How many of us have ever thought about our own thought processes? Why is it that I cannot tell you what I had for dinner last night, but I can remember the details of a book I read more than forty years ago? This is the essence of metacognition. It is, according to www.education.com, “thinking about thinking, ‘knowing what we know’ and ‘knowing what we don’t know.’” Metacognition is a thought-management system – a way to help one ’s self gain control over what he remembers and processes.
The blog article cited just above proposes that taking a proactive approach to learning can enhance learning. The idea is that apart from metacognitive strategies, I learn somewhat passively; I retain what I retain and lose what I lose, so to speak. When I take charge of my learning processes, however, I can increase the effectiveness of my learning. I can, if you would, learn more and retain more, and retrieve it more effectively. The article goes beyond the abstract, however – it proposes several strategies for developing metacognitive behaviors. As a practical learner, I certainly appreciate this aspect of the article, and I intend to put some of the strategies to the test over the next couple of weeks.
Jennifer Livingston, in her 2007 “Overview” article on metacognition, points out that the line between metacognitive activity and cognitive activity is in many ways a fine one, and points to one criterion to define which is which. Cognitive activity, Livingston says that cognitive strategies help a person achieve a goal, whereas metacognitive strategies ensure whether the goal has been met. This has the feel to me of “splitting hairs” – almost feeling like playing with semantics to define a difference. Having said that, Livingston’s example of understanding how one learns before preparing for an exam in order to better prepare; this clarifies her position and puts it into a better light. Understanding how I learn in order to better prepare would be metacognition; the actual exam preparation is cognitive. Ormrod, Schunk, and Gredler (2009) put it most concisely: “Metacognition refers to the deliberate conscious control of cognitive activity.” (Learning Theories and Instruction, p. 100)
I encourage the reader to follow the links below and read both articles. Take control of your learning by gaining understanding of how you learn and adapting your study habits to maximize your time and energy!
Blakely, E. and Spence, S. Developing Metacognition. N.d. Retrieved from http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Dev_Metacognition/?page=1
Livingston, Jennifer. Metacognition: An Overview. 2007. Retrieved from http://gse.buffalo.edu/fas/shuell/cep564/metacog.htm
Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson.