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Thinking about thinking ... sounds a bit circular!
The learning technique that we will cover in this module has two facets: Planning and confusion.
How many of you when thinking of an important event like going on a holiday or a family function have spent hours organizing the activity. Whether you're planning what to do in a sleepover with your friends, or planning where to visit or what to eat in your next vacation, each one of us spend valuable time planning these activities, so why is it that most of us don't bother to properly plan our learning?
Now for the second facet, confusion. Have you ever sat in one of your physics classes, just staring at the board completely lost and not understanding how a particular formula is being used? You’re trying your best to figure out how this formula fits into this question, but you just don't understand.
Most of you, at least once, at some point during one of your classes have felt confused, but have you ever really dug deep past the superficial confusion, in an oxymoronic way to understand exactly what is confusing you? Well, there's a sneaky little learning technique that can help unravel this, a technique that makes you understand your confusion. A learning technique called metacognition.
A major part of metacognition comes about from self-reflection, realizing what your strengths and weaknesses are in order for you to truly understand and maximize your learning. For myself, only after conceptually understanding a topic can I truly remember something, rote learning individually is one of my greatest weaknesses. Not only strengths and weaknesses, but you can also look back and see the efficiency of certain learning methods, such as spaced repetition, and if it has indeed worked for you.
Metacognition is an imperative tool to help yourself train through your thinking.


At the end of this lesson, students will be able to define metacognition, understand the techniques, and reflect on how it can improve their learning. They will know how to become a metacognitive learner, understand the task, set goals and plan, learn, monitor, and adjust.

What is Metacognition?

Metacognition, as described by leading scientists is a “brain outside the brain.” This additional brain monitors how you are thinking and consider how you should best approach your thoughts. Metacognition is having a critical awareness of your thinking and learning. This awareness or knowledge helps in examining, evaluating, and finally making changes to your own learning behaviors.
Metacognition as a concept was introduced by developmental psychologist John Flavell. It is a system which helps us observe our own learning, understand, and reflect on our cognitive performance so that we can be in charge of our learning and be better prepared for the results that we want. Metacognition helps us think not only about the “what of learning” but also “how of learning.”
It helps us pause and analyze
  • What are we learning?
  • How are we trying to learn?
  • Is our strategy effective?
  • What can we do differently to learn better?
In simpler words, our brains are fascinatingly complex, constantly processing thoughts, ideas, and information. And metacognition is like having a personal guide to your own mind—a wise mentor who has the ability to step back and observe your thinking process. It is the superpower of being aware of your own learning and understanding. Metacognition is an active exercise for you to consciously think through about the technique that works best for you and then to follow that in a systematic manner.
The study of metacognition remains an active area of research in psychology and education to understand how people learn and can become more effective by using metacognitive strategies.

The Three Stages of Metacognition

Now that we have discovered the power of metacognition, it's time to figure out what does metacognition really comprise, by making use of a few analogies. More importantly, how to apply it through the three main elements: planning, monitoring, and evaluating.
Stage I – Planning: Imagine you're an architect designing a magnificent structure, a towering skyscraper let’s say! Before laying the bricks to build this skyscraper, what do you do? You plan every detail carefully, right from the foundation to the design. Similarly, in the world of metacognition, planning is like being that architect of your own learning journey. It involves setting clear goals that act as your guiding beacons. These goals could be anything from acing a challenging exam to mastering a musical instrument. Think about a time when you had to prepare for an upcoming exam. Did you create a study schedule, break down the chapters, and choose the most effective learning techniques? This is exactly what metacognitive planning is in action, carefully orchestrating your learning each step of the way!
Stage II –Monitoring: Imagine for the heck of it, that you are a detective. Think of yourself as Sherlock Holmes or Chacha Chowdhry, investigating a mystery case. You gather your evidence and examine all the details to help solve this case.
The monitoring stage of metacognition is quite similar to being this detective. It is the process of actively observing and assessing your own thinking. Just as the detective collects clues, you gather information about your learning!
This metacognitive monitoring enables you to ask yourself the truly important questions. Are you comprehending the material? Can you explain it in your own words? Are you able to link this chapter back with previous concepts? By continuously checking in with yourself, you gain valuable insights into your own strengths and weaknesses.
Stage III – Evaluation: For this, I would want you to imagine that you are a judge scoring a reality talent show in your school. You review the performances, see their strengths and weaknesses, and then rate their performance. The evaluation stage of metacognition is doing this exact same process, but for your learning techniques, by assessing your progress and identifying what worked well and what didn’t. Asking yourself questions like Did my study plan work? Did I achieve my goals? What strategies were most effective? How can I improve next time? The stage involves reflecting and evaluating the results of your learning to know what you have learnt so far.
Metacognition is often referred to as “thinking about thinking.” In other words, knowing about what you know and what you don’t know. Metacognition is an essential skill for life-long learning that we all need to acquire.
Essentially, going “meta” means to step back to see what we are doing, observing our own intellectual performance, being aware of how we learn and our learning needs, and generating and implementing strategies to meet these needs.

