What is Metacognition?

Metacognition is the ability to think about one’s own thinking. “It refers to the processes used to plan, monitor, and assess one’s understanding and performance. Metacognition includes a critical awareness of a) one’s thinking and learning and b) oneself as a thinker and learner” (Chick, 2017). If one knows how they think, they can better study, prepare, and so much more.

This, at first, may seem difficult or not effective in training students, particularly younger ones, but consider this: “[s]tudents who do not learn how to “manage” themselves well as they proceed through school experience more setbacks, become discouraged and disengaged from learning, and tend to have lower academic performance. They may also be responsible for more classroom management issues” (Wilson, 2014). Enabling kids to understand how their thinking works, enables them to make educated decisions about the study strategies they use and how to appeal to their own learning styles.

Be Explicit
Unlike some things in education, metacognition is best understood when clearly presented. Give them clear examples, such as how these skills allow them to be “the drivers of their own brains” or “sometimes we might need to put on the brakes (e.g., by reviewing a reading passage to make sure that we understand it) or step on the gas (e.g., by jotting down and organizing notes for an essay instead of getting stuck on how to start it)” (Wilson, 2014). As students begin to understand the idea of metacognition, they begin to “buy into” more teaching of strategies by teachers (i.e. note taking and annotating). These become tools for their future success, instead of just another assignment.

Think Aloud
When reading a story or working through word problems, it is helpful if the teacher (when modeling) stops and verbalizes their thinking, process, and understanding. It allows students to see how the process works (Inclusive Schools, 2015). In reverse, when working through problems together, asking students to do the same has a powerful effect. Whether working with teachers or peers, it gives students pivotal insight into the process of problem solving. It also allows them valuable opportunities for feedback, particularly if there thinking is incorrect in a certain area. Many of these processes that they verbalize (or have verbalized to them) become the strategies they will use independently later.

Charts, Chants, and Choice
Providing students with the tools to work, and then allowing them the freedom to experience and practice with those tools is also critical in the develop of metacognitive skills (Perras, 2016). From graphs to acrostics to rhymes, empowering students with strategies is the long term goal (Strategies for Learning and Metacognition, 2007). Teachers can do this through modeling and lists, but then, they must give them the opportunity to work. Graphic organizers or projects by interest allow for students to determine what type of learners they truly are and what strategies work best for them as individuals. Only the freedom to experience can allow them to truly develop metacognitive recognition.



Chick, Nancy. (2017). Metcognition. Retrieved April 5, 2017, from

Inclusive Schools. (2015, September 3). Retrieved April 13, 2017, from

Perras, C. (2015). Metacognitive Strategies or. Retrieved December 5, 2016, from thinking-about-my-thinking/ 

Strategies for learning and metacognition: Identifying and remembering big ideas. (2007, October). Science Scope. Retrieved December 4, 2016.

Wilson, Donna. (2014, October 14). Metacognition: The Gift That Keeps Giving. Retrieved April 5, 2017, from

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