B.Ed. Teaching Notes
Lecturer in Physical Science, Arafa Institute for Teacher Education
Metacognition is an important aspect of teaching and learning. It is one of the foundation upon which students may become independent learners. The term metacognition has its origin from the Greek work meta and the Latin word cognition. Meta means higher or beyond, and cognition means thinking. Hence, by derivation, metacognition means higher order thinking. The term metacognition is introduced be Flavell in 1979, to refer to one’s knowledge concerning one’s own cognitive process or anything related to them.
Cognition and Metacognition
The concept of cognition is an underpinning basis for understanding metacognition. When an individual thinks, the mental operation used is called cognition. Cognition is having the intellectual capacity to reason about information and to learn something about and retain all or part of that information.
Metacognition has been defined as “thinking about thinking” and is a complex form of higher-order thinking. It is defined as ‘cognition about cognition’, or ‘Knowing about knowing’. Metacognition involves the ability to think about own cognitions, and to know how to analyze, to draw conclusions, to learn from, and to put into practice what has been learned. Cognition and metacognition differ in that cognition is necessary to execute a task while, while metacognition, is necessary to understand how the task was executed.
Definitions of Metacognition
Ø According to Flavell, ‘metacognition is an individual’s knowledge of their own cognitive processes and their ability to control these processes by organizing, monitoring and modifying them as a function of learning.’
Ø Everson defines metacognition as the ‘awareness individuals have of their own mental processes and the subsequent to monitor, regulate, and direct themselves to a desired end’.
Ø Mayer defined metacognition as ‘knowledge and awareness of one’s own cognitive processes’.
Shortly, thinking about one’s own thinking is metacognition. It refers to learners’ automatic awareness of their own knowledge and their ability to understand, control, and manipulate their own cognitive processes. It is the ability for one to control own thoughts.
Characteristics of Metacognition
Metacognition refers to a level of thinking that involves active control over the process of thinking that is used in learning situations. The following are its important characteristics:
1. It is a higher order thinking which involves active control over the cognitive process engaged in learning.
2. It involves awareness and self-regulation of one’s learning processes.
3. It includes an awareness and understanding of how one thinks and uses strategies during reading and writing.
4. It involves knowing how to learn.
5. It consists of two basic processes occurring simultaneously: monitoring one’s progress as he learns, and making changes and adapting one’s strategies if he perceives he is not doing so well.
6. It is concerned with self-reflection, self-responsibility and initiative, as well as goal setting and time management.
7. It involves active control over the cognitive process that is used in learning situations.
Components of Metacognition
Metacognition is often regarded as a multidimensional concept. However, researchers agreed to divide it into two constructs:
1) Metacognitive knowledge and
2) Metacognitive control and regulation.
1) Metacognitive knowledge (metacognitive awareness) : It refers to what individuals know about themselves and others as cognitive processors. It includes at least three different kinds of metacognitive awareness: declarative, procedural, and conditional knowledge.
Declarative knowledge refers to knowing "about" things. Procedural knowledge refers to knowing "how" to do things. Conditional knowledge refers to knowing the "why" and "when" aspects of cognition
a) Declarative knowledge: Declarative knowledge includes knowledge about oneself as a learner and about what factors influence one's performance.
b) Procedural knowledge: Procedural knowledge refers to knowledge about doing things.
c) Conditional knowledge: Conditional knowledge refers to knowing when and why to use declarative and procedural knowledge. For example, effective learners know when and what information to rehearse.
Conditional knowledge is important because it helps students selectively allocate their resources and use strategies more effectively. Conditional knowledge also enables students to adjust to the changing situational demands of each learning task.
2) Metacognitive control and regulation: It is the regulation of cognition and learning experiences through a set of activities that help people control their learning Research supports the assumption that metacognitive regulation improves performance in a number of ways, including better use of attention resources, better use of existing strategies, and a greater awareness of comprehension breakdowns.
According to Schraw & Dennison (1994) regulation is divided into planning, information
management, monitoring, debugging, and evaluation; four essential skills are included in all accounts: planning, monitoring, and evaluation.
Planning involves the selection of appropriate strategies and the allocation of resources that affect performance. Examples include making predictions before reading, strategy sequencing, and allocating time or attention selectively before beginning a task.
Eg: a. What is the nature of the task?
b. What is my goal?
c. What kind of information and strategies do I need?
d. How much time will I need?