Different Aspects of Metacognition

Metacognitive Knowledge : Metacognitive knowledge is knowing your own limitations to all aspects of learning. For example, how long can you actually sit at your desk in a day? How many subjects can you undertake at the same time?
Metacognitive Experiences : Metacognitive experiences refer to the external factors in the learning process, other than the specific material. This could be the emotions you are feeling while studying or the ability to link certain pieces of knowledge you are studying to personal memories and experiences. Each of these internal responses alters the willingness to learn further.
Metacognitive Strategies : These include the specific methods you can use to truly gauge your progress. This could be through:
  • Identifying specific strategies that work well for you
  • Adjusting the learning pace
  • Using a checkpoint every week to ensure that what you are learning is truly being absorbed

Facts about Metacognition

  • Metacognition is a higher order thinking skill that enables us to think about our learning process.
  • Metacognition is typically used to improve our own learning and problem-solving skills by using strategies of monitoring, planning, and self-evaluation. We first need to understand what is required to be studied, the available resources, and time required to study. We then proceed to set our study goals and a plan to learn. Finally, we monitor and adjust our learning technique based on the results of our learning.
  • We can improve metacognition and enhance it through training and practice.
  • Metacognition is a skill that can be taught using various techniques such as modelling, reflective writing, and direct instruction.

Why Is Metacognition Important?

Metacognition helps us to become more aware of our learning process. We get to understand how we learn best and are able to monitor and adjust our own learning strategy and achieve our learning goals. Planning involves setting goals, determining what needs to be learned, and selecting appropriate strategies to achieve those goals.
Monitoring involves checking progress toward learning goals, evaluating understanding of material, and recognizing when additional support or resources may be necessary, Self-evaluation involves reflecting on one's own learning processes, assessing learning outcomes, and identifying areas for improvement.
As we begin to evaluate our own thinking process and assess what we know and don’t know, we understand gaps in our own understanding and improve our problem-solving abilities. We become lifelong learners as we become keener and adapt to our learning styles and take control over own learning. We are able to develop our higher order thinking skills, such as analysis, evaluation, and synthesis. Eventually metacognition enables us to become more effective learners and gain success in academics and professional life.

Metacognition Techniques Can be Taught

Metacognition can be taught in a variety of ways either in the classroom or students can learn these strategies themselves:
  • Model metacognitive thinking: Think aloud while working through a problem, talking about your own thought process, strategies and decisions helps in the process of metacognition.
  • Summarization: You can restate the information in your own words, which aids in comprehension and retention.
  • Self-questioning: This typically involves formulating questions about the material to encourage your understanding and help in recall.
  • Visual aids: You can also use visual aids, concept maps, flowcharts, and timelines to help build connections between ideas and understand the relationships between different concepts.
  • Reflective writing: You can do reflective writing to understand your own learning processes, such as learning logs or self- assessments.
  • Collaborative learning: Use collaborative learning technique such as group discussions, peer review, or group projects that can help you to develop metacognitive skills. Teachers can get students to explain their thinking, share their strategies, and provide feedback to their peers.
  • Feedback: Lastly, teachers can provide feedback to students on their metacognitive skills, such as how well they set goals, monitor their own learning, and adjust their strategies as needed.
Overall, metacognitive strategies are designed to promote awareness and control of one's own learning processes, leading to more effective and efficient learning outcomes.

Exploring Metacognition

Try to answer the following questions to assess your understanding of metacognition. You can write down your answers or discuss them with your friends and classmates.
  • Have you ever evaluated why a particular coursework or study topic is more difficult than others?
  • Do you develop study plans before exams and evaluate the effectiveness of your approach after the exam?
  • Do you encounter times when the results of your study are not consistent across subjects?
  • What are the resources available for assistance when you struggle with a study topic?

Active Learning Case Exercise

You can conduct this experiment at your end. Here are the steps of the experiment:
  • Engage in a task or activity that requires you to use metacognition. For example, read a passage and write down your thought process as you read it, including any questions, connections, or insights that come to mind.
  • After this task is complete, reflect on your metacognitive process. Ask yourself questions such as: What did you notice about your thinking while you were completing the task? Did you change your approach at any point? If so, why? How did using metacognition to help you in this task?
  • Finally, apply your metacognitive skills to future learning tasks. Think about your thinking and make adjustments to your learning process based on your reflections and insights.
By engaging in this experiment, students can develop their metacognitive skills and become more effective learners. They can also develop a greater awareness of their own thinking process, which can help them in many aspects of their lives.

Post-Exercise Reflection

To discern how effective this experiment was, write down or discuss with your friends about your experience and learning from the engagement exercise. Ask questions or talk about the following points with your classmates:
  • The specific strategies that worked to help you perform better in your study
  • Evaluate what could be a modified approach to learning to achieve study goals better
  • Discuss the learning goal that is important to you
  • Describe the challenges in this learning goal
  • How can you apply knowledge of metacognition to help you achieve this learning goal?

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