Metacognition and Why It Matters in Education


Metacognition refers to the mental processes we use to plan, monitor, and evaluate how well we understand and can do something. It is about understanding how we learn (cognitive understanding) and controlling how we learn (cognitive regulation).

In the classroom, metacognition empowers learners by:

  • Encouraging them to understand how they learn best.
  • Enabling them to adopt learning strategies that will improve and expand their learning.

This is reflective learning! It involves students analysing and evaluating their learning experiences in order to learn more successfully.

A metacognitive model of learning

At Reflective Learning, we provide a catch-up intervention based on a metacognitive model of learning. Learners are first guided through a diagnostic process that identifies gaps across 81 threshold concepts. They are then provided with personalised catch-up courses based on their individual needs, which includes feedback and continuous assessment.

This coupling of guided self-analyses and good tutorship leads to incredible results. Learners who lack self-esteem after having struggled for years trying to “keep up” find themselves empowered to work smarter, building efficacy in their learning, and achieving milestones they previously thought were unattainable.

How metacognition affects learning

Most of us use metacognition every day without even realising it. It’s how we make decisions and analyse what we are doing. Suffice to say, it is an intrinsic part of every human!

While everyone has metacognition, many learners are never taught metacognitive strategies to enhance their learning. Without the ability to use metacognition positively, kids tend to bully themselves with thoughts like: “Everyone else is finding this assignment easy. I’m just not as clever.” This negativity results in learners experiencing low self-esteem, low self-worth, and it often leads to undesirable outcomes in the classroom.

Teaching learners to engage through positive metacognition helps them move away from the mindset of “I can’t do this” to “How can I do this?” This seemingly simple shift unlocks a new mindset in the learner that develops greater self-esteem and ultimately manifests in positive outcomes in the classroom and beyond.

A fresh approach for teachers

Learners who struggle to “keep up” can often be uncooperative or disinterested, making teaching them an arduous task. Thankfully, the “metacognitive model,” a Reflective Learning framework, offers a fresh approach for teachers that is based on a foundation of research spanning decades and showing widely documented success.

For high achievers, metacognition provides insight to sustain excellence. For learners who struggle in the classroom, developing metacognition offers them a way to stabilise and improve their learning. The true value of metacognition is evident when learners are equipped to work through difficult situations and overcome their learning challenges.

Research from North Central Regional Educational Laboratory shows that learners who demonstrate metacognitive skills perform better on exams and complete work more efficiently than those who do not.

Metacognition and its impact on the future

A requirement in our current knowledge society is the ability to learn much quicker in order to cope with the increased volume of information – and then to be able to process that information more effectively too.

Research from cognitive psychology shows that the ability to self-direct, monitor and correct one’s own learning is critical for lifelong learning – and being a lifelong learner provides a competitive edge in the global economy.

However, this all starts with teaching children to think about their thinking. As teachers, this is the most valuable skill that we can impart to our students. When learners have the ability to analyse their own learning – and then take action to expand their knowledge – they become independent, self-sustaining and successful learners who can make meaningful contributions to society.

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