Metacognition (the thinking about thinking) refers to how children are able to monitor and direct their own learning processes.

To develop metacognitive awareness and strategies, and know when and how to use the strategies, students should have opportunities to solve non-routine and open-ended problems, to discuss their solutions, to think aloud and reflect on what they are doing, and to keep track of how things are going and make changes when necessary.

To develop metacognitive awareness, children typically go through the following steps (Pressley, Borkowski, & Schneider, 1987):

  1. They establish a motivation to learn a metacognitive process. This occurs when either they themselves or someone else points gaives them reason to believe that there would be some benefit to knowing how to apply the process. (Their readiness to learn)
  2. They focus their attention on what it is that they or someone else does that is useful. This proper focusing of attention puts the necessary information into working memory. Sometimes this focusing of attention can occur through modelling, and sometimes it occurs during personal experience.
  3. They talk to themselves about the metacognitive process. This talk can arise during their interactions with others, but it is their talk to themselves that is essential. This self talk serves several purposes:
    • It enables them to understand and encode the process.
    • It enables them to practice the process.
    • It enables them to obtain feedback and to make adjustments regarding their effective use of the process.
    • It enables them to transfer the process to new situations beyond those in which it has already been used.

Eventually, children begin to use the process without even being aware that they are doing so.

Some example of questions to ask oneself during phrases of learning:

  • During the ‘readiness’ phase
    • What am I supposed to learn?
    • What prior knowledge will help me with this task?
    • What should I do first?
    • What should I look for in this reading?
    • How much time do I have to complete this?
    • In what direction do I want my thinking to take me?
  • During the ‘engagement’ phase
    • How am I doing?
    • Am I on the right track?
    • How should I proceed?
    • What information is important to remember?
    • Should I move in a different direction?
    • Should I adjust the pace because of the difficulty?
    • What can I do if I do not understand?
  • During the ‘mastery’ phase
    • How well did I do?
    • What did I learn?
    • Did I get the results I expected?
    • What could I have done differently?
    • Can I apply this way of thinking to other problems or situations?
    • Is there anything I don’t understand—any gaps in my knowledge?
    • Do I need to go back through the task to fill in any gaps in understanding?
    • How might I apply this line of thinking to other problems?



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