Role of Metacognition in the Classroom
is always interesting to analyze ones strengths and weaknesses and helping
the student to use that knowledge for improvement. This idea of helping
others led me to my career choice as a teacher and coach.
After much research, I discovered that relaying information of
one’s cognitive processes and developing ones own awareness of their
learning is a lot of what I do as a coach.
I constantly tell my athletes there is only one aspect of their
game that they can absolutely control and that is what they think
internally, what they say externally, body
language, and emotions. These are
all aspects of the mental game. The
physical aspect, the winning and the losing is out of their control.
This idea of controlling your thinking processes and becoming more
conscious of your learning is called metacognition.
It is a buzzword in teacher education.
It is an old term in a new age of education reform.
It goes hand in hand with authentic assessment, constructivism, and
thinking skills are what teachers are striving for in the classroom,
yet highest-order ought to be our new goal.
After exploring the definition of metacognition, I will discuss the
need and the application of metacognitive skills in the classroom.
are several professional definitions of metacognition.
Through research I came across four definitions that fully explored
every aspect of metacognition. As
you read through each definition, reread it and then read the next one and
reread it as well. Do the same for
each definition. Then compare and
contrast each definition and write your own definition that makes sense to
you! The following are the examples
that I extrapolated from different texts.
fact, John Flavell, developmental psychologists, conducted extensive
studies in child development. He
was the first to explore, “the ways in which children think about their
thinking processes and the human mind (Alic, rtv., 2001).”
Flavell incorporated Piaget into American psychology and through
his research, contributed to modern developmental psychology.
Finally, Flavell’s eighteen-year research at Bing
Nursery School had developed comprehensive cognitive developmental
stages from infancy to age 4 years. Flavell
borrowed Piaget’s theory of child development and created his own theory
that is backed up with more research and case studies, than Piaget’s.
It is a wonder why undergraduates are never introduced to Flavell
along with Piaget during their course work for teacher education.
seems by the definitions of metacognition that it is a multi-task skill
that “ripens with age” and improvements can be made throughout one’s
lifetime! The definition’s
multi-tasks are (a) goal directed (b) recognition of the variable, (c)
appropriate cognitive strategy to use for controlling the learning
process, and (d) self-regulation and self-evaluation.
example, if I were to read a professional article about metacognition and
Lev Vygotsky was the author, then in order to extract meaning I would have
to implement a strategy of comprehension compared to if I were reading a
comic book for pleasure. This
notion of assessing the variable before I take on the task is
metacognitive thinking. The older I
get the better I am in recognizing such difficult text.
“Ambiguous words or confusions within the text affect cognitive
readers will adjust their rate for anomalous texts and may return to an
inconsistent sentence or passage several times, comparing what they know
with what is written in the text (Collins, 1994).”
Recognizing the task, as to its level of difficulty, is a step
towards metacognitive learning. Recognition leads directly to control of cognitive learning.
If cognitive processing fails then the implementation of a learning
strategy would seem to be the next step. For
instance, the use of underlining, note-taking, summarizing, and
self-questioning are common study
strategies (Collin, 1994). If I
felt satisfied with the results, then my experience would yield a positive
transfer and my goals would be met. If
I did not feel satisfied with my results, then my experience would yield a
negative transfer and I would adjust my cognitive processes enough to
yield a positive transfer. This is
an example of self-evaluation and self-regulation.
“In short, metacognition appears to be a large component of what
we consider to be intelligent behavior (Osborn, 1998).”
Why is metacognition such an important concept to the classroom
teacher? Because, unlike distinct
learning styles and multiple
intelligences, metacognition is a series of learned behaviors.
To become aware of these behaviors throughout development means
they can also be acquired. Once
acquired, improvements can be made and improved learning
and better performance will take place (Osborne, 1998).
need for learning metacognitive skills are clearly stated in many case
studies and field reports that I have read.
