There was a time when education was all about what we could remember and reproduce in an examination hall. This is thankfully changing.
As the way we think about learning has changed, the way we think about our thinking has also changed with it.
We call this metacognition. It’s thinking about what you think, or how you think what you’re thinking. It gives us insight into our own mental processes, which allows us to learn better and smarter.
Metacognition strategies are used to improve our cognition—or the way we think. Besides this, there are also cognitive strategies we can use to improve our learning. They’re both important to educators and learners alike. Many learners use metacognition strategies to better monitor their own cognition, resulting in improved learning skills.
Cognitive And Metacognitive Strategies
Cognitive processes help us learn and function. Some common cognitive processes include reasoning, planning, problem-solving, self-regulation and motivation.
On the other hand, the metacognitive process helps us think about how we learn.
Not surprisingly, the term “cognitive strategies” is often confused with “metacognition strategies”. The two have similarities in that both are ways of working with your brain to improve your thinking, and both are mental functions that are used by learners and educators alike.
Here are two examples of metacognitive strategies that show how they differ from cognitive strategies:
Pauline is studying for a history exam. Cognitive processes such as memory and note-taking help her get through a lot of information in one day. But later Pauline finds she has retained nothing. So she goes back and looks at how she is learning. She decides to implement a new note-taking method and also uses a few mnemonic aids. This step of evaluating how she is learning and trying something new is a metacognitive process.
Raasa is appearing for a project management certification exam. Thanks to a heavy workload, she doesn’t have much time to prepare. With one week to go, she assesses how much she has left to do and for the last leg of study, brushes up on her speed-reading technique and covers all the material. She finds a creative solution to her problem through a metacognitive process.
Through these examples of metacognitive strategies, it’s clear that cognitive strategies are used to think about what we’re learning, whereas metacognition strategies can monitor thinking processes that allow us to learn.
Metacognitive Learning Strategies
Now that we’ve understood the difference between cognitive and metacognitive strategies, let’s inspect metacognitive learning strategies:
Start With Self-Awareness
Thinking about how we think is an act that takes tremendous self-awareness and honesty. Without some self-reflection, it’s impossible to see it through. Tools such as journaling can help. Look closely at your limiting self-beliefs and harmful self-talk. Identify the difference between believed and actual self. This strategy can help learners identify areas where their thinking may not be accurate. Then they can move toward changing it.
Metacognition strategies can change behavior, cognition and motivation. A teacher might use self-talk and other strategies to encourage their students to think in a certain way. The whole idea of questioning our thinking is so we can change for the better.
Learn What We Know
Before embarking on a fresh course of learning, we need to assess our existing knowledge. One way to do this is through reflective learning. It’s an assessment of one’s own knowledge to see where the best place for improvement is. Part of this process could include adapting existing strategies for the work ahead. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!
Often the biggest hurdle to our learning is motivation. The ability to regulate one’s own cognition and mental processes is important to not only improve learning but also one's motivation. For example, learners need to monitor their attention span in order to maximize their learning potential.
Try New Techniques
While part of metacognitive learning strategies is assessing what we know, it can also include learning new tools. Sometimes trying out a new tool or building a new habit can help reset how we do things. For instance, if a manager is struggling at work to make decisions, they can try a new practice, such as Decision Tree Analysis, to help them think through their problems.
The metacognitive process is the critical component of becoming a better learner at all stages of our lives.
Harappa’s Inspiring Faculty Program is for educators who want to transform their own careers and their approach to pedagogy. How we learn what we learn is a core question all faculty must ask. Our program provides valuable insights into metacognition for experienced educators looking to enhance their skills to take their careers to the next level. Modern education is moving quickly toward a model where teachers are more coach than lecturer, more catalyst than sage. Find out how you can help your faculty navigate this changing landscape.
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