What is metacognition? Simply put, metacognition is the self-realization of knowing about how you think. Metacognition is the process of discovering how you make decisions and why you make them. It is the personal exploration of your patterns of thought, the uncovering of your thinking processes. Knowing how you think and make decisions is crucial in your learning process because your awareness allows you to self regulate and become independent.
The process of thinking about your thinking is just as important to you as it is to athletes who look at videos of themselves to see their performance and isolate ways that they can improve. Similarly, musicians listen to recordings of their own music to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Like these athletes and musicians, as students of language arts we need to assume responsibility for our own learning and thinking as readers, writers, speakers, listeners, and viewers.
In the school setting, the better students take the time to reflect about their thinking and the various ways that they express those thoughts. As a matter of fact, it has been argued that one of the most significant factors for improved reading, for example, is consistent engagement in the metacognitive process when the student learns to self regulate.
How do you engage in metacognition? You begin by asking yourself a series of analytical questions while reading, writing, speaking, listening and viewing. You record your answers and consider them. After a series of metacognitive responses, you will identify individual patterns of behaviors. Over time you will see that some patterns inhibit understanding, while other facilitate it. The reflective process helps you know how to choose strategies that are effective.
For example, let’s focus on writing. What questions might be useful in reflecting about your thinking in the writing process? Here are a few questions you might ask yourself when you begin engaging in metacognition about writing:
- How did I start the process?
- What stimulated my ideas?
- Who is my audience and what is my purpose?
- What did I eliminate in the various stages of writing from prewriting activities to the final draft and why did I choose to eliminate them?
- What trouble did I have?
- What roadblocks do I repeatedly face and how can I eliminate them?
- Why did I keep what I did?
- Who helped me at what stages of the process?
- What feedback did I get which influenced my decision-making?
- What improvement do I see in this piece?
- What areas still need improvement and why?
- What are my paper’s strengths?
- What are my paper’s weaknesses?
- What goals do I have for future writing?
After you repeatedly participate in insightful metacognitive responses, you will identify your unique patterns of thought and create additional questions appropriate to you. Being cognizant of your thought process helps you self-monitor and develop into, in this case, a better writer. The more analytical you are, the more aware you will become and learn how to self regulate your thinking processes. You will become your own best teacher.