MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit

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Executive function processes, such as organizing, self-checking, and goal setting, are essential for successful learning for all students, especially those with learning differences such as ADHD and dyslexia. Implementing differentiated EF strategy instruction can be most effective when teachers understand all  students’ unique EF profiles. The MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit, an interactive executive function system, quickly identifies the learning profiles of students in grades 6-12 with two surveys: the STRATUS (Strategy Use Survey) and the ME (Motivation and Effort Survey).

  • The STRATUS helps students to understand their strengths and challenges when using strategies for planning, organizing, memorizing, shifting, and self-checking.
  • The ME helps teachers understand what motivates their students, as students rate how much effort they put into different subjects and academic tasks, and what helps them persevere when they experience difficulty.

Both the surveys and accompanying reflection activities build students’ self-understanding- the foundation for metacognitive awareness and executive function strategy use.

MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit and Data-Driven Instruction

The MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit is a convenient and practical system for collecting information on students’ EF strategy use at multiple times during the school year. The data can be used to track growth, and customize whole-class executive function instruction. The MetaCOG data can also be used to personalize strategies for individual students or small groups and to inform goals for students on IEPs and 504 Plans.

Building Self-Understanding to Foster Positive Relationships

Self-reflection, a key component of the MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit, helps  students to understand  their strengths and challenges as well as  the strategies that help them with their schoolwork. After students complete the survey and review their profiles, teachers can optimize the process with small-group or whole-class discussion. Group shares on topics like strategy use and motivation can create a sense of community in the classroom. Promoting students’ metacognition can also help them to develop the flexible mindsets needed to build positive social-emotional relationships with teachers and peers.

Development of the Metacognitive Awareness Assessment System 

The MetaCOG Surveys represent a research-based assessment system that has been pilot tested  in schools and learning centers nationally and internationally. The original MetaCOG survey was developed in 2004 as a criterion-referenced assessment system to compare students’, teachers’, and parents’ perceptions of students’ effort, strategy use, and academic performance (Meltzer, Katzir, et al., 2004; Meltzer, Reddy, Pollica, 2004; Meltzer, Reddy, Sales, et al., 2004; see also Meltzer, 2010, 2014, 2018). After nearly two decades, the MetaCOG surveys have been shown to be robust tools for assessing students’ metacognitive awareness and strategy use in a diverse range of academic contexts.

Components of the MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit

At the heart of the MetaCOG are our student surveys, designed to help develop a detailed picture of students’ self-understanding when it comes to executive function, motivation, effort, and perseverance. 

Student Survey

The Strategy Use Survey (STRATUS) highlights students’ patterns of strategy use in their academic work. It consists of items that assess students’ perceptions of their use of planning, organizing, memorizing, shifting, and self-checking strategies in academic areas such as reading, writing, spelling, math, studying, or test-taking.

The Motivation and Effort Survey (ME) consists of items that assess students’ self-ratings of their effort and performance on different academic tasks that depend on executive function processes. Students are also required to describe themselves as students, identify what motivates them, and share what helps them persist.

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Student Profile

Student survey data automatically generates a personalized student profile for both students and teachers to review.

After completing the STRATUS survey, students receive a personalized profile with a visual presentation of their executive function strengths and challenges and a description of the impact of these EF processes on their academic work as well as in other domains, such as sports, the arts, or social-emotional behavior. Students are also given suggestions for building on their strengths, improving their areas of challenge with a list of suggested SMARTS lessons.

After completing the ME survey, students receive a profile that highlights their motivation, persistence, and effort across various subjects and tasks. Students share what motivates and demotivates them, how they persist when faced with a challenge, and what personalized strategies they can utilize to build their motivation.

stratus profile
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Student Reflection

Reflection is essential for students to build metacognition and strengthen their ability to apply EF strategies. Student reflection activities can be used to extend students’ learning from the MetaCOG surveys and to promote self-understanding by asking them to reflect on their areas of strength and challenge, make connections to their lives, and brainstorm ways they can leverage their strengths and improve. They can be used as independent work or to spark class discussions.

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Class Report

Each teacher can generate and download a summary report for their entire class for both the STRATUS and the ME. The STRATUS class report includes each student and class’s EF strengths and challenges as well as suggested SMARTS lessons. The ME class report highlights what motivates students, how much effort students put into different subjects and academic tasks, and what helps them persevere when they experience difficulty.

stratus report

MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit Case Studies

Based on the lack of easily accessible EF assessment resources, and building on the extensive research that drove the development of the paper version of the MetaCOG, we developed the MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit. Over the past two years, we developed and piloted online versions of the STRATUS and ME in a range of educational settings. The surveys have been piloted with over 35 schools and learning centers, over 55 educators, and over 1,250 students. ResearchILD also created a Student Ambassador Program to solicit feedback directly from a group of middle and high school students in the fall of 2021 and 2022. If you would like to read more about the research behind the MetaCOG surveys, please review our white paper.

MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit Testimonials

Students Talk About the MetaCOG Surveys

One thing I learned about myself by taking the Motivation and Effort Survey is that I already have a lot more strategies than I thought I did, which was cool for me. –9th grade student

It is important to know your strengths and challenges so you know what you need to work on, what you’re good at, and, depending on your goals, how you can work to better yourself. –10th grade student

I wish my teachers understood that I’m different than a lot of the other students, and I can use this survey to explain to teachers what I need. –11th grade student


Teachers Talk About the MetaCOG Surveys

The survey is easy to use and the delivery of the survey felt seamless. –Special Education Teacher

I loved the format of the charts and graphs on the teacher report. It was great to view my whole list of students in one place. –General Education Teacher

The MetaCOG contains valuable information to share with parents, and helps students articulate what they need to be successful. –Occupational Therapist

MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit FAQs

What is the difference between the Strategy Use (STRATUS) Survey and the Motivation and Effort (ME) Survey? 

