When I hear the term metacognition, or metacognitive strategies, used in the context of learning, especially language learning, I am immediately turned off. I know that what will follow will be something that I do not like. It will be an attempt to turn the natural,enjoyable process of learning into a self-conscious, looking at yourself in the mirror with someone looking over your shoulder, type of activity, a major distraction from the process of absorbing a language naturally through listening, reading and communicating.

from Wikipedia

Metacognitive strategies

The metacognitive-like processes are ubiquitous; especially, when it comes to the discussion of self-regulated learning. Being engaged in metacognition is a salient feature of good self-regulated learners. Groups reinforcing collective discussion of metacognition is a salient feature of self-critical and self-regulating social groups. The activities of strategy selection and application include those concerned with an ongoing attempt to plan, check, monitor, select, revise, evaluate, etc. Metacognition is ‘stable’ in that learners’ initial decisions derive from the pertinent fact about their cognition through years of learning experience. Simultaneously, it is also ‘situated’ in the sense that it depends on learners’ familiarity with the task, motivation, emotion, and so forth. Individuals need to regulate their thoughts about the strategy they are using and adjust it based on the situation to which the strategy is being applied. At a professional level, this has led to emphasis on the development of reflective practice, particularly in the education and health-care professions.

Recently, the notion has been applied to the study of second language learners in the field of TESOL [1] and applied linguistics in general (e.g., Wenden, 1987; Zhang, 2001, 2010). This new development has been much related to Flavell (1979), where the notion of metacognition is elaborated within a tripartite theoretical framework. Learner metacognition is defined and investigated by examining their person knowledge, task knowledge and strategy knowledge. Wenden (1991) has proposed and used this framework and Zhang (2001) has adopted this approach and investigated second language learners’ metacognition or metacognitive knowledge. In addition to exploring the relationships between learner metacognition and performance, researchers are also interested in the effects of metacognitively-oriented strategic instruction on reading comprehension (e.g., Garner, 1994, in first language contexts, and Chamot, 2005; Zhang, 2010). The efforts are aimed at developing learner autonomy, independence and self-regulation.

Metacognition helps people to perform many cognitive tasks more effectively.[1] Strategies for promoting metacognition include self-questioning (e.g. “What do I already know about this topic? How have I solved problems like this before?”), thinking aloud while performing a task, and making graphic representations (e.g. concept maps, flow charts, semantic webs) of one’s thoughts and knowledge. Carr, 2002, argues that the physical act of writing plays a large part in the development of metacognitive skills (as cited in Gammil,2006, p.754).


2 thoughts on “Metacognition

  1. I think that metacognitive strategies may help students in a lot of ways, especially when it comes to organizing learning that has been taught. It has been proven that memory is structured, so the more you organize and relate things you’re learning with what has previously been learnt, your chances of retention of material will increase a lot. Also, particularly in reading, knowing certain strategies comes in handy, since you cannot depend/rely on a dictionary all the time. I admire Krashen’s work on The Natual Approach but I think he has some misconceptions in it. Anyway, a bit of thought and reflection on language/language learning and strategies won’t hurt anyone.

  2. "I think that metacognitive strategies may help students in a lot of ways, especially when it comes to organizing learning that has been taugh." I meant CONTENT, not learning, in this case 🙂

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