what is metacognition hero

Have you ever thought about how you think and learn?

It’s called metacognition. Metacognitive strategies help students regulate, evaluate and modify learning strategies to become better learners. Teaching metacognition in the classroom can help students develop metacognition strategies for improved learning and perform particular tasks.  

Let’s delve further into what is metacognition, and how can a learner develop metacognitive skills and metacognitive strategies to help them in their learning process?

What Is Metacognition?

Meta means beyond or on top. The term metacognition refers to the knowledge about cognition, your thinking, and regulating what you’re thinkingMichael E. Martinez defines metacognition as the monitoring and control of thought. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines metacognition as the awareness or analysis of one’s own learning processes and own thinking processes. 

American developmental psychologist John H. Flavell coined the phrase in 1979. He gives this example to explain the term metacognition, ” I am engaging in metacognition if I notice that I am having more trouble learning A than B; if it strikes me that I should double-check C before accepting it as fact.” Researchers working with young children in the 80s expanded on the metacognition theory. 

Some describe metacognition as thinking about your thinking, but it is more than that. Is metacognitive thinking the same as self-regulation? Where self-regulation manages thoughts and feelings while doing something, metacognitive thinking controls a learner’s own cognitive processes. Metacognition also regulates thoughts allowing learners to change and improve behaviors; learners are aware and in control of their mental processes.

Components Of Metacognition Classification

Researchers (Flavell, 1979, 1987; Schraw & Dennison, 1994) distinguish between metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive regulation. The third component is metacognition experience. 

  • Metacognitive knowledge refers to what learners understand themselves, their problem-solving and thought processes, and others as cognitive processors.
  • Metacognitive regulation refers to helping learners control their learning with activities that regulate their thinking and learning experiences. The goal is to enhance learning.
  • Metacognition experiences are experiences related to the current, ongoing thinking process. 

Three Types Of Metacognitive Knowledge

(Flavell 1979) divides metacognitive knowledge or metacognitive awareness into three categories:

  • person variables (or declarative knowledge or personal knowledge),
  • task variables (or procedural knowledge or task knowledge), and
  • strategy variables (or strategy knowledge or conditional knowledge). 

Livingston (1997) provides an example of all three variables, “I know that I (person variable) have difficulty with word problems (task variable), so I will answer the computational problems first and save the word problems for last (strategy variable).”

Declarative Knowledge is what a person knows about their cognitive processes. The person variables (declarative knowledge) are what the learner recognizes about their strengths and weaknesses in learning and processing information. A learner’s understanding of their cognitive abilities can be unreliable because of its self-assessment nature. 

Procedural Knowledge relates to how challenging a learner perceives the task and their self-confidence to complete the task. Task variables (procedural knowledge) helps a learner understand the nature of the task and the learning process needed for the task. 

Conditional Knowledge is how a learner uses and adapts metacognitive strategies to learn new information and use the strategies in new situations. Strategy variables activate prior knowledge and particular strategies for problem-solving and learning. Learning strategies differ for ages and child development levels.  

Three Skills Of Metacognition Regulation

the planning phase

Metacognitive regulation is how metacognitive learners assess cognitive processes and adjust their own knowledge to help control their learning related to planning, comprehension monitoring, information management strategies, debugging strategies, and evaluation of progress and goals. 

The planning phase selects the correct strategies and resources for optimal task performance. 

The monitoring phase refers to a learner’s awareness of their comprehension and performance of a particular learning task. Following monitoring is metacognitive control, where the learner makes changes and adapts strategies.

The evaluation phase appraises and assesses the efficiency of performing the task,  the final outcome, and re-evaluating strategies. 

Metacognition Educational Research

  • Social interaction plays a fundamental role in the development of cognition. The learner becomes capable of regulating their own cognitive activities – the transition is seen as metacognitive development (Vygotsky, 1978). His social-cultural theory included concepts like culture-specific tools, private speech, and the Zone of Proximal Development.  
  • Metacognition strategies are associated with successful learning (Borkowski, Carr, & Pressley, 1987).
  • Successful learners have a selection of strategies to choose from and apply to new situations (Pressley, Borkowski, & Schneider, 1987).
  • Tasks should be challenging enough for learners to apply appropriate strategies and monitor success with metacognitive strategies but not too complex to overwhelms them. Educators should encourage learners to think about the process as they complete tasks. (Biemiller & Meichenbaum, 1992).
  • Rote memorization is often the only learning strategy taught in school. Unaware, college instructors assume students already know the importance of the metacognitive process to monitor their learning and don’t teach them cognitive strategies. (McKeachie 1988; Nist, 1993).
  • Metacognition strategies can be taught (Halpern, 1996).
  • Instructors should offer explicit instructions on cognitive strategies and metacognitive strategies  (Simpson and Nist 2000).
  • Students must have a conscious meta-strategic level of higher-order thinking; they must know about the strategies, not just apply metacognitive practices (Zohar & David, 2009).
  • Experiences aren’t sufficient; learners should apply self-reflection, can perceive and draw meaning from experience (John Dewey). 

