Metacognitive thinking skills are important for instructors and students alike. This resource provides instructors with an overview of the what and why of metacognition and general “getting started” strategies for teaching for and with metacognition.
Metacognition is the CTL’s programming theme for 2018 – 2019, and below you will find upcoming offerings that relate to this theme.
In this page:
Metacognition, sometimes described as “thinking about your own thinking,” refers to knowledge about one’s own thoughts and cognitive processes as well as the cognitive regulation involved in directing one’s learning. Engaging in metacognition allows learners to recognize gaps in their knowledge or difficulty in acquiring new information, as well as to identify and integrate new knowledge into their existing cognitive framework.
The process of metacognition requires individuals to assess and monitor their learning, in addition to reflecting on their performance. Developing metacognitive skills can be as simple as asking students what they did to prepare for an exam, and whether, after seeing their exam performance, they would prepare differently for the next exam. This can encourage students to think about their preparation methods and whether those methods are appropriate or useful.
The terms used in the science of learning literature for the processes associated with metacognition are cognitive knowledge and cognitive regulation. Table 1 breaks down these two components of metacognition by naming attributes associated with each.
Table 1: Metacognitive Components and Their Attributes
|Cognitive Knowledge||Instructors / learners know…
|Cognitive Regulation||Instructors / learners…
Adapted from Emily Lai, “Metacognition: A Literature Review,” Research Report for Always Learning, Pearson: Assessment & Information Group; and informed by Ambrose et al. (2010) and Dunlosky and Metcalfe (2009).
The Center for Teaching and Learning encourages instructors to teach metacognitively. This means to teach “with and for metacognition.” To teach with metacognition involves instructors “thinking about their own thinking regarding their teaching” (Hartman, 2001: 149). To teach for metacognition involves instructors thinking about how their instruction helps to elucidate learning and problem solving strategies to their students (Hartman, 2001).
What are the benefits of metacognitive skills for learners?
Learners with metacognitive skills are:
- More self-aware as critical thinkers and problem solvers, enabling them to actively approach knowledge gaps and problems and to rely on themselves.
- Able to monitor, plan, and control their mental processes.
- Better able to assess the depth of their knowledge.
- Able to transfer/apply their knowledge and skills to new situations.
- Able to choose more effective learning strategies.
- More likely to perform better academically.
What are the benefits of metacognitive skills for instructors?
Instructors who teach metacognitively / think about their teaching are:
- More self-aware of their instructional capacities, and know what teaching strategies they rely upon, when and why these use these strategies, and how to sue them effectively and inclusively.
- Better able to regulate their instruction before, during, and after conducting a class session (i.e., to plan what and how to teach, monitor how lessons are going and make adjustments, and evaluate how a lesson went afterwards).
- Better able to communicate, helping students understand the what, why, and how of their learning, which can lead to better learning outcomes.
- Able to use their knowledge of students’ metacognitive skills to plan instruction designed to improve students’ metacognition and to create inclusive course climates.
The Center for Teaching and Learning has compiled the following list of research-supported practices for instructors interested in activating and developing students’ metacognitive skills. Listed below are additional strategies for instructors looking to become more metacognitive in all facets of their teaching practice.
Teaching for metacognition — Metacognitive strategies that serve students and their learning:
|Strategies||Ideas for implementation include…|
|Share simple heuristics to enable student self-monitoring.||
|Explicitly teach metacognitive strategies and explain their value to students’ learning and success.||
|Build in time for metacognitive work.||
Model metacognitive processes for students
Make metacognitive processes visible to students
|Scaffold the metacognitive process.||
|Use appropriate technology to support student self-regulation.||
Teaching with metacognition — Metacognitive strategies that serve the course and the instructor’s teaching practice:
|Strategies||Ideas for implementation include…|
|Plan how to monitor course progress and the effectiveness of teaching methods used||
|Evaluate course progress and successes of teaching||
|Build in time for metacognitive work||
Metacognition and Memory Lab | Dr. Janet Metcalfe (Professor of Psychology and of Neurobiology and Behavior) runs a lab that focuses on how people use their metacognition to improve self-awareness and to guide their own learning and behavior. Dr. Metcalfe is author of Metacognition: A Textbook for Cognitive, Educational, Life Span & Applied Psychology (2009), co-authored with John Dunlosky.
In Fall 2018, the CTL and the Science of LEarning Research (SOLER) initiative co-organized the inaugural Science of Learning Symposium “Metacognition: From Research to Classroom” which brought together Columbia faculty, staff, graduate students, and experts in the science of learning to share the research on metacognition in learning, and to translate it into strategies that maximize student learning. View video recording of the event here.
For all instructors (graduate students and faculty):
Promoting Deep Learning through Metacognitive Activities
February 27, 2019 (Morningside) – Learn more and register here.
March 5, 2019 (CUIMC) – Learn more and register here.
Teachers’ Lounge: Bridging the Expert/Novice Divide
February 19, 2019 – Learn more and register here.
Teachers’ Lounge: Teaching Students How to Teach Themselves in a Discipline
March 26, 2019 – Learn more and register here.
Discussion-into-Practice: Student learning and metacognition faculty reading group
Each week faculty dive into the literature and explore metacognition by discussing an article or book chapter. Together participants consider how the research on metacognition could inform their practices. Join us for one, two, or all three sessions! Learn more and register here.
How Do Students Become Self-Directed Learners? | February 27, 2019 – CUIMC .
Learning From One’s Own Errors and Those of Others | March 13, 2019 – CUIMC .
Improving Students’ Learning with Effective Learning Techniques | March 27, 2019 – CUIMC .
For faculty consultations on teaching with and for metacognition, contact: email@example.com
For consultations on using digital tools to support student learning and promote metacognition, contact the CTL Learning Designer assigned to your department or school.
For graduate students:
Language Lounge: Growth Mindset and Self-Motivation
February 26, 2019 – Learn more and register here.
Language Lounge: Guiding Language Learning Beyond the Classroom
Ambrose, S. A., Lovett, M., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.
Dunlosky, J. and Metcalfe, J. (2009). Metacognition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Flavell, J.H. (1976). Metacognitive Aspects of Problem Solving. In L.B. Resnick (Ed.), The Nature of Intelligence (pp. 231-236). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Hacker, D.J. (1998). Chapter 1. Definitions and Empirical Foundations. In Hacker, D.J.; Dunlosky, J.; and Graesser, A.C. (1998). Metacognition in Educational Theory and Practice. Mahwah, N.J.: Routledge.
Hartman, H.J. (2001). Chapter 8: Teaching Metacognitively. In Metacognition in Learning and Instruction. Kluwer Academic Publishers, 149 – 172.
Lai, E.R. (2011). Metacognition: A Literature Review. Pearson’s Research Reports. Retrieved from https://images.pearsonassessments.com/images/tmrs/Metacognition_Literature_Review_Final.pdf
McGuire, S.Y. (2015). Teach Students How to Learn: Strategies You Can Incorporate Into Any Course to Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, and Motivation. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
National Research Council (2000). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Expanded Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/9853
Nilson, L. (2013). Creating Self-Regulated Learners: Strategies to Strengthen Students’ Self-Awareness and Learning Skills. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Schraw, G. and Dennison, R.S. (1994). Assessing Metacognitive Awareness. Contemporary Educational Psychology. 19(4): 460-475.
The CTL researches and experiments.
The Columbia Center for Teaching and Learning provides an array of resources and tools for instructional activities.