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School of Education

Dr Shirley Larkin

Dr Shirley Larkin

Associate Professor of Education Psychology


 +44 (0) 1392 724814

 North Cloisters NC133


North Cloisters, University of Exeter, St Luke's Campus, Heavitree Road, Exeter, EX1 2LU, UK


I research metacognition, self-regulated learning and thinking skills. My research to date has focussed on primary age children. 
I am particularly interested in how developing metacognition can enable people to learn in their own way, for their own purposes, throughout life. This goes beyond curriculum areas, attainment and test scores. However education research is often focussed on specific domains or stages and I am happy to supervise or collaborate on research in any curriculum area, for any age group which focuses on metacognition, self-regulated learning or broader thinking skills.
I tend to take an interpretivist or mixed methods approach to research, but I have a particular interest in the use of personal construct approaches and phenomenological approaches. My focus is often on what metacognition means to the individual,  how those meanings develop, are facilitated or hindered and how metacognition is manifested in behaviour. In terms of classroom education I explore how teachers can create metacognitive learning environments in all curriculum areas. I am also interested in how teachers and other adults develop their own metacognition.

This is a podcast I recently did for the Department of Education, New South Wales, Australia for the Education for a Changing World programme
Podcast on metacognition:


BA Hons English Literature;

BSc Hons Psychology;

Certificate in Education (Cert Ed.);




Research group links

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Research interests

  • Metacognition across the curriculum and across ages and stages
  • Creation of metacognitive learning environments
  • Self-regulated learning and Thinking Skills approaches
  • Personal Construct Theory; Phenomenology and Mixed Methods research, Interpretivist research.

Research projects

RE-flect: Creating Metacognitive Environments in Primary RE Classrooms (2010 to 2012): With Rob Freathy, Karen Walshe and Jonathan Doney.

Talk to Text: Using talk to support children's writing (Dec 2004 to Nov 2006):  With Debra Myhill, Ros Fisher and Susan Jones.  The project is exploring the relationship between talk and writing in young children. Visit the From Talk to Text website.

Good to Talk: Perceptions of the role of talk in school (2004- 2005):  With Ros Fisher. This project explored the perceptions of the role of talk in class from the perspective of the pupil and of the teacher

CASE@KS1: Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education:  With Philip Adey, Grady Venville, Anne Robertson at Kings College, London.  A large scale intervention project aimed at accelerating the cognitive development of year 1 children through collaborative learning and problem solving. The intervention is based the pillars of CA theory, which includes metacognition.  See website

Research networks

British Education Research Association (BERA) - RE sig and Alternative Education sig
European Association for Learning and Instruction (EARLI) - Metacognition sig
Americal Educational Research Association (AERA) - Self Regulated learning sig

Research grants

  • 2017 Exeter University
    SSIS Strategic Discretionary Research Fund
  • 2016 British Council
    The role of metacognition in the success of reading and writing tasks across cultures There are individual differences between students’ ways of learning which may impact on their success in responding to the challenge of learning a foreign language. Whilst some students are self regulating and self directing, others may understand their own strengths and weaknesses but be unable to make use of this knowledge to increase their success rate and yet others will lack this level of self awareness and ability to take control of their own learning. The concept of metacognition, which can be defined as the ability to understand, reflect on and control one’s own thinking and learning, is known to be important for academic success across a range of subject areas. However, there is little understanding of the role of metacognition within TESOL research. This project seeks to fill that gap by comparing the metacognitive awareness of successful and less successful EFL learners in different educational, cultural and social contexts and to explore the similarities and differences between these two groups.
  • 2010 Esme Fairbairn
    RE-flect: Creating Metacognitive Environments in RE classrooms

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Larkin S (2023). Metacognition and Education Future Trends., Routledge. Abstract.
Larkin S, Freathy R, Doney J, Freathy G (2019). Metacognition, Worldviews and Religious Education a Practical Guide for Teachers, 1st Edition. Oxford, Routledge. Abstract.  Author URL.
Larkin S, Freathy R, Doney J, Freathy G (2019). Metacognition, Worldviews and Religious Education: a Practical Guide for Teachers. London, Routledge.
Larkin S (2010). Metacognition in Young Children. Abingdon, Routledge.
Fisher R, Jones S, Larkin S, Myhill D (2010). Using Talk to Support Writing. London, Sage.
Fisher R, Larkin S, Jones S, Myhill D (2010). Using Talk to Support Writing., Sage Publications Ltd.

