Metacognition refers to higher order thinking that involves active control over the thinking processes involved in learning. Activities such as planning how to approach a given learning task, monitoring comprehension, and evaluating progress toward the completion of a task are metacognitive in nature. Because metacognition plays a critical role in successful learning it is important for both students and teachers. Metacognition has been linked with intelligence and it has been shown that those with greater metacognitive abilities tend to be more successful thinkers.

Most definitions of metacognition include both knowledge and strategy components. Knowledge is considered to be metacognitive if it is actively used in a strategic manner to ensure that a goal is met. Metacognition is often referred to as "thinking about thinking" and can be used to help students “learn how to learn.” Cognitive strategies are used to help achieve a particular goal while metacognitive strategies are used to ensure that the goal has been reached.

Metacognitive knowledge involves executive monitoring processes directed at the acquisition of information about thinking processes. They involve decisions that help
  • to identify the task on which one is currently working,
  • to check on current progress of that work,
  • to evaluate that progress, and
  • to predict what the outcome of that progress will be.

Metacognitive strategies involve executive regulation processes directed at the regulation of the course of thinking. They involve decisions that help
  • to allocate resources to the current task,
  • to determine the order of steps to be taken to complete the task, and
  • to set the intensity or the speed at which one should work the task.

Fostering Metacognition in Students

Teachers can make metacognition a priority in their classrooms by explaining to students that thinking about their own learning will be a necessary part of each day. By slowing down everyday moments, asking questions to clarify exactly what students are trying to say or do, and causing them to think about their strategies and actions, teachers can make children more aware of the mental processes they use.


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