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3 Simple Steps for enhancing student’s Metacognition

Updated: Sep 2, 2018

Learning how to learn cannot be left to students. It must be taught. – Gall et al.

Yes, you can teach your students and guide them to follow some surefire strategies to reach their goal. The article focuses on the methods of improving the student’s metacognition for gaining maximum output from the learning experience.

Understanding Metacognition and how it works in the learning process:

The Greek word ‘Meta’ beans ‘After’ or ‘Beyond’. Metacognition is the sub-division of cognition. Cognition is the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses while metacognition refers to the ability to analyze how you think. Metacognition is the process of thinking about your own thinking and learning process. To illustrate, take the example given by the pioneering psychologist John H. Flavell specializing in children's cognitive development:

"Asking yourself questions about the chapter might function either to improve your knowledge (a cognitive function) or to monitor it (a metacognitive function)."

So, metacognition guides you to develop appropriate and helpful thinking strategies at each stage of the task.

Let’s analyze the following two processes:

  1. You are thinking about going to a holiday destination while actually going there. - cognition

  2. You are thinking about how you were previously thinking about going to the holiday destination. - meta-cognition.

Cognition Vs. Metacognition

So, you can easily understand the importance of applying metacognition. It will not only help you to reach your goal but also guides you to secure your achievement. The importance of using metacognition in the learning process has an age-long concept which can be traced from Socrates’ questioning methods to Dewey's (1933) twentieth-century stance that we learn more from reflecting on our experiences than from the actual experiences themselves.

So, How can you enhance your metacognition skill?:

Metacognitive skills are a type of skill that you can teach to your students for improving their present thinking ability. Research done by the Sutton Trust Education Endowment Foundation reveals that metacognition is one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to guide your students to achieve their learning goals.

Metacognition sometimes discussed with self-regulation techniques which are the ability to control your thoughts and behaviors. It is found that both of these techniques help students in their learning process and allows them to secure a higher score in Reading Comprehension and science test.

“Metacognition and self-regulation approaches have consistently high levels of impact, with pupils making an average of seven months’ additional progress.” – Research done by Sutton Trust Education Endowment Foundation.

In their article, Enhancing metacognition in self-directed language learning, Victori and Lockhart (1995) express that:

“One of the premises of any self-directed program, we believe, should be that of enhancing students' metacognition to prepare them for approaching their own learning autonomy.”

Psychologist express that metacognitive skills learnt in one situation can be transferred to a new and different task. If you learn to apply metacognitive skills in a Reading passage, you can able to apply the same method to your science tests also.

There are various ways of improving your metacognition. However, the metacognition strategies can be split into three sections:

  • Step1: Help students to plan (Before start learning)

  • Step 2: Guide them to monitor the learning process (During the learning process)

  • Step 3: Finally, teach them to evaluate their learning process. (steps were taken after the learning process)

The ‘before, during, and after’ approach is similar to the ‘Plan-Do-Review’ approach which is used in the sports.

However here are some simple questions that can help develop metacognitive strategies in each of these three stages:

  • Self- Questioning before a task: Teach your students to ask the questions before starting the new learning: Is this similar to your previous task? What do you want to achieve? What should you do first? And ‘what would you do differently next time?’

  • Modeling during the task: Guides the students how to approach to the new learning material, exam question or tasks. Tell them to find out the answers to these questions: Are you on the right track? What can you do differently? Who can you ask for help?

  • Monitoring or self-awareness after a task: Helps the students to realize how they approach and complete a task and ask them to figure out the answers to the questions: What worked well? What could you have done better? Can you apply this to other situations?

Mazumder (2010) holds the same view that: “improving metacognition skills consists of helping learners to be aware of their own learning and how the learners engage with the learning process, by asking evaluative questions and thus control their level of understanding.” The Reflective research model is grounded on metacognition and refers to “shift away from standard teaching method of directed transmission to actively engaging students in their learning from rote memorization to open thinking via questioning and reflection of ideas”

To recapitulate, one can follow the above strategies for enhancing their metacognition. Every student have their own and different learning styles. However, the above approach is applicable to all and applicable for learning any branch of studies from Reading Passage to monitoring the Math answers.


Dewey J.(1933) How We Think: A Restatement of the Relation of Reflective Thinking to the Educative Process. Boston: Heath

Gall MD, Gall JP, Jacobsen DR, Bullock TL (1990). Tools for Learning: A Guide to Teaching Study Skills. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Mazumder, Q.H. (2010). Metacognition Approaches to Enhance Student Learning in Mechanical Engineering Classroom. Proceedings of the World Congress on Engineering. 2. Retrieved in 1 September from

Victori, M. and Lockhart, W. (1995). Enhancing metacognition in self-directed language learning. System, 23 (2), 223-234

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