Metacognition is a term that is being increasingly used in education since being highlighted as one of the most cost-effective ways to help students improve their learning. But what actually is metacognition, how can it benefit students, and how can it be improved?
Metacognition and its benefits
The term metacognition refers to the extent to which an individual is aware of their thoughts, and their ability to choose an effective thought process (read more about this in our blog ‘What is Metacognition’).
Evidence suggests that the use of metacognitive strategies can…
- Improve academic performance
- Improve problem solving skills
- Reduce stress associated with exams
- Lead to the development of new skills applicable to daily life
3 Metacognition questions
Researchers found that having students ask themselves 3 simple questions can make a drastic difference:
1. “Which resources do I need to help me study?”
This question encourages students to think strategically when selecting study resources. This ensures that only useful and effective study resources are used as part of the revision process.
2. “Why are these resources useful?”
This question encourages students to consider why a specific resource is helpful to their learning, as well as getting students to think about how to maximise the potential of that resource.
3. “How will I use this resource?”
This question is used to encourage the creation of specific and realistic plans looking at when, where and how students will use their chosen study resources.
What did the researchers find? By asking themselves these three simple questions, students in the study obtained a third of a grade higher in their exams compared to those in the control group. These students also felt less stressed about their upcoming exams.
5 more tips to improve metacognition
If you are looking for further tips on how to improve student metacognition, why not consider the following strategies:
- Set realistic goals – Goal setting can be used to give students a specific target to aim for when beginning a task, hence making their efforts more focused. However, these goals need to be balanced so that they are both challenging and realistic. Goal setting has been shown to improve student effort, attention, and persistence.
- Monitor and evaluate – Encourage students to track their progress whilst completing a task, then reflect on what went well and what they could improve on next time after the completion of the task.
- Understanding of weaknesses – Encourage students to seek out the gaps in their knowledge so that they are motivated to fill them. Knowing what you know is key.
- Prepare properly – Ensure that students are fully prepared for the process of studying, as this can save them a lot of time later on.
- Give feedback – Ensure that students are consistently given detailed feedback that is challenging but realistic, and that can be employed when they look to complete similar tasks in the future.
Whilst metacognition may appear to be a complicated term, integrating metacognitive strategies into student learning does not have to be complicated. This can be achieved by asking students to consider the resources they need to help them study, why the resources are useful and how they will use the resources. Having these skills at their disposal will not only help students academically but also equip them with key skills that can be employed outside of the classroom for the rest of their lives.