Jason Osborne, Ph.D, from the Department of Educational Psychology
at the University of Oklahoma discovered the need of metacognition in the
classroom. His findings are
numerous and the following are some of the many in his review.
It is obvious that metacognition is an important
concept and a critical strategy to teach in the classroom.
From all the research over metacognition, it is a learned behavior
that can vastly improve students of all performing levels. “If people
are taught metacognitive awareness concerning the utility and function of
a strategy as they are taught the strategy, they are more likely to
generalize the strategy to new situations (Hacker, rtv., 2001).
Given the importance of high-stakes test and the use of standards
such as the TEKS in Texas or the PASS in Oklahoma, it would be a crime not to teach
metacognitive skills in the classroom. In
service training for teachers before the start of school would be the best
time to train teachers about metacognition.
In order to apply metacognition in the classroom, it
is my belief a teacher ought to be familiar with learning styles. This way
the teacher will have a deeper understanding of the type of metacognitive
skill that will fit the student’s learning style.
Yet, it is wise to tailor lesson plans or vary teaching delivery
methods to all types of learning styles in the classroom. Research on learning styles varies from theorist to theorist. Bernice
McCarthy identifies four types of learners and some learners
are flexible to be more than one type
Kolb describes a theory of experiential learning that involves
four stages and four types of learners. The common theme to most learning
style theories is that teachers need to incorporate all learning styles in
their curriculum. “Traditionally, instructional techniques commonly used
in public schools best address the needs of the Type 2 Analytic Learner,
with heavy emphasis on linear sequential processing of information
(McCarthy, 2001).” It is
time teachers research their students Instead of labeling students with disabilities or as
low-achievers teachers ought to consider a learning style difference. A.
F. Gregore, a popular
learning style theorist made three observations about learning. “First,
we reassess our individual and collective viewpoints on the nature of
learning. The “average child concept” is wrong!
Second, we must consider multiple approaches in our teaching
presentations. There are indeed “different strokes for different folks."
Thirdly, we need to talk with students and verify differences within
ourselves.” All I have to say to
this quote is that it is time for teachers to receive training in learning
styles, during teacher in service.
Metacognitive strategies range from simple processes
such as underlining, outlining, notetaking, summarizing, self-questioning
to more elaborate methods such as hierarchical summaries, conceptual maps,
thematic organizers, and metaphorical
thinking. The older students best handle the more elaborate methods.
Learning strategies vary by degree of difficulty. The most important task
to teach to the students is when to use such a strategy. The awareness of
knowing when to use a metacognitive strategy is of more importance that
the how to use the strategy. Most learning strategies are procedural in
form. The best example of a procedural learning strategy is the SQ3R.
The five-step step process is (1) survey, (2) develop questions,
(3) read (4) recall, and (5) review.
Other types of strategies include actual changes in
the development of classroom instruction. For
example, a pre-bell activity could be useful to start the class, during
the time the teachers are on hall duty and while they are taking
attendance. The bell activities may
be open-ended question or questions about material from the day before or
the future. Bell activities may be
time students can write entries in their classroom journals.
Whatever the case, the teacher needs to discover the benefits of
metacognitive strategies and teach them to their students.
theories emphasize learning strategies and some involve
metacognitive features such as self-regulation and control of cognitive
processes. The learning theories
most relevant to metacognitive behavior are double loop learning (Argyris,
1976), lateral thinking (DeBono, 1971), conversation theory (G. Pask,1975), and
experiential learning (Kolb, 1993). All
these learning theories offer exquisite ideas to use in the classroom.
It is interesting to read these theories and I recommend all
teachers to explore such learning theories.
To best explain a metacognitive strategy, I would
like to relate a personal experience that helped myself through college
and I hope can help other understand the importance of metacognitive
Back in my undergraduate
days, I took a very intense Botany course that changed my view of studying
and heightened my awareness that I can control my cognitive processes with
strategic planning. With this sense of control it gave me the belief that
I can compete with the best. The first day of class the professor took
great pride in explaining the fact that not many earn A’s and the same
number will fail and typically most will receive C’s if not drop the
course. She went on about norm-reference tests and how closely the grades
in her class are distributed much the same way in according to the
bell-shaped curve. Then of course the syllabus was handed out and it
became apparent that tests were the single factor in determining grades.
