The Role of Metacognition in Learning

An awareness of the learning process can improve learning dramatically (e.g. How People Learn, NRC 2000). Yet students are rarely taught how to develop this awareness. We can help our students to improve their learning by incorporating metacognition into our courses: by having them think about their thinking and by helping them to become aware of and monitor their learning strategies.

What Is Metacognition? | Metacognition Improves Learning | Teaching Metacognition | Events | Share a Teaching Activity

What Is Metacognition?

Metacognition is broadly defined as thinking about thinking and learning. This brief introduction defines metacognition and related terms and describes the results of research on the teaching and learning of metacognition.

Metacognition Improves Learning

A person's ability to learn is mutable, not fixed. Understanding this fact alone can have a profound impact on students' learning (Lovett, 2008). Teaching our students to be strategic learners is therefore one of the most valuable skills we can give them. Teaching metacognition summarizes some of the research on teaching and learning metacognitive behaviors and describes some effective, easily incorporated teaching activities.

Teaching Metacognition

The Place of Metacognition in the Curriculum

Thinking like a geoscientist presents several significant cognitive challenges, including (though not limited to) understanding geologic rates and time (temporal thinking), understanding complex systems, and spatial thinking, including 3D visualization. Any one of these, alone, could be daunting to our students; all of them, collectively, are almost certain to be. Teaching our students metacognitive skills will not remove these learning challenges. However, thinking metacognitively will allow our students to recognize that some of the barriers to their learning are inherent to the geosciences (or other subjects they are studying), rather than reflecting on their own intelligence. In recognizing this, more students may choose to persist in their studies of the geosciences, rather than giving up and moving to other fields of study. See examples of how faculty are teaching metacognitive skills across the geoscience curriculum.

Selected Pedagogical Approaches

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