What is Metacognition and why use it?

Metacognition is “the knowledge and regulation of one’s thought processes.” (Kennedy et al., 2008)


Carr et al. (1996) suggest that “there is considerable evidence that metacognition plays a role in school performance.”

Metacognition encourages students to think about their own learning. This involves learning strategies for planning, monitoring and evaluating. It is also about making changes to learning behaviours.


Self-regulated learning can be defined as:

  • Cognition: the mental process involved in knowing, understanding and learning.
  • Metacogniton: which is known as ‘learning to learn’
  • Motivation: the ability to engage cognitive and metacognitive skills.

Metacognition is most successful when taught in groups, due to the support of other classmates through practice and discussion.


Metacognition usually consist of two parts:

Metacognitive knowledge

This refers to what a student knows about their learning. It is the awareness of their cognitive abilities (e.g. I have difficulty remembering mathematical formulas).


It is also the knowledge of certain tasks (e.g. these literary devices I am revising are complex).


The student has a knowledge of different strategies available to them and when to apply them. (e.g. If I learn the keywords, I can understand the text).


Metacognitive regulation

This is how students carry out their learning by monitoring and controlling their cognitive processes. An example of this is someone may recognise their learning strategy is not working and trying a different method.


There are three metacognitive phrases: planning, monitoring and evaluation:



During the planning phase, the student takes into consideration the goals set by a teacher, deciding how to approach these and which strategies to apply.


It is helpful to ask:


What have I been asked to do?


Which strategies am I going to use?


Are there any strategies I’ve previously used that will be helpful?



For  the monitoring phase, students apply their plan and monitor their progress towards their academic goal. It is important to change and adapt the strategies if they aren’t successful.


During this phase, it is important to ask:


Is the strategy I’m using working for me?


Do I need to try a new strategy?



The evaluation phase determines whether the strategy used has been successful. The student asks whether their learning goal has been achieved.


How well have I done?


What could have gone better? How can I improve this for next time?


How can I apply this strategy in future?


Metacognition is important in encouraging and supporting student learning. It focuses on controlling memory and using techniques in order to benefit and improve the student’s learning. The use of cognitive processes allows for the break down of problem solving and completing tasks. It aids with the understanding of how to use memory and apply attention to certain tasks. That is why it is beneficial for students in a learning environment to apply metacognitive learning strategies to benefit their education.