Anyone who has had any contact with the world of Education or Psychology will be very familiar with the word ‘metacognition’. Metacognition is ‘thinking about thinking’ and involves the capacity to think about our cognitive processes. It also involves monitoring, controlling and organising our own mental processes.
There are two types of Metacognition: Metacognitive knowledge and Metacognitive control. Metacognitive knowledge is a person’s knowledge of cognitive states and learning processes. This involves information about how we learn, specific strategies and when and why we use a particular strategy. Strategies might include concept mapping, PQ4R method, creating analogies or mnemonics and self questioning.
Metacognitive control is the management and regulation of learning. These two components interact in a dynamic way to produce strategic learning. This involves planning (selection of strategies) , regulation ( monitoring) and evaluation (how did I go).
This is what metacognition can look like when writing (through student’s eyes)
- What is the essay question asking me do?
- What do I know about this topic?
- What else do I need to know and how am I going to get that information?
- What strategies do I need? Concept maps?
- How many paragraphs am I going to write?
- What do I need to do to stay on task? Minimise distractions?
- How am I going?
- What am I doing well?
- What do I need to change?
- Am I answering the question?
- How am I going for time?
- How did my strategy work?
- What will I change next time?
- What worked well for me?
Why is metacognition so important in the learning process? Metacognition develops the ability for a learner to self-reflect and direct their learning. This aligns well with a growth mindset as learners will reflect and change their behaviour based on those reflections. Metacognition is an essential ingredient in critical thinking. To think critically one must correct their own thinking, ask questions and problem-solve. Metacognition directs attention, manages working memory load and utalises information in long term memory.
I recently read about an idea called ‘wrappers’ Here is an example of a ‘wrapper’ for homework
“Before beginning a homework assignment, students answer a brief set of self-assessment questions focusing on skills they should be monitoring. Students complete the homework as usual, and then answer a follow-up set of self-assessment questions. For example, for a homework assignment about vector arithmetic, a student may be asked (beforehand) “How quickly and easily can you solve problems that involve vector subtraction?” and (afterward) “Now that you have completed this homework, how quickly and easily can you solve problems that involve vector subtraction?” Student reports from the homework wrappers ranged from noting that the practice exercises were helpful to them to commenting that they were probably overconfident before doing the homework problems.” Ormond, C. (2013). Teaching Metacognition. Retrieved from: http://serc.carleton.edu/28174
This process makes thinking visible and activates prior knowledge allowing the student to be more in control over the learning process. In a similar vein ‘just in time’ response papers get students thinking about what they need to know and how they will manage their learning.
How good is your student’s metacognitive knowledge? Do they know how their brain processes information and what strategies help them manage that information process? How well do students manage and evaluate how their learning is going and how are these processes visible to students, teachers and parents?
When students have knowledge and control of their own cognitive processes, learning is enhanced: Metacognition:
The wrapper idea for teaching metacognition
Teaching students to plan: Plan/set goals. Apply strategies/moniter. Adapt /evaluate.