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Personal Learning Checklists - This Month's Metacognition Teaching Resource Spotlight

Each month we take a closer look at one of the metacognition or self-regulated learning teaching resource that we offer. The aim of self-regulated learning is to empower students to take control of their own learning-processes; metacognition is the cognitive aspect of self-regulated learning and emphasises the awareness, understanding & regulation of thought.


Reading these monthly posts can contribute to your continued professional development and give you new ideas for classroom practice: why not try a new resource each month and, slowly but surely, become a master of metacognition? Perhaps you’ll be inspired to make a new resource to use with your students or, if you’d like to save time, you might download and try one of the resources from our site.

Our teaching resources are aimed at teachers of students aged 11-16 and can be used by all teachers: regardless of their subject-specialism. They emphasise student-reflection, metacognition and self-regulation.


This month we’re looking at Personal Learning Checklists (PLCs). Links to order and download the resource can be found at the bottom of the article or you can click here.

What Are Personal Learning Checklists?


Personal Learning Checklists (PLCs) contain a list of all of the topics students need to know about in a unit of study: next to each topic is a space in which students can evaluate their confidence level, for example, by rating their confidence from 1-10 or shading the space in as red, yellow or green. Students make their way through the entire checklist and, by the end, have a clear indication of which topics they are confident (and less confident) in.

What Is the Purpose of Personal Learning Checklists?


The purpose of personal learning checklists is to help students prioritise learning and (especially) revision: such checklists help students to identify where they have gaps in their current learning that they can fill through self-directed study.


If a teacher finds that most/all students in a given group have similar gaps in knowledge then personal learning checklists can be useful for directing revision sessions or revisiting topics from the curriculum in future lessons.


Effective personal learning checklist design should incorporate target-setting and steps for improvement. They are excellent to use in unison with resources that help students to create revision strategies such as our ‘Revision Battle Planner’.

How Do I Use Them?


Download a template for a PLC here to save yourself some time: then you just need to add the topics from the unit (or, ideally, exam specification) and allow students time to run through the checklists and set themselves some targets.


Ideally your personal learning checklist should cover a large unit or the whole course: it should contain a brief list of topic-headings. This provides the added benefit of giving students a broad reminder of the various topics they need to be considering for the course and for exam-preparation

Personal learning checklists should be used throughout the course: don’t be afraid to give such a checklists to students even at the very start of the course – reflecting on what they already know a bit about before the course and providing them with an overview of the syllabus is a useful form of metacognition and will help them with self-regulation. It is useful to give students a personal learning checklist to work with at least once per term.

It can be useful for students to compare newer personal learning checklists with older ones so they can see where they have (or have not) made progress.

Completing a personal learning checklist as well as additional target-setting reflection activities should normally take around twenty minutes.

How Does It Foster Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning?

In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is. A related problem is that students often think or assume they know or understand something when they haven’t taken the time to really evaluate the extent to which this is true.

Personal learning checklists help students to monitor evaluate their current levels of knowledge and regulate their learning strategies accordingly: focusing on areas of knowledge that are weaker.

Such checklists encourage self-regulation and autonomous learning: allowing the student to establish meaningful targets and priorities.

Which Teachers Can Use Personal Learning Checklists?


Personal learning checklists are most suited to teachers who are teaching courses to a strict specification: in Britain, for example, many teachers will be basing the course-content on the topics specified by the formal examination specification. Using personal learning checklists is also appropriate for units of learning that will not be formally examined: for example, it can be a good way for KS3 students to evaluate their learning towards the end of a unit.

It is good for teachers leading these courses to base the contents of their personal learning checklists directly on the exam specification. That way students are given a clear understanding of what the exam-board, and their examiners, are going to be expecting them to know as they go into the exam.

It can also be a useful activity to get students to create their own personal learning checklists having given them a copy of the exam specification to run through: this specific approach is especially useful for ‘gifted and talented’ students who will be able to easily identify the main topics of learning.

To Which Students are Personal Learning Checklists Most Suited?

Personal learning checklists are suitable for all students and all levels. They are particularly useful for students aged 14-18 who will be facing public exams since they will help them to keep up with the broad array of topics they are expected to know about.

How Do Personal Learning Checklists Benefit Students?

The main benefits to using personal learning checklists are as follows:

  • They are very useful in fostering self-regulated learning

  • They encourage students to monitor progress

  • They help students to identify gaps in learning

  • They inform student revision strategy: helping them to prioritise some topics over others

  • They help build organisational skills

  • They show students where progress has already been made which can improve motivation

  • They are an ideal way to inform target-setting


Where Can I Get Some Good Personal Learning Checklists?

This resource can be ordered or downloaded by clicking here. Membership Plan holders can download it freely via the ‘Member’s Area’ by clicking here. You can browse our other metacognition and self-regulated learning-resources here.

You can also use the site menu to navigate and download our large collection of metacognition & self-regulated learning teaching resources. Don’t forget to check-out the ‘Free Downloads’ section of the site!

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