How metacognition complements learning

Metacognition skills are beneficial to students’ learning for many reasons. It improves the way people learn by being aware of their own thought processes.


John Flavell coined the term metacognition in 1979; he defines it as the knowledge of one’s cognitive ability. Understanding the way we think improves how we learn by controlling our thoughts. This allows us to be aware of what we are learning and monitor the learning process.


How does metacognition complement learning?


  • Metacognition aims to improve learning by compartmentalising our thoughts.
  • By reflecting on the learning process, we can ask ourselves:
  • How do I feel about what I am learning?
  • Do I understand what is being taught?
  • Am I self-aware in control of the process?
  • By questioning the learning process, we can identify and monitor our progress.
  • Learning about how the brain process information allows us to recognise what we don’t understand.



How to apply metacognition to learning:


  • Allow students to reflect on the learning process by scheduling time for this. Ask whether their understanding of the subject has improved since they have started learning about it.
  • Ask what was easy about the process? What did they find more challenging? Did they learn any new strategies or techniques?
  • Understand how students got their answers. Whether they are correct or not, ask them about their learning process in order to understand how they achieved their answers.


Understanding how people learn effectively


  • There is no one-size-fits-all with learning. Everyone has different strategies and methods in order to work to their full potential.
  • There are a range of factors in order to identify how people learn effectively.
  • Examples of this include:
  • Whether people learn best in groups or independently.
  • Prefer background noise or complete silence.
  • Memorise best through mind maps, note taking, colour coding…