21 Mar 2018

Misunderstanding Metacognition!

Misunderstanding Metacognition!

Metacognition – we know what that is, right? ‘Thinking about thinking’. If you probe a little further, our understanding of metacognition can prove to be inconsistent, misunderstood and riddled with misconceptions.

There is certainly no lack of interest in metacognition from teachers and school leaders, and this is understandable, given the powerful impact it can have upon the classroom and learning. However, it is also complex and many layered, with misconceptions easy to stumble upon. Here are three common misconceptions about metacognition:

  1. Only older students are able to be metacognitive

It was previously believed that children could not use metacognitive processes until the age of 8-10 years. However, we now know that this is not the case and that metacognition is evident in all age groups, though an older child will invariably display more advanced metacognitive attributes.

Whitebread and Pino-Pasternak (2010) found that children as young as 18 months demonstrate error correction strategies. In a study of 3 and 4 year olds, Robson (2010) saw they displayed extensive evidence of metacognitive and self-regulatory behaviour, including reflective dialogue, during their self-initiated play.

Although young children may not be able to describe the metacognitive processes that they are showing in the way that older children can, this does not mean they are not happening!

2. Metacognition and self-regulated learning are the same thing

Metacognition is only part of self-regulated learning.

Self-regulation refers to monitoring and controlling all aspects of human functioning, including our behaviour, emotions and thoughts, plus our ability to alter them in accordance with the demands of the situation.

Whereas metacognition specifically concerns the monitoring and control of cognition, meaning all of the mental activities that are involved in learning, remembering, and using knowledge.

  1. Metacognition is not applicable to all subjects

Metacognitive skills can be developed in all subjects whether they are practical or academic, as well as in all phases (from Early Years through to Post-16).

Some methods may be more appropriate in certain subjects but there are many ways of developing metacognition including:

  • Modelling – explaining to students how you would approach a task or exam question means they can tap into your knowledge and develop their metacognitive skills.

In an academic subject this could be done by modelling thinking as you complete the exam paper using a visualiser. Or, in a practical subject, this could be done using video technology and getting real-time feedback allowing them to make immediate corrections to their technique and gain instant feedback of their adjustment.

  • Self-Questioning – having students ask themselves questions such as ‘Is this similar to previous tasks?’, ‘What should I do first?’ and ‘What would I do differently next time?’ This is equally appropriate to use in academic and practical subjects.
  • Selecting the best revision strategies – simply asking a pupil to revise with success is a fool’s errand. We need to train a pupil to select the best revision strategies and to self-regulate their own learning (such as controlling their emotion to fend off boredom and stick to revising).

Different strategies are simply more appropriate in different subjects. For example, for GCSE Science, self-testing in the form of quizzing is appropriate for building up an understanding of core science knowledge and key terminology. In GCSE English, a student might deploy self-testing, but rather than quiz, they can use flashcards to recall key quotations and elaborate on them.

For more information about our Metacognition and Self-regulated Learning programme please click here: https://huntingtonschool.co.uk/calendar/metacognition-and-self-regulated-learning/.