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

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  • Why Activate?
    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. 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.
  • What is Activate?
    The 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/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.
  • Who is Activate for?
    Activate is suitable for all teachers and leaders looking to create more confident, proactive, self-regulated learners. The resource has been developed by specialists at the UCL Centre for Educational Leadership, in conjunction with colleagues from the global Cognita schools system.

The Activate cards

Activate in action

Teacher & Leader Scenarios


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.


Rachel Macfarlane, Lead Adviser for Underserved Learners, HFL Education and author of Obstetrics for Schools and Unity In Diversity

The conceptual framework

The theory of change

The professional learning cycle


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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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.

The origin story

Meet the authors!

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