Definition – Awareness and understanding of one’s own thought process.
Metacognition is the idea of thinking about thinking. The idea that you know you think something, why you think it and the ability to change it. The concept of metacognition also relates closely to the ‘THINKERS’ part of the IB learner profile.
Metacognition describes the processes involved when learners plan, monitor, evaluate, and make changes to their own learning behaviours.
Metacognitive knowledge – Children understanding their own cognitive abilities. For example, ‘I struggle to remember people’s names. It’s also understanding that something is difficult, for example, ‘I understand that I am dealing with very complex issues. Also, the ability to understand how to remember information like breaking a phone number down into smaller parts to allow us to memorise it.
Metacognitive regulation – This relates to learners. understanding that a strategy they are using to solve a problem is not working and trying something new.
There is also a lot of information about the ages which children develop metacognitive skills. Some studies show children as young as 18 months showing metacognitive skills. It’s also important to note that just because pupils can’t describe what metacognition is doesn’t mean they don’t have the ability to use it.
We can use the metacognition phases to help us understand the whole process.
Planning – learners think about the goal that the teacher has set out. They then think about what strategies they will use to achieve the goal set out. During this section its good for learners to ask themselves questions such as:
‘What am I being asked to do?’
‘Which strategies will I use?’
‘Are there any strategies that I have used before that might be useful?’
Monitoring – learners choose one strategy and monitor the progress to see if they are getting closer to the original goal. During this section learners may choose to make changes to their strategies. Questions also help during this section, for example asking themselves things like:
‘Is the strategy that I am using working?’
‘Do I need to try something different?’
Evaluation – phase, learners decide how successful the strategy they choose was in helping them achieve their goal. They may ask themselves questions such as:
‘How well did I do?’
‘What didn’t go well?’ ‘What could I do differently next time?’
‘What went well?’ ‘What other types of problem can I use this strategy for?’
Reflection – is a fundamental part of the plan-monitor-evaluate process. Encouraging learners to self-question throughout the process will support this reflection.
It’s important as teachers to understand how well the pupils understand their own metacognition. David Perkins (1992) defined four levels of metacognitive learners. This is very useful for teachers to try and gauge where their pupils are at.
- Tacit learners– learners who are un aware of their own metacognition. When given a goal or problem they don’t think about any particular plan or strategy, they just accept if they know something or if they don’t.
- Aware learners– learners who understand that they can generate ideas and finding evidence but there isn’t necessarily any planning involved with their thought process.
- Strategic learners –learners who organise their thinking by using problem-solving, grouping and classifying, evidence-seeking and decision-making etc. They know and apply the strategies that help them learn.
- Reflective learners– learners who are not only strategic about their thinking, but they also reflect upon their learning while it is happening, considering the success or not of any strategies they are using and then revising them as appropriate.
Once we as teachers have identifies where our learners are at on this scale, we can work to support them better. We can also work to develop their metacognitive skills.
I think metacognition is an interesting concept and the more research I do the more I can relate it to, not just my learning in primary school but my learning now. It allows me to evaluate why I use certain strategies and think in certain ways.