Metacognition can be defined as the process of comprehending and understanding a person’s own thinking and learning. It involves knowing when the person knows something, knowing when they don’t know something, and knowing what to do when they don’t know. In simpler words, it involves monitoring oneself and correcting their own learning processes.
The simplest way to understand the idea behind metacognition is through the use of an example. Let’s say a student has 10 subjects to learn. The student actively engages in the act of metacognition when they realize that they are finding subject A objectively more difficult to learn than subject B. Another example is when they realize that their approach to solving a certain problem is not working, and they might need to try a different approach.
Why is Metacognition Important in the Classroom?
Students that receive instruction on metacognition develop skills that will make them successful in their professional and academic careers. The more a student is able to understand how they learn, remember, and process information, the more information they will be able to ultimately retain. This ability is linked to developing better memory skills, which are used to foretell future academic progress.
Students who are able to understand how they learn are able to create situations that promote learning. For example, learners may know that they need to study at a certain time of day in a quiet room with notecards in a class that needs a lot of memorization. Consequently, they may also know that writing requires a completely different set of settings or time allotment altogether.
Even though there is a lot to teach within the course of a day, allotting time for self-reflection on the learning process helps students better understand their own learning processes. This, in turn, gives them the skills to study and complete coursework even more efficiently and successfully.
7 Ways to Achieve Metacognition
Teach Them the Growth Mindset
The beliefs that students bring with them when they learn will affect their performance immensely. Research shows that when students are raised with a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset, there is a greater chance for them to engage in reflective thinking about how they learn and grow. Teaching kids about the science of metacognition can be an empowering tool, helping students to understand how they can literally grow their own brains.
Practice Partaking in Discussions to Understand What is Confusing
Being confused and identifying that one is confused is an important part of developing self-awareness. Allow students some time at the end of a relatively difficult class to ask what they found most confusing about the material they had discussed. This jolts the metacognitive processing involved and also creates a classroom culture where it is normal for confusion to exist as an integral part of learning.
Offer Opportunities to Reflect on Coursework
Higher-order thinking skills are brought about when students are able to recognize their own cognitive growth. Questions that aid this process need to be asked. For example, the question might be about whether or not their thinking about greenhouse gases had changed after taking a course on climate change?
Prompt Students to Maintain a Journal
One way to help students keep track of their own thought processes is through the use of personal journals. Assign questions every week that will help students reflect on how they learned something instead of how they did so. Questions can be like what they found easiest to learn that week, why they found it difficult, what was most challenging, what strategies they used, which strategies worked, why they worked, and so on.
Ask Them to Note Down Summaries
A short intervention that surrounds the activity and is integrated into a metacognitive practice can be conducted. Before conducting a lecture, for example, provide them with a few tips about active listening after which the students can be asked to write three key ideas from it. Then, share with them what you believe were the three key ideas and ask students to self-check how closely theirs matched your intended goals. When used often, this activity increases interest in intended learning as well as improves metacognitive monitoring skills.
Consider Essay vs. MCQ Tests
Research has shown that students use lower-level thinking skills when it comes to preparing for multiple-choice exams, while they use higher-level metacognitive skills when preparing for descriptive exams. While it is less time-consuming to grade MCQ tests, even the mere act of adding a few short essay questions can improve the way students reflect on their learning to prepare for test-taking.
Promote Reflexive Thinking
Reflexivity can be defined as the metacognitive process of being aware of one’s biases and prejudices that get in the way of healthy development. Teachers are the only ones who can create a classroom culture meant for deeper learning and reflexivity by the process of promoting active dialogue which challenges human and societal biases. When students engage in conversations or write essays on moral dilemmas and biases related to wealth, racism, poverty, justice, liberty, etc., they get a knack for thinking about their own thinking. It is through such issues start to challenge their own biases and become more flexible and adaptive thinkers.
Metacognition can hence be seen as a productive tool in helping students understand their lessons and reflect on them as a means of improving their skills and overall learning efficiency. There is a lot of research to be done in this field but implementing this as such as also not a bad idea.