Metacognition is a process that learners can use to facilitate learning, especially on their own. It involves various strategies whose effectiveness may differ for each learner. As such, it would be the teacher’s responsibility to acquaint their students with these different strategies so that students may be able to determine those that are most effective for them.
In this essay, a comprehensive overview of metacognition is provided in terms of its definitions; its role in self-regulated learning or SLA; its various aspects; its difference from cognition; the role of teachers in its development among students; its implications in the classroom for both teachers and students; and how metacognitive strategies can be implicated in the classroom. Finally, this paper ends with a Conclusion that summarizes the main points discussed in this essay.
Metacognition is defined as thinking about thinking or learning about learning. It is the process by which learners try to identify the learning strategies that are most effective for them where such strategies enable them to effectively learn on their own.
Role of Metacognition in Self-regulated Learning/SLA
Metacognition allows learners to control their learning process. It allows them to make corrections in their learning; hence, resulting in more successful learning outcomes.
In particular, metacognition has positive influences over a learner’s setting of goals; in the control of their actions; in their learning motivation, and in their learning strategies, which enable them to improve their learning performance.
Because metacognition and metacognitive strategies enable a learner to identify the learning strategies that are most effective for them, they are better able to control their actions, such as how, when, and where they would like to perform their learning activities in a manner that allows them to get the most out of these activities. Examples would be whether it’s more effective for them to learn by dividing a learning task into smaller tasks or by completing the task all at once. This allows them to set goals that they can reach and that will allow them to get a sense of achievement or accomplishment. In turn, because they are able to use learning strategies that are effective for them, that enable them to control their actions, and that enable them to set goals that they can reach, they become more motivated to learn. This motivation encourages them to discover more learning strategies that may be effective for them. They are motivated to apply these strategies to all their learning activities, all the while continuing to learn more about the effective use of these strategies; thus, leading to their further improvement and development. Moreover, because they are able to set goals that they are able to reach, they will be motivated to set more challenging goals for themselves, all of which, in the end, leads to a better learning performance.
When it comes to SLA, in particular, metacognition helps a learner through self-regulated learning in that metacoognitive strategies enable the SLA learner to correct themselves ether while writing, reading, or speaking. For example, when writing, learners can proofread or edit their work after they’ve completed a written assignment in order to gauge or ensure the correctness of their work. This will also allow them to realize or gauge where their weaknesses are (e.g. grammar, vocabulary, etc.), which will enable them to focus more on improving those weaknesses. In reading, metacognition can facilitate the student’s learning in that metacognition enables the student to gauge how well they understood the reading assignment. By identifying where they had difficulties then they would be able to take the proper action to address those difficulties. For example, if the student is having a difficulty with vocabulary then they might want to consult the dictionary. On the other hand, if their difficulty lies on the context, for example from a cultural perspective, then they might choose to seek the assistance of their teacher or their peers. Finally, in speaking, SLA learners are able to correct themselves when they pause or immediately correct a word or phrase they’ve said, which they may realize to be incorrect.
Aspects of Metacognition
The main aspects of metacognition are the setting of goals, the identification of the learning styles and strategies, the planning of learning activities, the monitoring of the learning process, and the evaluation of the learning activity’s outcome.
Goal setting is an important aspect of metacognition as it gives the student a direction or a clear objective or purpose for their learning. By knowing what they want to achieve, they will be able to determine and develop the learning strategies that they should use to achieve those goals. Since the effectiveness of learning strategies would vary for each learner, it would be good for learners to become familiar with all of the different learning strategies so that they may be able to discern the ones that are most effective for them.
After a learner identifies their goal and the strategies they want to use for achieving that goal, they then need to plan how they want to achieve that goal. For example, if their goal is to complete a paper by the end of the week, they might plan to do the research for two days, write the actual paper for two days and then proofread for one day. In another example, if a student knows that they will perform an experiment the following day, they might plan to read the experiment procedure before they go to school in order to familiarize themselves with the steps they need to perform. This in turn will facilitate their completion of the experiment. Alternatively, they may also plan to do some background research on the subject of their experiment in order to get a better understanding of its purpose and relevance. This, too, will enable the student to successfully complete the experiment, as well as learn from it.
