Metacognition is one of the latest buzz words in educational psychology, but what exactly is metacognition? The length and abstract nature of the word makes it sound intimidating, yet its not as daunting a concept as it might seem.(Originally posted on the University of Buffalo Grad. School of Education website…http://gse.buffalo.edu/)
We engage in metacognitive activities everyday. Metacognition enables us to be successful learners, and has been associated with intelligence (e.g., Borkowski, Carr, & Pressley, 1987; Sternberg, 1984, 1986a, 1986b). Metacognition refers to higher order thinking which involves active control over the cognitive processes engaged in learning. Activities such as planning how to approach a given learning task, monitoring comprehension, and evaluating progress toward the completion of a task are metacognitive in nature. Because metacognition plays a critical role in successful learning, it is important to study metacognitive activity and development to determine how students can be taught to better apply their cognitive resources through metacognitive control.
What is metacognition?
“Metacognition” is often simply defined as “thinking about thinking.” In actuality, defining metacognition is not that simple. Although the term has been part of the vocabulary of educational psychologists for the last couple of decades, and the concept for as long as humans have been able to reflect on their cognitive experiences, there is much debate over exactly what metacognition is.
One reason for this confusion is the fact that there are several terms currently used to describe the same basic phenomenon (e.g., self-regulation, executive control), or an aspect of that phenomenon (e.g., meta-memory), and these terms are often used interchangeably in the literature. While there are some distinctions between definitions (see Van Zile-Tamsen, 1994, 1996 for a full discussion), all emphasize the role of executive processes in the overseeing and regulation of cognitive processes.
The origins of “metacognition”
The term “metacognition” is most often associated with John Flavell, (1979). According to Flavell (1979, 1987), metacognition consists of both metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive experiences or regulation. Metacognitive knowledge refers to acquired knowledge about cognitive processes, knowledge that can be used to control cognitive processes. Flavell further divides metacognitive knowledge into three categories: knowledge of person variables, task variables and strategy variables.
Stated very briefly, knowledge of person variables refers to general knowledge about how human beings learn and process information, as well as individual knowledge of one’s own learning processes. For example, you may be aware that your study session will be more productive if you work in the quiet library rather than at home where there are many distractions. Knowledge of task variables include knowledge about the nature of the task as well as the type of processing demands that it will place upon the individual. For example, you may be aware that it will take more time for you to read and comprehend a science text than it would for you to read and comprehend a novel…”