Monitoring refers to one's on-line awareness of comprehension and task performance. The ability to engage in periodic self-testing while learning is a good example.
Eg: a. Do I have a clear understanding?
b. Am I reaching my goals?
c. Do I need to make changes?
Evaluating refers to appraising the products and efficiency of one's learning. Typical examples include re-evaluating one's goals and conclusions.
Eg: a. Have I reached my goals?
b. What worked?
c. What did not work?
d. What would I do differently next time?
There are two main points to emphasize about knowledge of cognition and regulation of cognition. The first is that the two are related to one another.
The second is that both components appear to span a wide variety of subject areas and domains - that is, they are domain-general in nature.
In summary, metacognition consists of knowledge and regulatory skills that are used to control one's cognition.
Importance of Metacognition
Metacognition is an important aspect of student learning. It involves self regulation, reflection upon an individual’s performance strengths, weaknesses, learning and study strategies. The task of education is to acknowledge, cultivate, exploit and enhance the metacognitive capabilities of all learners. Metacognition, or awareness of the process of learning, is a critical ingredient to successful learning. The following are the important role of metacognition in learning.
1. Because metacognition plays a critical role in successful learning, it is important to study metacognitive activity and development to determine how students can be taught to better apply their cognitive resources through metacognitive control.
2. Metacognition helps readers monitor and control their comprehension on an ongoing and adjust their reading strategies to maximize comprehension.
3. This is the process where the student takes conscious control of the learning. The learner thinks about how he is thinking in a congnitive sense. For example, the learner is using metacognition if he realizes that he is having more trouble learning how to complete a fraction problem than a multiplication problem.
4. Metacognition is the foundation upon which students become independent readers and writers. It also underlies students’ abilities to generalize math problem solving strategies.
5. Metacognition motivates the learner. It will also help him to maintain motivation to complete a learning task.
6. It helps the learner to advance in a planned manner in his learning activities.
7. It reduces mental fatigue, helps the learner in effective memorization and longer retention.
8. It helps the learner to set priorities, manage time and effective utilization of resources.
9. Metacognitive strategies will help the learner to gain confidence and become more independent as learners.
10. Thinking of one’s own cognition will assist him in planning the way to approach a learning task, monitoring comprehension, and evaluating the progress towards the completion of a task.
11. Students who demonstrate a wide range of metacognitive skills perform better on exams and complete work more efficiently.
12. Individuals with a high level of metacongnitive knowledge and skill identify blocks to learning as early as possible and change “tools” or strategies to ensure goal attainment.
13. Metacognition enables the learners to monitor and direct their own learning processes.
14. It helps the learner to become a person who has learned to learn
Metacognitive Strategies for Successful Learning
Strategies for promoting metacognition include
1) Self-questioning (e.g., what do I already know about this topic? How have I solved problems like this before?),
2) Thinking aloud while performing a task, and making graphic representations (e.g., concept maps, flow charts, semantic webs) of one’s thoughts and knowledge.
Normally three levels of metacognitive strategies can be adopted for effective learning. They are:
1. Awareness: (a) Consciously identify what you already know (b) Define the learning goal (c) Consider your personal resources (textbooks, computers, access to the library, access to a quiet study area) (d) Consider the task requirements (essay test, multiple choice, etc.) (e) Determine how your performance will be evaluated (f) Consider your motivation level (g) Determine your level of anxiety
2. Planning : (a) Estimate the time required to complete the task (b) Plan study time into your schedule and set priorities (c) Make a check what needs to happen when (d) Organize materials (e) Take the necessary steps to learn by using strategies like outlining, mnemonics, diagramming, etc.
3. Monitoring and Reflection: (a) Reflect on the learning process, keeping track of what works and what doesn’t work for you (b) Monitor your own learning by questioning and self-testing (c) Provide your own feedback (d) Keep concentration and motivation high.
The study of metacognition has provided educational psychologists with insight about the cognitive processes involved in learning and what differentiates successful students from their less successful peers. It also holds several implications for instructional interventions, such as teaching students how to be more aware of their learning processes and products as well as how to regulate those processes for more effective learning.
Arjunan N.K. (1999) Psychological bases of education. Palakkad: Yuga publications
Flavell, J. H. (1979). Metacognition and cognitive monitoring: A new area of cognitive-developmental inquiry. American Psychologist, 34, 906-911.
Roberts, M. J., & Erdos, G. (1993). Strategy selection and metacognition. Educational Psychology, 13, 259-266.