In addition, it is important for the student to monitor their progress or their learning while performing the learning activity, as this enables them to make self-corrective actions. For example, if, while writing a research paper, they find that they don’t fully understand a topic they’re writing about then they might decide to do some further research. They may also find that they don’t understand certain terms or jargons, which will prompt them to look up the meanings of those terms in order to facilitate their understanding and in order to enable them to explain the concept using their own words. Alternatively, this might prompt them to consult their teacher for additional assistance and guidance. Finally, it is important for the student to be able to evaluate the outcome of their learning activity, as this leads to further self-correction. For example, in the activity of writing a research paper, the student can evaluate their work and make further corrections by editing or proofreading the paper. They may also want to make changes with regards to the paper’s format. With students who are able to effectively use their metacognitive strategies, they can usually tell if something’s off with their work and make the necessary changes. In the end, whether they are satisfied with the outcome of their learning activity or not, they will be able to compare their assessment of their work with that of their teacher and be able to use that comparison in determining the areas where they can further improve in their learning and in their learning strategies.
Cognition vs. Metacognition
Cognition consists of processes that are involved in the attainment of comprehension and knowledge. In particular, these processes include problem solving, judging, remembering, knowing, and thinking. It also involves memory, attention, perception, and how we relate our past experiences with the present. Cognition is basically the attainment of knowledge based on what we see, hear, taste, touch, or perceive in our environment.
Some of the cognitive strategies that can be employed include brain-compatible teaching, which generally refers to an environment that’s conducive for learning; the development of study skills (e.g. over learning a particular material; having breaks in between learning sessions, or reciting what has been learned); and the use of psychological tools such as scaffolding (the process where teachers help students construct knowledge by helping their students focus on the important parts of a learning activity and by using questions and verbalizations to facilitate the student’s understanding of the activity); schema building (the storage of knowledge in long term memory so that they can be retrieved as needed in the future); and the use of graphical organizers; as well as the use of creative and critical thinking.
While cognition pertains to the processes used to gain knowledge, metacognition pertains to the process on how cognition can be further improved. In other words, metacognition refers to cognition about cognition where metacognition strategies enable a student to determine how they can more effectively employ their cognitive strategies or their strategies for learning. Furthermore, while cognition has the goal of learning, metacognition helps ensure that this goal of learning is reached. The metacognitive strategies include self-management, functional planning, advanced organization, organizational planning, selective attention, self-monitoring, and self-evaluation.
The Role of Teachers in the Development of Metacognition in Students
Metacognitive strategies can be learned. As such, teachers should expose their students to these different strategies by involving these strategies in various learning activities. By exposing the students to such, the students become familiar with them, are able to try using them, and in the process, identify which ones they find most effective. In turn, by determining the most effective metacognitive strategies for them, students are likely to use these strategies in their other classes, in the process further improving their use of these strategies and possibly trying out other strategies, too.
For example, when it comes to goal setting, teachers can ask the students to write down their learning goals then follow up on the progress and attainment of such goals. Teachers should also help the students in developing the strategies for achieving those goals and provide the moral and emotional support that the students would need in the process. For students who are already doing well in class, the teacher may guide them to set more challenging goals for themselves and for the students who may be struggling a bit, the teacher may guide the student in setting realistic and achievable goals that the student can reach. The sense of achievement will, in turn, motivate the student to further improve their learning performance.
In terms of teaching the students about the various learning strategies, teachers should assist students on how to perform such strategies. The teacher should also discuss the purpose for learning these strategies and provide the students with feedback on how well they are able to perform the said strategies. This will enable the students to identify he areas where they should improve. In addition, the teacher should demonstrate how to use these strategies and encourage the students to use them in their learning activities.
