisations, and international school groups. Greg’s research focuses on the leadership of curriculum change. Before joining the IOE, Greg was a senior leader and English teacher in secondary schools.


  1. Supporting pupils to become self-regulated learners is an essential role of all educators. It aids exam success and sets young people up as effective learners for life. These Activate cards are an invaluable resource for developing learner independence and empowering all students with agency to achieve success.

  2. An innovative professional learning resource that really draws on what we know about how to support teachers in developing their practice, providing opportunity and inspiration to explore, try out and reflect on new ideas around a crucially important area.

  3. I love Activate! It combines powerful research with practical activities. This is a wonderful set of resources from which anyone facilitating professional learning can draw. The cards simplify, clarify and deepen understanding, building community and confidence in the process as they demystify self-regulation and metacognition.

  4. This resource is a major step towards a psychologically literate education: one that understands what goes on in learners’ minds, what personal beliefs and classroom practices get in the way of their learning, and what smart mind hacks can unleash and augment their learning power. These teaching methods will turn out learners who get better results, but, more than that, they will be better prepared for a long learning life. Exceptionally clearly written and presented, based in robust cognitive science, Activate is really, really, really, really useful and practical. Use the materials, follow what it says on the tin, and a 21st century school worthy of the name can be yours for the asking.

  5. A modern education should cultivate learners who are able to learn on their own – in school and throughout their lives. Yet it’s one thing to espouse the goal of self-directed learning and another to provide the means of achieving this goal. Activate does this by offering a comprehensive approach to teaching and reinforcing the cognitive, metacognitive and dispositional skills needed for independent learning. While its recommended practices are grounded in research, Activate brings theory to life through a comprehensive set of practical tools in the form of strategy cards that serve both teachers and learners. I recommend this resource to educators and parents who seek to develop self-directed learners.

  6. What a wonderful and timely resource this is! Around the world, there is growing interest in, and understanding of, the importance of agency in powering up our young people’s learning. This unique resource makes such an important contribution to global efforts to educate young people in a way that not only enhances their agency at school but builds the capacity to participate successfully in a life of learning beyond school. The cards offer so many possibilities for rich, transformative conversations! This practical resource will help make the sometimes daunting concepts of self-regulation, metacognition and self-efficacy better understood by educators and equip them with some really effective strategies for engaging with students and colleagues alike. I can’t wait to use Activate in my own work in schools.

  7. Here’s a resource which will help teachers think again about their own classroom practice. Cleverly structured, it guides teachers through consideration of how they could refine and transform their approach, in doing so solving some of those long-standing challenges and improving outcomes for pupils … all in dialogue with colleagues. Brilliant professional learning in action!

  8. Here’s a resource which imaginative and committed school and college leaders will grab as a way of improving the quality of what goes on among teachers and pupils in classrooms, departments and more widely. After all, metacognition and self-regulated learning represent the El Dorado of educators – to be able to identify accurately for yourself where you need to improve and have sufficient control of your behaviour and environment to do it would be the ideal outcome for us all – and a huge benefit to a heathy society if it could be done at scale. This resource could help. Every school and college needs a copy, but they will also need leaders who commit to its thoughtful implementation. It’s particularly suited to a multi-academy trust since they will have the resource to enable hands-on coaching, which will be the ideal way of making sure it isn’t one of those many good ideas which founder for lack of commitment from leaders.

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