Developing Student Metacognition

Paul Main

How to develop student Metacognition: A teacher's guide.

Defining metacognition

Metacognition refers to thinking about thinking, which includes self-awareness, task awareness, action awareness, strategy awareness in a variety of contexts throughout the entire learning process, including reasoning, problem-solving, decision making and planning. These learning strategies are essential for developing independent learners. With practice and careful guidance, metacognitive awareness can be nurtured amongst school children of all ages. All classrooms value reflective thinking, and in this blog, we will identify some small steps for making the cognitive processes essential to learning more visible. 

Metacognitive knowledge is someone's knowledge or beliefs about themselves as cognitive agents, about tasks, about actions or strategies, and about how all these interact to affect the outcomes of any sort of intellectual activity. Ultimately, this type of practice promotes independent learning and has become increasingly popular particularly within the post pandemic education world.

This article will focus on two aspects of Metacognition: awareness of our memory processes and insight into how well we have learned something. For example, when people monitor their performance during an ongoing task, they may use strategies such as rehearsal, chunking, and elaborative interrogation. These strategies help learners to remember information more effectively whilst developing a life-long metacognitive skill. 

Digging deeper into Metacognition

Flavell (1981) identified a helpful distinction between the two: strategies used to make cognitive progress are 'cognitive strategies; strategies used to monitor cognitive progress are 'metacognitive strategies. The term "cognitive strategy" is often used interchangeably with Metacognition. However, there is some difference in meaning and usage of these terms. Cognitive strategies refer to any thinking that one uses when attempting to solve problems or learn new information. Metacognitive strategies refer to monitoring one's own thoughts as they occur during problem-solving or learning activities.

Metacognitive strategies can be divided into three categories: self-monitoring, reflection on performance, and evaluation of knowledge. Self-monitoring involves noticing what you do while trying to understand something; this includes noting your mental processes, such as how much time it takes for an idea to come up, whether you have made mistakes, etc. Reflection on performance means reflecting on why you did well or poorly at a task; this may include asking yourself questions about what worked well and what didn't work so well. 

Evaluation of knowledge means evaluating your understanding of concepts after completing a task; this could involve checking if you understood all aspects of a concept before moving onto another topic. The purpose of using metacognitive strategies is to help people become more effective learners by assisting them in identifying their strengths and weaknesses. For example, someone who has trouble remembering things might use a memory aid like Post It notes to remind themselves of essential facts. 

What are Metacognition Skills?

Metacognition skills relate to executive functions, which are involved in planning, organising, sequencing, attention, inhibition, and other complex tasks. These abilities allow us to plan, organise our actions, remember past events, focus on specific goals, inhibit inappropriate behaviours, and control emotions. In general, metacognitive skills are considered to be part of the broader construct of executive function. 

Higher-order thinking processes, including reasoning, judgment, decision making, and problem-solving, are not limited to academic subjects but apply equally to everyday life situations. How does Metacognition affect learning? Research shows that students who engage in metacognitive practices tend to perform better than others. Students who practice metacognitive strategies tend to show improved grades, increased test scores, and greater retention of material learned. Metacognitive abilities are critical to success in school because they enable individuals to monitor their cognitive processing and adjust accordingly. They provide feedback regarding the effectiveness of previous attempts at comprehension and thus facilitate future efforts. 

Mayer and Salovey define metacognitive strategies as "the process whereby we learn from experience" and describe four types of metacognitive strategies:

1) Monitoring - observing oneself and one's environment

2) Reflective – analysing information

3) Evaluative – assessing progress

4) Control – managing effort and resources. 

Metacognitive abilities are essential to successful learning. When we learn new information, we must first process it mentally. We then need to evaluate its meaning and relevance to ourselves. If we don't know where to begin with a subject, we should ask ourselves, "what am I good at? What am I bad at? Where would I benefit from additional study?" By doing these types of evaluations, we will make sure that we spend enough time studying topics that interest us most. 

What is Self-Regulated Learning?

Self-regulated learning, or self-directed learning, refers to an individual's capacity for independent thought and action. Self-regulation involves monitoring, evaluating, controlling, and reflecting upon one's thoughts and behaviour. SRL requires both knowledge about how to regulate one's own cognition and motivation to do so. This type of regulation can occur during formal instruction or informal activities such as reading, writing, listening, speaking, playing sports, etc. How does self-regulation impact student achievement? Self-regulated learning, or self-directed learning, refers to an individual's capacity for independent thought and action. The research is clear; when students have opportunities to develop practical self-regulatory skills, they demonstrate higher performance levels across all domains. 