When it comes to planning, the teacher can help the students develop this metacognitive strategy by informing their students of upcoming activities and what the students should do to prepare for such activities. In another example, the teacher may provide the students with a project that should be completed by the end of the semester but where the students have to complete and submit parts of the project on certain schedules (e.g. a part is to be submitted for preliminary review every two weeks). Alternatively, the teacher can give the students ideas or suggestions on how they can divide or schedule the tasks for a project so that these tasks don’t interfere with their other classes and their social lives. The teacher should then follow up on the students’ progress with regards to how well they are coping with the task divisions they have chosen and the task schedules they have set.
When it comes to self-monitoring, the teachers can introduce various types of self-monitoring strategies, demonstrate how they are used, and encourage the students to use them. For example, the teacher can provide the students with structured questions that the students can ask themselves with regards to a text they have read. They can then write the answers to these questions in a journal. Over time, the teacher can encourage the students to come up with their own questions that will enable them to gauge their understanding of the text, which in turn enables them to eventually perform the strategy independently.
Finally, teachers can teach students to evaluate their work by the same manner of demonstrating how these strategies are used, clarifying their purpose, and encouraging students to use them. For example, the teacher can ask the students to edit or assess their own work and compare them with the teacher’s assessment. The teacher should then discuss the student’s strengths and weaknesses with the student, as well as how the teacher came up with the assessment. This will enable the student to become better at assessing their own work in the future.
The Implications of Metacognition in the Classroom for Educators and Students
The implication of metacognition in the classroom for educators is that they play a big role in helping their students learn and develop the various metacognitive strategies in their learning activities. For the students, the implication is that by learning, developing, and effectively using these metacognitive strategies, their chances of succeeding in their education and in their future careers increase compared to the students who are not able to effectively use these strategies or who may not even be aware of them. That said, how effectively educators teach metacognitive strategies to their students will greatly influence the student’s success in their future academic endeavors, as well as in their future careers.
Moreover, students who are able to effectively use metacognitive strategies are more motivated to learn. They are also better able to engage their teachers and classmates in learning activities, which means that they become positive influences on other students and less of a headache for the educators.
How Metacognitive Strategies can be Implicated in the Classroom
Metacognitive strategies can be implicated in the classroom through writing activities, such as when students are asked to write in their journal about their understanding of a text or their answers to structured questions about the text (monitoring and self-evaluation). Moreover, the teacher can implicate metacognitive strategies by helping and encouraging students to define questions to help them gauge their understanding of a text.
Metacognitive strategies can also be implicated by helping the students plan for and schedule their learning tasks by giving them preliminary deadlines for parts of their project prior to the main deadline for the completed project (goal setting and planning). For example, the research proposal can be submitted on the first week, the outline on the second week, the rough draft on the third week, and the completed paper on the fourth week. Not only does this help the student plan and schedule their learning tasks, this also enables them to monitor and evaluate their own learning, especially since the teacher is able to provide the student with feedback on every part of the project submitted. This also helps the student correct their work before it gets completed.
This essay discussed metacognition as the process of thinking about thinking or of learning about learning, which plays an important role in self-regulated learning and SLA, as it promotes independent learning. The various aspects of metacognition include goal setting, the identification of learning styles and strategies, planning, monitoring, and evaluation. Unlike cognition, which consists of processes that are used to gain knowledge, metacognition consists of processes that facilitate the process of gaining knowledge. In other words, metacognition facilitates cognition.
It was also discussed that teachers play a major role in helping the students learn and develop metacognitive strategies. These strategies can be taught and learned; thus, teachers should be able to demonstrate the use of these strategies and provide the students with opportunities to use them. That said, the implication of metacognition in the classroom is that by effectively teaching these strategies to their students, the educators are enabling their students to become better able at coping with their future academic and professional learning challenges, which in turn will make these students more successful individuals. Moreover, metacognition motivates the students to learn, which makes for a positive and engaging atmosphere in the classroom.
Lastly, this paper discussed some ways by which metacognitive strategies can be implicated in the classroom. These include writing, planning, schedule, feedback, self assessment, and self-defined questions.