The second class, the professor began lecturing
feverishly, without a break and never knowing if she was a human or
artificial intelligence. She lectured with the desire to prove she was the
toughest professor on campus. She definitely had her own style, Ultra
Direct Instructional Approach.
My spin of UDIA is when instruction is delivered by
lecture and lecturer rarely pauses for drink, or turns their back to use
transparencies or chalkboard. A fast and monotone language is necessary
and class discussions are of the professor answering their own questions
within seconds. The only break in voice would be a snicker or laugh
whenever the professor answered his or her own questions. No one asks
questions in fear that total humiliation would result.
Whenever, on those rare occasions, the professor did
use the chalkboard the sweet sound of pencils dropping onto the cool
granite top tables could be heard in unison. Then down go the heads onto
those cool granite top tables for a quick resting of the eyes. Early in
the semester, during this brief down time, you would notice students
rummaging through their backpacks for those drop/add forms and class
schedules. By the end of the class I knew I had a tough situation and a
very strategic plan had to be enforced.
The metacognitive process took form initially as a
goal. When the professor was quite certain that only a very few
will earn A’s, I took that as a challenge and a goal was set. I figured
that a strategic study method had to be developed, because from past
performances in this type of class, I would be that average group of
mid-achievers. A method was developed that fit my style of learning and
through the course of the semester, I had fined tuned my method well
enough to earn an A and in the course. In fact, I wanted to set the curve
on every test. It was
primarily self-competition. I
never wanted anyone to know what I ever made on tests and especially in
the class. At the time of
experimentation, I did not overly think about each phase. It was more of
piecing together techniques that worked from past experience and putting
it together into a strategic routine.
Stage (1) I tape-recorded each lecture.
That way I could listen to the lecture a second time.
During the second listening I would record any information I missed
the first time as well as copy down the big ideas.
Stage (2) I would generate test questions on note
cards and put the answers on the back. I
would create a variety of test questions that included completion, short
answer and multiple choice. When I
created multiple choice I would create four choices and make each choice
as close to the right answer as I could.
Stage (3) I would rehearse the test questions.
During this “zone
of proximal educational development” I would review and role-play as
the teacher. If I missed a question
I would start completely over until I was able to complete all of the
questions correctly. In order for
scaffolding to take place I had to create punishments and dialogue to
myself quite a lot. Since, I had no
friends to review with, I used what
and inner speech.
I could not study in study groups and so my learning
style is definitely Type-4 Dynamic Learner with a sprinkle of Type 2,
according to Bernice McCarthy’s Learning Styles.
Yet, it was fun to study in small groups, this way I could compare
where I was at and where I need to be. I
never studied in study groups to actually learn. I did it to size up to the others.
Study time was regimented.
I made sure I exercised before I studied. This way I would not need
to stimulate myself with caffeine. I could study more efficiently and in
less time when I would exercise prior to studying. This method of exercise
and study became very habitual; my body craved both everyday. I linked the
two seemingly different activities together, and soon if I missed one of
the other I felt guilty. I would not stop studying until I was sure I
would make an A on the exam. Sometimes
finding the method or strategy that best fits your learning style or even
your schedule is hard. Yet, anything worth having is worth the hard work.
Metacognition is a topic that will catch on and
become a part of every classroom. With state standards and standardized
testing taking the stage, our students will need more than just knowledge
they will have to learn to think. Along with improved thinking
skills, students will need to assess their own learning and control their
cognitive processes in order to become better students. “Those with
greater metacognitive abilities tend to be more successful in their
cognitive endeavors. The good news is that individuals can learn how to
better regulate their cognitive activities (Livingston, 1997)
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