Journal articles

Wegerif R, Doney J, Richards A, Mansour N, Larkin S, Jamison I (2017). Exploring the ontological dimension of dialogic education through an evaluation of the impact of Internet mediated dialogue across cultural difference. Society Culture and Social Interaction
Larkin S (2016). Making Decisions and Developing Metacognition. Early Education Journal, 80, 6-8.
Larkin S, Freathy R, Walshe K, Doney J (2014). Creating metacognitive environments in primary school RE classrooms. Journal of Beliefs and Values: studies in religion and education, 35(2), 175-186. Abstract.
Larkin S (2011). A case study on Children's metacognition through group work. Early education, 508, 12-15.
Larkin S (2009). Socially Mediated Metacognition and Learning to Write. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 4(3), 149-159. Abstract.
Fisher, R. Larkin, S. (2008). Pedagogy or Ideological Struggle?. An Examination of Pupils’ and Teachers’ Expectations for Talk in the Classroom. Language and Education, 22(1), 1-16.
Larkin, S. (2007). A phenomenological analysis of the metamemory of 5-6 year old children. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 4(4), 281-293.
SLarkin (2006). Collaborative Group Work and Individual Development of  Metacognition in the Early Years. Research in Science Education, 36(1-2), 7-27.
Robson, J. Bailey, B. (2004). Adding Value: investigating the discourse of professionalism adopted by vocational teachers in further education colleges. Journal of Education and work, 17(2), 183-195.
SLarkin, Adey P, Robertson A, Venville G (2003). Fostering thinking through science in the early years of schooling. International Journal of Science Education, 25(11), 1313-1331.


Larkin S (2023). Introduction. In  (Ed) Metacognition and Education: Future Trends, Routledge, 1-6.
Larkin S (2023). Introduction. In Larkin S (Ed) Metacognition and Education: Future Trends, London: Routledge, 1-6.
Larkin S (2023). Teacher metacognition. In  (Ed) Metacognition and Education: Future Trends, Routledge, 167-186.
Larkin S (2023). Teacher metacognition: is there a role for personal construct psychology?. In Larkin S (Ed) Metacognition and Education: Future Trends, London: Routledge, 167-186.
Larkin S, Freathy R, Walshe KSJ, Doney J (2016). Creating metacognitive environments in primary school RE classrooms. In Kuusisto A, Lovat T (Eds.) Contemporary Challenges for Religious and Spiritual Education, Abingdon: Routledge, 45-56.
Larkin S (2015). Metacognitive Experiences – Taking Account of Feelings in Early Years Education. In Robson S, Flannery Quinn S (Eds.) The Routledge International Handbook of Young Children's Thinking and Understanding, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 189-198. Abstract.
Larkin S (2015). Metacognitive learning environments: an approach to metacognition research. In  (Ed) The Routledge International Handbook of Research on Teaching Thinking, 254-265.
Larkin S (2010). Talk for reflecting on writing. In  (Ed) Using Talk to Support Writing, London: Sage, 108-125.
Larkin S (2008). Metacognition: becoming conscious of thinking. In Adey P (Ed) Let's Think Handbook. A Guide to Cognitive Acceleration in the Primary School, London: Gla Assessment, 33-43.
Larkin, S. (2002). Creating metacognitive experiences for 5- and 6-year-old children. In Shayer M, Adey P (Eds.) Learning Intelligence: Cognitive acceleration across the curriculum from 5 to 15 years, Buckingham & Philadelphia: Open University Press, 65-79.

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External Engagement and Impact

External Examiner Positions

External Examiner MEd Programme, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk

External Examiner Education and Psychology Tripos III, Cambridge

External examiner for doctoral theses: PhD, DEd Psych

External positions

 Member of Board of Trustees, Let's Think Foundation

Major awards, Prizes and Honorary degrees, including election to national and international learned societies

Senior Fellow Higher Education Academy
Aspire Senior Fellowship

Research-based contributions to practitioner and academic conferences

Larkin, S., “RE-flect: A programme to foster metacognition in the RE classroom”, invited seminar, January 2013, University of Waikato, NZ

Larkin, S., “RE-flect: Religious Education in an ontologically plural classroom – The Teachers’ Voices”, International Conference on Thinking Skills (ICOT), January 2013, Wellington, NZ.

Larkin, S., “RE-flect: Creating Metacognitive Environments in Primary RE classrooms”, round table, EARLI Metacognition sig, August, 2013,  Nijmegan, Netherlands.