Study strategies, which include planning, organisation, goal setting, note-taking, rehearsal, testing and reviewing, could be regarded as metacognitive thinking. This type of metacognitive thinking helps learners become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses and has a general positive impact on student outcomes. This includes planning, organising materials, setting goals, taking notes, reviewing concepts, and reflecting on what was covered. How Does Metacognition Affect Student Achievement? Metacognition, or thinking about your thinking, is vital for academic success. It helps you understand yourself and improve your ability to think critically. Many students can do well in memory tasks but struggle when looking at the broader meaning of this knowledge. A metacognitive approach might enable children to engage in deep learning where meaning has to be generated.

Develop procedural and declarative knowledge
design robust thinking strategies to develop procedural and declarative knowledge

Metacognitive Knowledge and the Student Learning

Declarative knowledge, procedural knowledge, and working memory are the three main components of memory. Declarative knowledge includes things like names, dates, places, and events. Procedural knowledge consists of skills such as math calculations, grammar rules, and problem-solving techniques. Working memory is used in short term storage and retrieval. It allows people to hold pieces of information temporarily while processing other tasks.

Metacognitive knowledge is one's stored knowledge or beliefs about oneself and others as cognitive agents, about tasks, actions or strategies, and how all these interact to affect the outcomes of any sort of intellectual enterprise. Metacognition refers to thinking about thinking, which includes self-awareness, other-awareness, task awareness, action awareness, strategy awareness, outcome awareness, etc., in various contexts such as learning, reasoning, problem-solving, decision making and planning. Metacognitive knowledge refers to what individuals know about themselves as cognitive processors, about different approaches that can be used for learning and problem solving, and about the demands of a particular learning task. Metacognition is also referred to as meta-memory or self-knowledge . 

Students who learn through rote memorisation tend to rely heavily on declarative knowledge rather than procedural knowledge. They often find it difficult to transfer this knowledge into new situations because they lack the necessary skill sets. For example, someone might master multiplication tables by repeating each number times its corresponding multiplier until they get bored. However, once transferred to another situation, they won't necessarily use their newly acquired knowledge unless prompted. 

Study strategies are essential for academic achievement. Students need a variety of study methods that will allow them to manage their time spent studying effectively. Some students prefer to read textbooks from cover to cover before doing any practice problems. Others prefer to work out questions first then go back over the material. Still, others prefer to write down key points and make flashcards. Regardless of the method chosen, students must know how to choose appropriate study tools based upon their needs. How should they Study Effectively? There are many ways to approach studying. The most effective way depends on an individual student's preferences and the type of learning task.

Here are some tips for your students:

1) Plan - Make sure you have enough time to complete all assignments.

2) Organise Materials – Keep everything organised not to waste valuable class time searching for needed items.

3) Set Goals – Know exactly where you want to end up when you start studying.

4) Take Notes – Write down anything you wish to retain.

5) Re-read Material – Read what you wrote down earlier; this will help reinforce concepts learned during previous lessons.

6) Practice Problems – Work out answers ahead of time.

7) Use Resources – Find additional resources online or at home.

8) Review Test Questions – Go over test questions after completing homework.

9) Reflect – Think about what went well and what could be improved next time around.

10) Reward Yourself!

11) Be Flexible – Don't get too attached to one particular strategy. 

Metacognitive knowledge across whole school communities
Whole school metacognitive strategies


Becoming a Metacognitive Individual

Metacognition involves self-regulation, i.e., regulating thoughts, emotions, behaviours, and actions. Self-regulation is essential because it helps us control impulses, stay focused, and avoid distractions. It also allows us to monitor ourselves to improve performance. When thinking about Metacognition, consider these three aspects: 1) Monitoring 2) Regulation 3) Control

Metacognition is not just limited to academics. People with high levels of Metacognition perform better academically as well as socially. A person's level of Metacognition may change depending on the context. People with high levels of Metacognition perform better academically as well as socially. For example, someone who has trouble focusing might do much better in school than he would outside of school. On the other hand, someone who does very well in school but struggles with social interactions might find himself struggling more in college. Therefore, people differ in terms of which areas of life require higher levels of Metacognition.