  • The STRATUS helps students to understand how often they use strategies for planning, organizing, memorizing, shifting, and self-checking.
  • The ME helps teachers understand what motivates their students, as students rate how much effort they put into different subjects and academic tasks, and what helps them persevere when they experience difficulty.

Is the MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit licensed by individual teachers? 

Yes, the MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit is licensed per educator.

Do I have to have a SMARTS license in order to use the MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit? 

You don’t have to have a SMARTS license in order to use the MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit. Non-SMARTS users will still get a lot out of the strengths and challenges sections of the profiles to spark conversations, guide students’ self-reflection, and tailor your instruction to meet students’ needs. However, being a SMARTS user makes teaching executive function processes easier as the STRATUS profiles connect directly to SMARTS lessons. Consequently, the MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit is a powerful tool to combine with our SMARTS strategies.

I have the SMARTS (or hard copy) version of the MetaCOG, will I still have it?

Yes. Currently, SMARTS Secondary licenses come with PDF versions of the ME, TPSE, and STRATUS surveys. SMARTS educators will still have access to these surveys and are eligible for a discounted rate for the MetaCOG Surveys and Toolkit.

Do I get SMARTS lessons with my MetaCOG purchase?

SMARTS lessons are not included with your MetaCOG Surveys purchase, but you can purchase a package that includes both SMARTS and the MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit.

Do you collect, track, and/or monitor student and teacher data?

Protecting students’ identities and information is a priority for us. The SMARTS and MetaCOG websites operate on a secure Wordfence server, and we have SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates installed which enable an encrypted connection between our secure server and a visitor’s web browser. We do not track any student data, and schools do not need to provide students’ personally identifiable information (PII) in order to use our materials. When administering the survey, we ask that teachers remember to comply with their schools’ student data policies (e.g., some schools require the use of student ID numbers or initials instead of student names). Teachers are free to use initials, student ID numbers, full names, or any other identifier for their students. Once students complete the survey, it is stored in the backend of our online system, but we do not manipulate or use this data in any way.

How often can I give the survey in an academic year?

We recommend giving the STRATUS survey one to three times in an academic year. In addition to pre- and post- measures, the STRATUS helps teachers select their instructional priorities by viewing a snapshot of each students’ EF strategy use.

You can administer the ME survey at the beginning of the school year or after you have developed stronger relationships with students so they can engage in more productive and reflective conversations. You can administer the surveys again at the end of the year to gauge students’ progress and to make recommendations for the following school year.

Can the MetaCOG surveys be used by any teacher in any subject? Can MetaCOG be used in SPED and Gen. Ed. settings? 

Yes, the MetaCOG surveys can be used across all subjects and settings with any students in grades 6-12.

How can I  measure growth? 

To measure growth, it is essential to pair the MetaCOG surveys with ongoing strategy reflection, using our accompanying student reflection sheets. To measure growth, student reflection should be analyzed to demonstrate whether students are developing an understanding of why strategies are important and how to apply these strategies in their everyday lives. You can also compare students’ profiles and survey responses from multiple administrations.

Does the MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit  include all the MetaCOG surveys? 

The MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit currently features the Strategy Use Survey (STRATUS) and the Motivation and Effort Survey (ME).

Who were the surveys tested with/designed for?

The MetaCOG Surveys and Toolkit were designed for use in diverse educational settings for students in grades 6-12. Over the past two years, we developed and piloted online versions of the STRATUS and ME in a range of educational settings. The surveys have been piloted with over 35 schools and learning centers, over 55 educators, and over 1,250 students. ResearchILD also created a Student Ambassador Program to solicit feedback directly from a group of middle and high school students in the fall of 2021 and 2022. If you would like to read more about the research behind the MetaCOG surveys, please review our white paper.

Is the information gathered available for other teachers or for parent meetings? 

Absolutely. However, only the educator holding a license can access the information from the site, so they are responsible for disseminating the information to relevant stakeholders, in compliance with their district’s privacy policy and applicable privacy laws. While the MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit is not a diagnostic tool, the information it provides about students’ strategy use and learning can inform parent conferences or IEP/504 meetings. Students’ survey profiles can also be shared with other teachers to ensure students receive adequate support across classes.

How is MetaCOG Online different from an assessment survey? 

This research-based survey system helps teachers to understand students’ views of their own motivation, effort, strategy use and academic performance. Further, the MetaCOG surveys help teachers to understand their students’ perceptions of their strategy use and performance. When teachers understand their students’ self-perceptions and compare their own views, they can more readily reach all students, teaching them to “learn how to learn,” over the course of the school year. The MetaCOG Surveys are not a diagnostic measure; however, they provide valuable information about students’ use of executive function strategies as well as their self-concept, perceived effort, and persistence.

Can the survey information be stored and used in subsequent years? 

The data from the MetaCOG Surveys remains available to teachers as long as their MetaCOG licenses stay active. Teachers can compare their students’ results over the course of one or more academic years.

Learn more or purchase the MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit

If you are interested in more information, you can review our MetaCOG Surveys White Paper, review our MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit flyer, and check out case studies from our pilot schools. If you have any questions about the MetaCOG Surveys, please contact Caitlin Vanderberg at [email protected].

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