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The link between pre-questions and Metacognition

The link between pre-questions and Metacognition

4 min read
  • Metacognition
  • Questioning, Cold-Calling & Wait Times

Developing independent learners, who are curious and capable of asking themselves great questions to learn effectively, is one of the holy grails of education.

One of the key concepts attached to this notion is Metacognition, defined as the awareness and control of one’s own learning processes. This allows students to monitor their understanding and regulate their study practices, thereby enhancing their academic performance.

But what if you could enhance this process’s effectiveness and boost students’ memory at the same time, with pre-questions? Recent research investigated this very topic, to find out whether integrating pre-questioning with metacognitive strategies can help you create a more effective learning environment…

If you want to find out more about how these are linked, read on for:

  • The research behind pre-questioning and Metacognition
  • Whether questioning is a metacognitive strategy
  • Self-regulation and learning
  • Examples of metacognitive pre-questions

The science behind pre-questioning and Metacognition

Rosenshine’s third Principle of Instruction highlights the importance of questions in the learning process, by recommending teachers ask large amounts of high-quality questions. Rosenshine found that the best teachers asked the most questions and asked students how they got their answers.

Pre-questioning involves asking students questions about new content before introducing it. This technique primes students’ minds, encouraging them to think about what they already know and what they need to learn. According to research, pre-questioning can significantly enhance memory retention and understanding. When students anticipate questions, they are more likely to engage in active thinking, which activates their metacognitive skills.

Research has also investigated the influence of enhancing metacognitive awareness on educational achievement. This study found that students who received structured metacognitive guidance performed significantly better in terms of academic achievement compared to those who did not receive such support. This indicates that explicit instruction in metacognitive strategies can enhance learning outcomes.

The latest research on pre-questions and Metacognition

Considering the effectiveness of both strategies, research investigated the link between Metacognition and pre-questioning, and whether enhanced Metacognition improved pre-questioning outcomes. This study found that when students were provided with self-regulation support, their metacognitive awareness of the benefits of pretesting improved.

This suggests that pre-questioning, combined with guidance on self-regulation, can enhance students’ ability to monitor and control their learning processes.

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Self-regulated learning and Metacognition

Self-regulated learning is closely linked to Metacognition. While they are interconnected, Metacognition and self-regulation are not identical. The latter refers to the process by which students take control of their learning by setting goals, monitoring their progress, and adjusting their strategies as needed.

Research explored the impact of metacognitive strategies on the self-regulated learning process. The research highlights that metacognitive strategies such as deep-processing techniques significantly enhance students’ ability to regulate their own learning. They also found that students who applied these strategies were better equipped to manage their learning tasks and achieved higher academic outcomes.

Questioning as a metacognitive strategy

So, is questioning a metacognitive strategy? The answer is rather interesting.

Questioning prompts students to reflect on their understanding and identify gaps in their knowledge. When students ask themselves questions, they engage in metacognitive monitoring, which involves assessing their comprehension and adjusting their learning strategies accordingly.

Studies have shown that questioning can significantly enhance metacognitive processes. A recent study highlighted that self-questioning techniques help students better monitor their understanding and adapt their learning approaches. This method not only promotes deeper cognitive engagement but also fosters greater academic achievement.

Further research confirms that when students employ questioning strategies, they are more likely to identify misconceptions and adjust their study methods to improve learning outcomes. This self-regulatory behavior is essential for effective learning and long-term retention of information.

3 strategies that use both Metacognition and pre-questioning

To put this into practice, consider the following examples of metacognitive and pre-questioning strategies…

1. Reflective questions

After a lesson, students can ask themselves, “What did I find challenging about this topic?” or “Which strategies did I use to understand the material?”. Research shows that engaging students in self-reflective questioning helps solidify existing knowledge and enhances their ability to transfer information to new contexts.

2. Predictive questions

Before starting a new chapter, get students to ask themselves questions like, “What do I already know about this topic?” or “What do I expect to learn?”. Research indicates that activating prior knowledge through predictive questioning is crucial for schema activation and the integration of new information into long-term memory.

3. Evaluative questions

Encourage students to ask themselves, “How well do I understand this concept?” or “Which areas do I need to review?”. A study demonstrated that self-evaluative questioning plays a significant role in metacognitive monitoring and self-regulated learning.

By incorporating these types of questions, your students can develop their metacognitive skills and become more self-aware learners.

Final thoughts

Incorporating pre-questioning and metacognitive strategies in the classroom can significantly impact students’ learning outcomes. By fostering an environment that supports self-regulated learning, teachers can empower students to take charge of their education and develop critical thinking skills. Encouraging students to embrace questioning allows them to reflect on their learning and continuously strive for improvement.


About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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