A few years ago, I was observing a Grade Eight class as students delivered their metacognition reports to the class. “Meta-what?” I thought. Having taught this age group at one time, I knew they could grasp complex concepts, but to hear the word “metacognition” from a student was an eye-opener. I listened, fascinated, as they reported on what they had observed about their study/work habits over the past week or two. What had seemed to me a concept reserved for university philosophy classes was being applied—effectively, by all accounts—by elementary students. So we offer an overview of metacognition, what it is, and its place in your curriculum. [by Jim Lang, M.Ed. PhD, Associate Faculty Department of Social Justice Education, Philosophy of Education, OISE/University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario]

  • Metacognition, explainedMetacognition means more than thinking about learning, which is the common way of describing it. According to Ed Tech Review, it also involves learning activities, that focus on:
    • What one already knows, what levels of skills one has, and what character qualities one has developed: prior knowledge, skills and character qualities.
    • What one needs to know, what levels of skills one needs, and what character qualities are required for the learning task at hand: required knowledge, skills and character qualities.
    • Which learning strategies are best for the task: learning strategy choices.
    • How the learning processes are going: ongoing formative evaluations.
    • What learning achievements and outcomes have been reached from the learning experience: summative evaluations.
    • How knowledge, skills and character learning processes could be improved: learning improvement strategies.
  • Metacognition in BC schoolsJudy Duncan presents an eight-minute read on metacognition, focusing on its place in the newly redesigned BC curriculum. “The thinking competency encompasses the knowledge, skills and processes we associate with intellectual development… Thinking competence includes specific thinking skills as well as habits of mind, and metacognitive awareness.”
  • Metacognition: Nurturing Self-Awareness in the ClassroomEdutopia presents its own take on metacognition, reminding us that self awareness develops in childhood and is related to metacognition. They point out that metacognitive skills are not confined to the classroom and that they allow students to begin answering questions such as: “How do I live a happy life? “How do I become a respected human being?” and “How do I feel good about myself?”
  • Teaching Metacognitive SkillsThe University of Waterloo Centre for Teacher Excellence suggests approaches to teaching metacognitive skills to students. Up front, they recommend: build opportunities for teaching these skills into regular assignments; be explicit about what you’re attempting—talk to students about metacognition; and, finally, don’t overdo it, students can be overwhelmed by using too many or all of the strategies in one subject area or course.
  • Videos of Metacognition PresentationsAlthough the videos presented here are related to geoscience teachers, they offer direct advice and experience from educators who have used metacognitive techniques in their classrooms. I recommend you view the first video, by Karl Wirth, which was presented at Carlton University.
  • Teaching Meta-Cognition SkillsA website dedicated to helping students with dyslexia offers a range of step-by-step practical tips for introducing metacognition to elementary students. It need not be complex theory. They suggest starting by telling the story of the tortoise and the hare: “…discuss how the tortoise knew himself, how he worked best and thought about the big picture, while the hare did not consider these important ramifications and paid dearly for that lack of insight.”

For other Research and Findings topics, please go to: http://classroomedition.ca/research-findings/