Metacognition is the process of thinking about one’s own thinking. It’s self-knowledge; the knowledge of your own mind and its processes. It’s powerful knowledge, too, as it’s what determines how we make our lives better and more productive.
Sounds confusing? Let’s break it down.
‘Cognition’ is all the mental processes involved in any act or process of acquiring knowledge, including perception, memory, attention, language, thinking, problem-solving and decision-making. ‘Meta’ is a second level of meaning that often relates to the self. So the definition of metacognition is all about one’s thoughts and feelings about acquiring new knowledge.
Metacognition skills are important because they allow us to recognize our own internal cognitive processes and how those processes work. This intellectual self-reflection can apply to any task, including reading comprehension, writing and solving math problems. We can use this awareness to improve cognition and learn better in school, business, relationships or anything else you have going on in your life.
Those who are good at metacognition can be more successful at assimilating information in an educational setting and improving their overall academic performance. Metacognition skills also make it easier for people to learn new information—from a foreign language to a sport—and can help them remember what they’ve learned. When people use metacognitive learning effectively, acquiring information becomes more manageable and enjoyable.
Meaning Of Metacognition
Now that we’ve answered “what is metacognition?”, we can understand its true power. We can unleash our metacognition psychology to show us just how much mental power we possess. Compared to other animals, humans are aware of their inner thoughts and feelings. Humans also can be aware of their current mental states. This self-knowledge is part of metacognition and can be used to evaluate one’s own thinking processes and make changes as necessary. Since metacognition helps people understand their thought processes and use them effectively, it’s essential in developing soft skills and hard skills.
Metacognition can be used to evaluate reasoning skills, learning capabilities and memory. It typically occurs when someone is thinking about how to do something better. Here are some examples of metacognition:
An adult is learning to play the piano for the first time. They’re using books and video tutorials but aren’t making much progress. They sign up for weekly lessons with a teacher and start improving straight off the bat. By recognizing that they’re not able to grasp the information in a certain way, this budding musician can make the process easier on themselves
A college student is learning advanced calculus. It’s hard work and they’re struggling at the same point repeatedly. They take a step back, evaluate their understanding of a piece of information. They revise the concepts and decide they need to review them further to make them stick
A writer is tackling a novel for the first time. They have the story in place but don’t have any idea how to construct a plot. After trying and failing to feel their way through it, they decide to take a break to learn more about story structure. Through metacognition skills, they’re able to assess the gap in their own knowledge and fill it
Whatever the skill in question, by understanding the true meaning of metacognition, we can work smarter without necessarily having to work harder.
Kinds Of Cognition
Cognitive processes include intellectual, social and emotional activity that allows us to learn and encode information, recognize patterns in our knowledge, acquire information from others, assimilate it into systems to appropriately solve problems and make decisions. Some common cognitive processes people use when working include:
The use of logic, reason and judgment to solve problems
Creating mental images of how things will look and feel
The analytical power to come up with new ideas or solutions to problems
Using mental criteria to consider potential solutions and make decisions about which one will work best
Generating new ideas
Combining separate elements into a new whole
When we think about how we use each of these, it’s metacognition. Metacognition skills differ from regular cognition because the individual is aware of their own mental processes. It requires some level of analysis by the thinker. It’s an intellectual activity that occurs outside of routine thought patterns and natural reactions.
Metacognition As A Tool
There are two kinds of metacognition: overt and covert. Covert metacognition is an internal dialogue about one's own cognitive processes. In covert metacognition, people ask themselves questions or provide answers to their own questions in their heads.
Let’s look deeper at how metacognition in education can help:
Provides Cognitive Flexibility
Metacognition is a form of cognitive flexibility because the thinker can actively analyze their own thinking processes in the moment and make changes as needed. The thinker learns to recognize when they’re thinking about one thing and can decide to switch to something else. The decision-making part requires some conscious thought, but the act of changing one’s mindset is unconscious.
Metacognition in education is commonly applied as a learning strategy. When people think about their thoughts around a subject they’re trying to learn, it helps them understand it better and remember it longer. We can use metacognition effectively in any situation where we want to improve our thinking power, such as during scholarly research or math problems. By learning what kind of learner you are, you can come up with ways to teach yourself better.
For instance, you may use mental imagery—or creating mental images of things—to help you retain information when you’re learning something new. Mental imagery can be enhanced through metacognition. People gain more from visualization and it makes them better learners. In this way, metacognition can also improve memory because if they’ve created meaningful connections with the information, they’re more likely to understand and remember what they’ve learned.
Metacognitive skills allow people to manage their thoughts and feelings more effectively. The awareness of what you’re thinking is a self-management skill. Training in emotion management is a way to teach people how to use their own thoughts and feelings to achieve their goals. Having a metacognition psychology or mindset equips people with the tools to understand and express themselves more effectively.
Metacognition is closely tied to self-awareness. Let’s look at how metacognitive thinking can be developed.
The Power Of Metacognitive Thinking
Like all skills, metacognition psychology can be developed with time, effort and practice. By working on the following aspects of metacognitive learning, you improve your ability to learn and operate at a high level:
It’s easier to determine what you’re thinking and how it affects your learning if you can consciously analyze your own thinking processes. Some people use thinking journals, which involve journaling their thoughts as they happen. This allows them to realize their own mental processes in real-time. The person can then evaluate their thinking and make changes.
By being aware of their own mental processes, people can use this awareness to make their own lives better. For example, a person who has been trying to learn a new skill is more likely to notice when they’re not absorbing the material and change that behavior. By taking on new challenges through life—whether it’s a big project at the workplace or a new hobby—people learn more about their own capacities. This builds self-awareness.
During self-evaluation, the thinker may change their behavior or the environment to change their thinking. As a result, they’re better equipped to learn new skills and improve their performance under adverse conditions. When people self-evaluate, they’re more likely to learn about ways they can be more effective. Then they carry that knowledge into other scenarios.
The process of metacognition can be used for problem-solving. Individuals can practice this by putting their mind to simple, everyday problems, such as avoiding traffic jams while driving or planning out meals for the week. It can also be used to solve more complex problems that regular thought processes cannot easily solve. Slowly, the problem-solving muscle can be strengthened.
Thinking deeply about how we learn is part of the job for every educator who strives to go above and beyond. Metacognition is just one concept experienced faculty will learn as part of Harappa’s Inspiring Faculty Program, which helps them transition from traditional teaching methods to more modern ones. They’ll learn to coach, inspire and ignite curiosity that lasts a lifetime with educational frameworks, technology and practical guides for the classroom. Transform your teachers today with Harappa!
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