Here are some examples of situations requiring different amounts of metacognitive management:

• Studying a foreign language requires more attention to detail than reading a book.

• Playing sports requires focus and concentration, while watching TV requires less.

• Working on a project that requires creativity requires more thoughtfulness than working on a routine job assignment.

• Writing a paper requires more planning than writing a letter.

• Meeting new friends requires more effort than meeting old ones.

• Talking to strangers requires more preparation than talking to family members.

• Making decisions requires more reflection than making choices.

• Learning how to play an instrument requires more practice than learning how to read music.

• Reading books requires more attention than listening to lectures.

• Listening to lectures requires more attention than doing homework.

• Doing homework requires more attention than playing video games.

Learning journals for promoting academic reflection
Learning journals for promoting academic reflection


How does Metacognition enhance the learning process?

Metacognition can help students learn by helping them regulate their behaviour. This means students will pay close attention to what they need to know to not miss anything. They will also have time for self-reflection after studying or performing tasks. Finally, when they encounter problems during study or task completion, they will use strategies such as re-reading material, taking notes and asking questions to solve those problems.

Managing our cognitive processes, for example, the ability to think critically, involves monitoring one's thoughts and actions. In addition, it includes regulating emotions and impulses. These two components allow you to control your behaviours and make sound judgments. Cognitive skills include critical thinking, problem-solving, decision making, memory, reasoning, assessment, and communication. Critical thinking refers to being aware of all sides of issues before coming to conclusions. Problem Solving involves finding solutions to problems. 

Reasoning is our ability to understand abstract concepts and apply logic to everyday events. Judgment is our ability to evaluate ideas and opinions based on facts. Communication is our ability to express ourselves clearly and effectively. 

Metacognitive strategies are used to improve academic performance. Students who use these strategies tend to perform better academically because they can monitor themselves and adjust their work accordingly. For instance, if students have trouble understanding a concept, they may ask themselves why this happens. If the answer is not clear, then they should try to find out where their knowledge gaps exist. 

Metacognitive abilities are essential because they enable people to manage their cognition. Metacognition helps individuals develop effective ways of working with their own thought patterns and behaviours. The following list shows some examples of metacognitive activities:

Monitor yourself while reading. You might notice that you get distracted easily. Try to identify which parts of the text attract your attention first. Ask yourself whether there are any other reasons why you do not like specific passages.

Self-regulation Control your behaviour according to how well you are doing with an assignment. When you start feeling anxious, remind yourself that anxiety usually disappears once you begin working on something challenging. Self-evaluation Evaluate your progress towards achieving goals. Are you getting closer to completing assignments? Do you still have homework left to complete? How much effort did you put into each part of the assignment? 

successful learning requires students to be self-regulated learners. They need to know what works best for them when studying or performing tasks. Learners must understand how to regulate their behaviour so that they can achieve success at school and beyond. To help students become more successful, teachers should provide opportunities for students to practice self-regulation by giving feedback on their efforts. Teachers also need to teach students how to recognise and cope with stressors during study sessions. Stressful situations often cause students to lose focus and forget details.

Content knowledge is needed to solve problems. Problem-solving skills involve using one's prior knowledge to create new knowledge. These skills include identifying relevant information, organising it, analysing it, evaluating its relevance, and applying it appropriately. In addition, problem solvers must consider alternative approaches to a given situation before deciding upon a solution.

Developing metacognitive awareness
use thinking guides to develop metacognitive awareness

Introducing Metacognition in your school

If your school is introducing a metacognition agenda, you might be interested in looking at the universal thinking framework that highlights the cognitive processes involved in learning. This child-friendly approach enables children to break academic tasks into bite-size cognitive tasks. Having a metacognitive framework helps school communities to raise their metacognitive awareness across classrooms. Many of our school members use the cognitive tasks to break down learning objectives into achievable goals.

This type of metacognitive approach is both manageable and immediately useful on a practical level. With this approach, content knowledge does not have to be sacrificed for procedural knowledge, the two work in tandem. As well as the framework, we also have ready-made graphic organisers that can be used as an off-the-shelf thinking strategy. Over time, we believe that this type of metacognitive approach can boost the confidence level of all students. If you would like to see this learning concept and action, please do explore our dedicated webpage.