Metacognition: Thinking about Thinking

Decorative: A line drawing of a brain with a thought bubble above it in which is an image of the same brain -- thinking about thinking


"Metacognition: Thinking about One's Thinking" (online article) explains metacognition, its importance in instruction "across domains—from test-taking, writing grammatically, thinking logically, to recognizing humor, to hunters’ knowledge about firearms and medical lab technicians’ knowledge of medical terminology and problem-solving skills," and strategies for "putting metacognition into practice."

1. Four assignments for explicit instruction

  • "Preassessments—Encouraging Students to Examine Their Current Thinking: 'What do I already know about this topic that could guide my learning?'"
  • "The Muddiest Point—Giving Students Practice in Identifying Confusions: 'What was most confusing to me about the material explored in class today?'"
  • "Retrospective Postassessments—Pushing Students to Recognize Conceptual Change: 'Before this course, I thought evolution was… Now I think that evolution is ….” or “How is my thinking changing (or not changing) over time?'"
  • "Reflective Journals—Providing a Forum in Which Students Monitor Their Own Thinking: 'What about my exam preparation worked well that I should remember to do next time? What did not work so well that I should not do next time or that I should change?'"

2. Three recommendations for developing a "classroom culture grounded in metacognition" 

  • "Giving Students License to Identify Confusions within the Classroom Culture:  ask students what they find confusing, acknowledge the difficulties"
  • "Integrating Reflection into Credited Course Work: integrate short reflection (oral or written) that ask students what they found challenging or what questions arose during an assignment/exam/project"
  • "Metacognitive Modeling by the Instructor for Students: model the thinking processes involved in your field and sought in your course by being explicit about 'how you start, how you decide what to do first and then next, how you check your work, how you know when you are done'"

3. Three useful tables based on interrogatives

  • Questions for students to ask themselves (scroll down to relevant chart) as they plan, monitor, and evaluate their thinking within four learning contexts—in class, assignments, quizzes/exams, and the course as a whole 

4. See also