Simply put, metacognition is the process of thinking about thinking. It is a regulatory system that aids us in understanding and controlling our cognitive performance. Metacognition allows us to take charge of our learning process. It helps us to look inwards, examine how we learn, evaluate the learning system, perceive our learning needs and accordingly devise strategies that will allow us to meet those needs and also implement them. In essence, metacognition is a survival strategy that helps us to reflect on our current position and figure out ways to achieve the goals that we set for ourselves.
Self-confidence improves when we build metacognitive skills. The primary reason why developing metacognition is necessary is that it helps us to apply knowledge and skills learned in a certain context, to situations that are dissimilar. Students especially must work on cognitive skill building. When faced with real-life challenges, their cognitive power will help them to choose and apply necessary skills from the entire range of competencies they have developed to solve their problems.
Processes Involved in Metacognition
The ability to transfer or use their learning in varied contexts is increased through metacognitive practices. Metacognitive functions can be categorized under two distinct heads. These are as follows:
- Knowledge of Cognition which comprises 3 functions:
- Understanding of the factors that impacts one’s own performance
- Knowledge of different types of strategies to use for learning
- Knowing which strategy to implement in a particular learning situation.
- Regulation of Cognition that involves:
- Setting goals and planning
- Monitoring and controlling learning
- Evaluating one’s own performance by evaluating the appropriateness of the strategies used and their eventual outcomes
Students with higher levels of confidence in their ability to achieve their goals, engage in metacognition more than others and subsequently turn out to be better performers. The purpose of metacognitive practices is to help learners become aware of their strengths and weaknesses in various areas of learning like writing, reading etc. An important aspect in the process is to recognize the limit of one’s ability or knowledge and then figuring out ways to push the limit and expand the knowledge or develop the ability.
Teachers need to help students build their metacognitive skills. Here are some helpful tips for teachers which will enable them to help their learners develop their metacognitive ability
In the course of taking the class or after a lesson is over, ask questions that will allow the learners to think about what they’ve learnt and how they have learnt it. If they have performed a group activity, ask them to reflect on the individual role that played while solving problems as a team.
After a lesson, students must be encouraged to reflect on their learning experience. They should critically analyze their personal assumptions which may have influenced their learning.
The best way to improve metacognitive skills is by encouraging learners to form their own questions and also answer them. This will enhance their comprehension of the subject.
Students often learn well by interacting with peers who are a notch better. By observing the peer’s way of applying skills to various situations, the novice can learn and also gain access to the metacognitive strategies that have been implemented by the peer-mentor.
Emphasize Thought Monitoring
Students can monitor their thought process by maintaining journals in a format that is convenient for them. Weekly assignments must include questions that will compel students to reflect on how they have learnt rather than what they have learned. The questions can include:
- What did I learn easily this week and why?
- What was the most difficult topic and why?
- What strategies helped me to prepare for the exam?
- What strategies did not help in exam preparation?
- What will I do differently next time?
- Which study habits were helpful and how?
- Which study habit will I try next week?
Encourage Thinking Aloud
Create an environment where students can think out loud while they are working on a difficult task. This will give you the opportunity to point out errors in the thought process which can increase the student’s self awareness.
Benefits of Metacognition
Building metacognitive skills in students contributes towards their holistic growth. They turn into well-rounded personalities, who can grow and shine in life. Some of the benefits are listed below:
- The biggest advantage of metacognition is that it helps students to apply their knowledge and understanding across varied tasks and concepts. This includes reading comprehension, writing, mathematics, memorising, reasoning, and problem-solving.
- Students can turn into high-level achievers by engaging in metacognitive practices.
- It increases the ability of students to learn independently. By acquiring the ability to monitor their progress, they can take charge of their learning, both inside and outside the classroom.
- They develop the ability to evaluate their own performance, identify what works for them and what doesn’t. This in turn motivates them to perform better.
- It is a cost effective method as it doesn’t require a specialist or an expert. It only requires a teacher who has sufficient training in this method.
- Students of all ages can benefit from developing metacognitive skills.
- Developing metacognitive skills facilitates emotional and social growth. Gaining awareness of their thought process helps them to figure out ways to be happy and confident. It also builds their ability to respect other people’s opinions and perspectives.
Encouraging students to look inwards, to reflect on their thought process by introducing them to effective metacognitive skill building techniques should be a prerogative of the teacher. It will help learners evolve into more confident and motivated individuals, capable of correct self-evaluation. Through metacognition, the learning process becomes more enriched and students become better learners. Metacognitive skills can also help students manage their feelings and boost self-esteem. To effectively help students to build this ability, teachers must first equip themselves with the know-how of metacognitive skill building. They will help create self-aware learners with a growth mindset and capable of great achievements.