Metacognitive Processes And Metacognitive Strategies In The Classroom

Metacognition can improve a student’s learning outcome. Metacognition plays a critical role in the successful learning process and learning goals. As with any learning skills, educators need to give explicit instruction to learners on how to develop metacognitive skills and apply effective strategies; learners must demonstrate a willingness to develop these skills. Self-assessment plays a key role in successful and independent learning. 

Planning Strategies

Metacognitive learners recognize their strengths and weaknesses in learning and processing information. Planning strategies help students identify and understand the learning objectives. They think about a lesson or task before they start, allowing them to change their plan on how to accomplish the task. 

Monitoring Strategies

Metacognitive monitoring strategies help students with reflexive thinking, checking and reviewing their progress at different stages. Learners can adjust their plans or actions while in motion. 

Evaluation Strategies

Evaluation strategies prompt learners to magnify, inspect and refine certain aspects of the work. They apply what they’ve learned to new situations and learning contexts. 

Opportunities For Learners

Educators can encourage learners to practice metacognition skills by incorporating opportunities for learners in the lessons plans. Reading, writing, math, and other subjects are opportunities for learners to reflect on their learning processes. 

Thinking Strategies

Educators can explain a thinking strategy and how learners can acquire the abilities to understand when and how they should apply these thinking strategies and which task characteristics are suitable for using the thinking strategy. 

Metacognitive Skills

When learners spontaneously question and explore a metacognitive strategy, they improve their metacognitive skills, which gives them a deeper understanding of themselves and their world. Metacognition development encourages learners to go beyond surface learning to a deeper understanding. 

Different Learning Styles

The different learning styles (visual, auditory, logic-mathematical, kinaesthetic, intrapersonal, and interpersonal) are closely related to the word metacognition. However, metacognitive students focus on metacognition instead of learning styles. They learn to adapt and develop specific strategies that are best for a particular learning situation.  Teachers can help learners discover their individual learning abilities and preferences for a particular task.

Intercultural Interactions

Cultural intelligent leaders are not afraid to use metacognition in everyday life. Metacognition teaches them how to think through the situation and the particular strategy necessary to solve intercultural interactions, which is essential for culturally intelligent leadership.

Critical Thinking

Metacognition teaches students the ability to step back and critically analyze their own thoughts. High self-awareness and control over thoughts help learners to consider the perspective of others.

Metacognition Examples For Instructional Strategies

When teachers assist students in focusing on how they process information, they become better strategic thinkers. Self-questioning, discussing thought processes, and reflective journal writing are some ways for training metacognition. 

The goal for teaching metacognitive strategies is to have learners automatically apply these principles and describe the metacognitive processes. 

Question and examples teachers can use to prompt learners to practice and develop learning and study strategies: 

  • Planning Phase. What am I supposed to learn? What prior knowledge will help me? How much time do I have to complete the task?
  • Monitoring Phase. How am I doing? How should I proceed? Am I on the right track? 
  • Evaluation Phase. What did I learn? How well did I do? How can I apply this thinking process to other tasks and problems? 
  • Math. Educators use mnemonics to recall the steps in processes to solve problems. 
  • Reading. The teacher can ask questions during read-aloud that prompt students to ask themselves if they understand what they have read? 
  • Writing. Students apply pre-writing strategies. They brainstorm ideas, organize their own thoughts, and put their ideas into a logical order. 
  • Social Studies. Learners use organizers like Venn diagrams and concept maps to sort information to understand the content better. Organizers also help students to identify prior knowledge and what they should learn. 

Metacognitive practice is helpful for learners at all grades levels. Understanding requires cognitive and metacognitive components. Metacognitive skills give learners the ability to transfer what they have learned from a previous task to the next or from one context to another.

Do you agree that educators should incorporate metacognition in their lesson plans to help learners with their lessons, tasks, and studies? How are you using metacognition skills and strategies in your classroom to assist students in their learning experience?

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