 Larkin, S., “Creating Metacognitive Environments in primary Religious Education lessons”,  EARLI conference, August 2011, Exeter, UK

Larkin, S. “Socially Mediated Metacognition and Learning to Write”, EARLI conference, August 2009, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Larkin, S. "The Development of Metacognition within the context of Learning to Write", American Educational Research Association Annual Conference, New York, March 2008

Larkin, S. "Researching the Role of Metacognition in Young Writers", European Education Research Association Conference (ECER), Ghent, Sept. 2007

Larkin, S. "Declarative Metacognitive Knowledge of Young Writers", EARLI sig. metacognition, Cambridge, July 2006

Larkin, S., “Creating Metacognitive Environments in Year One – The Impact of Teachers’ Beliefs, Opinions and Knowledge, Whitebread symposium – Metacognition in Young Children,  EARLI conference August 2005, Nicosia, Cyprus

Larkin, S. and Adey, P., “Metacognition in Young Children”, Zohar symposium – Metacognitive Development and Training, EARLI conference August 2003, Padua, Italy

Bailey, B. Robson, J. Larkin, S., “Teachers of Vocational Specialisms in Further Education: their perceptions of NVQs as preparation for employment” Journal of Vocational Education and Training Fifth International Conference, University of Greenwich, July 2003

Robson, J., Bailey, B., Larkin, S., “Understandings of professionalism in the discourse adopted by vocational teachers in further education in the UK” Researching Work and Learning Conference, Finland, July 2003

Venville, G., Adey, P., Larkin, S., and Robertson, A. “Enhancing the quality of thinking in Year 1 classes”, British Psychological Society, Centenary Annual Conference, Glasgow, April 2001

Larkin, S. “How can we discern metacognition in year one children from interactions between students and teachers”, ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme Conference, Leicester, 2000

Larkin, S. “Metacognitive development in Year 1”, CASE Convention, Wolverhampton, 2000

Larkin, S. “An exploration of metacognition in 5 and 6 year olds”, British Psychological Society, London Conference, 1999

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MSc Module Co-ordinator: Designing and Communicating Education Research
Research Methods DEd Psych programme 
MA Education - Psychology

Most of my work is doctoral supervision across the Masters Programmes; DEd Psych; EdD and PhD programmes 



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Supervision / Group

Research Fellows

  • David Knott
  • Jim Herst
  • Khalid Said Salim Al KA'Abi
  • Nora Alhendi
  • Rajaa Fallatah
  • Richard Peel
  • Reem Al Hosni
  • Sahar Alkhathlan
  • Sawsan Zaghir

Postgraduate researchers

  • Ibrahim Alabbush
  • Danielle Ford
  • Kate Gribble
  • Philippa Harris
  • Adam McCartney
  • Daniel Northover
  • Owayne Ovenstone
  • Liam Parsons


  • Naeema Alhasan
  • Badiah Alnasib
  • Liz Archer-Glover DEd Psych: Post Sixteen Transitions: An investigation
  • Ruth Arnell
  • Douglas Clarkson
  • Simon Connor DEd Psych: Barriers to Communication and Communication Self-Concept in two Secondary Schools - an exploratory study
  • Natasha Ellis DEd Psych: An exploration of the outcomes associated with a solution focused teacher coaching intervention for teachers and the pupils they teach.
  • Danya Gromski DEd Psych: Taking a Closer Look: Exploring Processes and Evaluating Outcomes of a Video Intervention: Video Interaction Guidance (VIG)
  • Beth Hamlin DEd Psych: Holding Hands: Evaluating Quantitative Outcomes and Parental Perceptions
  • Kathryn Hornblower DEd Psych: Dont Stand By, Stand Up: A Peer Group Anti-Bullying Intervention to Increase Pro-Defending Attitudes and Behaviour in Students that Witness Bullying.
  • Hayley Jarrett DEd Psych: An exploration of identity formation in adolescents with autism, its relationship with psychological wellbeing, and the role of mainstream education provision in the identity formation process
  • George Koutsouris PhD: Young peoples preferences for social interaction in terms of homophily and inclusion: A critical analysis with reference to respect and democratic decision-making
  • Marcos Lemos DEd Psych: Positive beginnings? The role of the Key Person in Early Years adult-child relationships
  • Fiona Mann DEd Psych: Investigating the distinct contribution of Educational Psychology to provide Children in Care with an enhanced education.
  • Geoff Morgan DEd Psych: An Evaluation of Parental Self-Efficacy, Stress and Child Behavioural Factors for Participants in a Community Parenting Intervention.
  • Laura Osborne EdD: Its my time now:An exploration of the relationship between Foundation degree students epistemological beliefs and their emerging identity as learners.
  • Shin Patel DEd Psych: Implementing Change in Practice Following Staff INSET on Attachment and Resilience: An Action Research Study
  • Susan Pollock
  • Elizabeth Russell DEd Psych: Home tutoring for young people in care student, tutor and carers perspectives
  • Daniel Sheehan
  • Maria Socratous PhD: The effects of cooperative learning arrangements on the social skills of pupils identified as having severe learning difficulties, who attend special primary schools
  • Kavita Solder
  • Kittima Tantihachai
  • Aysha Vanderman

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Office Hours:

My office hours for the 2019/2020 academic year are Mondays 9-11am or by appointment

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