By Robin Satty, Ed.D.
Metacognition is something that almost all teachers use instinctively, even without knowing its meaning. Metacognition is thinking about thinking. You can also think of it as reflection. It’s not about what they’re learning; it’s about how they’re learning.
Metacognition lets students form thoughts beyond the content they are learning. This means they’re more likely to apply it in other situations too. They’re more likely to find patterns and learn general strategies. Instead of learning that plant cells have cell walls, a student would notice that the cell wall is another difference between plant and animal cells, make the connection between cell walls, chloroplasts, and central vacuoles as identifying characteristics of plant cells, and connect the concept of the cell wall to the drawing of a plant cell. The student would also be developing the skills needed for learning similarities and differences, identifying organelles, and understanding the differences between, say, the human body and the structure of a tree.
What might it look like?
Example: A teacher is helping a student review their test after school one day. The teacher asks the student: “Why did you get this question wrong?” The student rereads the question and says, “I misread the question. I skipped over where it said ‘EXCEPT’!” The student and teacher can now decide on a game plan for avoiding the same kind of mistake in the future.
Additional Prompts for Metacognition:
What did you learn today?
After reading the question, how do you plan to find the answer?
Why did you choose that answer?
What strategies are working for you? What strategies are not working for you?
What content needs more of your attention?
How could you apply this strategy to a different question?
What are your favorite prompts for encouraging metacognition? Comment below!