- How can people learn by reflecting on what
they know and do?
- How can teachers help students think about
their own thinking?
- Defining metacognition –
Teachers will understand what metacognition is and how it
improves learning. They will become familiar with two aspects
of metacognition: reflection and self-regulation.
- Developing metacognitive skills
– Teachers will understand what it means to develop
a culture of metacognition in the classroom. Teachers will
become familiar with strategies for helping students regulate,
monitor, and guide their learning.
do we know what we've learned and how to direct our own future
learning? These are all questions addressed by the concept
of metacognition. Simply put, metacognition
means "thinking about one's own thinking."
There are two aspects of metacognition:
– thinking about what we know
– managing how we go about learning
Sometimes people use the phrase "going meta"
when talking about metacognition, referring to the process
of stepping back to see what you are doing, as if you were
someone else observing it. "Going meta" means becoming
an audience for your own performance – in this case,
your own intellectual performance.
The challenge is helping students learn how to
"go meta" in regard to thought processes that are
not directly visible in order to improve cognitive performances.
Early Ideas About Metacognition
Although the word metacognition did not come into common use until the 1970s, the notion
of reflecting about one's own thinking can be found in writings
dating back to Plato, who emphasized the importance of reflecting
through dialog. John Dewey, often considered the father of
progressive education, viewed reflection as a central part
of active learning. In addition, both Piaget and Vygotsky
described the role of metacognition in cognitive development.
Development of Metacognitive
Strategies in Children
developing cognitively is learning how to be aware of one's
thinking and direct it consciously and strategically toward
desired ends. Metacognitive strategies help us become more
efficient and powerful in our learning because they help us
to find information, evaluate when we need additional resources,
and understand when to apply different approaches to problems.
Metacognitive skills develop over time and depend upon a knowledge base.
Thinking about Thinking
Metacognition is most commonly broken down into
two distinct but interrelated areas. John Flavell defined
these two areas as metacognitive knowledge
– awareness of one's thinking and metacognitive
the ability to manage one's own thinking processes. These
two components are used together to inform learning theory.
Metacognitive Knowledge –
Reflecting on What We Know
(1979) describes three kinds of metacognitive knowledge:
- Awareness of knowledge – understanding
what one knows, what one does not know, and what one wants
- Awareness of thinking – understanding
cognitive tasks and the nature of what is required to complete
- Awareness of thinking strategies
– understanding approaches to directing learning
Metacognitive Regulation –
Directing Our Learning
When a student has information about her thinking
(metacognitive knowledge), she is able to use this information
to direct or regulate her learning. Ann Brown and her colleagues
(1983) describe three ways we direct our own learning:
- Planning approaches to tasks –
identifying the problem, choosing strategies, organizing
our thoughts, and predicting outcomes
- Monitoring activities during learning
– testing, revising, and evaluating the effectiveness
of our strategies
- Checking outcomes – evaluating
the outcomes against specific criteria of efficiency and
Good metacognitive thinkers are also good intentional
learners. That is, they are able to direct their learning
in the proper ways to build understanding. They know when
to use strategies and how to use them (Bereiter & Scardamalia,
A Culture of Metacognition in the
A number of conditions support a metacognitive classroom environment
(from Bransford et al, 2000).
- Knowledge-centered classrooms focus
on meaningful, powerful, nontrivial activities. When students
are asked to engage in activities that build on their previous
knowledge, challenge them with complex tasks, and require
active sense-making, they are more likely to see the utility
of being reflective and strategic learners.
- Learning-centered classrooms take
into account students' current knowledge, skills, attitudes,
- Assessment in a learning- and knowledge-centered
classroom helps students reflect on what they know, care
about, and are able to do. It not only helps learners develop
an awareness of themselves, but also give learning-centered
teachers valuable information for their instruction. Using
activities such as self-assessment, peer assessment, and
teacher assessment gives students frequent feedback about
their effectiveness of thinking.
- Formative Assessment involves opportunities
for feedback in the midst of an activity, so it is useful
to direct further learning.
Metacognitive learning is supported by a culture
that encourages and recognizes the importance of revision.
When students are given feedback with the purpose of redirecting
and revising their work – rather than to simply assign
a grade – they have the opportunity to revisit their
work with greater understanding. When a teacher provides clear
expectations in terms of how she evaluates student work and
provides models and examples that give students a sense of
the goals they are striving for, students are empowered to
take on more responsibility and ownership in their learning.
Strategies for Learning
Teachers who are developing metacognitive skills
in the classroom help students incorporate active reflection
in their learning. They model and scaffold the processes of
reflection, questioning, evaluating, and other thinking strategies
that may not come naturally. The strategies below include
opportunities to reflect
on learning and to learn to regulate
or direct one's work:
- Predicting outcomes
- Evaluating work
- Selecting strategies
- Using directed or selective thinking
- Using discourse
Activities that encourage a reflective and strategic stance
toward learning should be embedded in the regular activities
of the classroom. When teachers make aspects of learning and
problem solving visible, and help students identify their
own strengths and strategies, they can have a lasting impact
on how their students learn once they leave the classroom.
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Materials for Session 9