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J. H. Flavell first used the word “metacognition”. He describes it in these words:
Metacognition refers to one’s knowledge concerning one’s own cognitive processes or anything related to them, e.g., the learning-relevant properties of information or data. For example, I am engaging in metacognition if I notice that I am having more trouble learning A than B; if it strikes me that I should double check C before accepting it as fact.—J. H. Flavell (1976, p. 232).
A. Demetriou, in his theory, one of the neo-Piagetian theories of cognitive development, used the term hypercognition to refer to self-monitoring, self-representation, and self-regulation processes, which are regarded as integral components of the human mind. Moreover, with his colleagues, he showed that these processes participate in general intelligence, together with processing efficiency and reasoning, which have traditionally been considered to compose fluid intelligence.
Different fields define metacognition very differently. Metacognition variously refers to the study of memory-monitoring and self-regulation, meta-reasoning, consciousness/awareness and auto-consciousness/self-awareness. In practice these capacities are used to regulate one’s own cognition, to maximize one’s potential to think, learn and to the evaluation of proper ethical/moral rules.
In the domain of experimental psychology, an influential distinction in metacognition (proposed by T. O. Nelson & L. Narens) is between Monitoring—making judgments about the strength of one’s memories—and Control—using those judgments to guide behavior (in particular, to guide study choices). Dunlosky, Serra, and Baker (2007) covered this distinction in a recent review of metamemory research that focused on how findings from this domain can be applied to other areas of applied research.
In the domain of cognitive neuroscience, metacognitive monitoring and control has been viewed as a function of the prefrontal cortex, which receives (monitors) sensory signals from other cortical regions and through feedback loops implements control (see chapters by Schwartz & Bacon and Shimamura, in Dunlosky & Bjork, 2008).
Metacognition is studied in the domain of artificial intelligence and modeling. Therefore it is the domain of interest of emergent systemics.
Metacognition has been used, albeit off the original definition, to describe one’s own knowledge that we will die. Writers in the 1990s involved with the musical “grunge” scene often used the term to describe self-awareness of mortality.
Metacognition is classified into three components:
- Metacognitive knowledge (also called metacognitive awareness) is what individuals know about themselves and others as cognitive processors.
- Metacognitive regulation is the regulation of cognition and learning experiences through a set of activities that help people control their learning.
- Metacognitive experiences are those experiences that have something to do with the current, on-going cognitive endeavor.
Metacognition refers to a level of thinking that involves active control over the process of thinking that is used in learning situations. Planning the way to approach a learning task, monitoring comprehension, and evaluating the progress towards the completion of a task: these are skills that are metacognitive in their nature. Similarly, maintaining motivation to see a task to completion is also a metacognitive skill. The ability to become aware of distracting stimuli – both internal and external – and sustain effort over time also involves metacognitive or executive functions. The theory that metacognition has a critical role to play in successful learning means it is important that it be demonstrated by both students and teachers. Students who demonstrate a wide range of metacognitive skills perform better on exams and complete work more efficiently. They are self-regulated learners who utilize the “right tool for the job” and modify learning strategies and skills based on their awareness of effectiveness. Individuals with a high level of metacognitive knowledge and skill identify blocks to learning as early as possible and change “tools” or strategies to ensure goal attainment. Metacognologists are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, the nature of the task at hand, and available “tools” or skills. A broader repertoire of “tools” also assists in goal attainment. When “tools” are general, generic, and context independent, they are more likely to be useful in different types of learning situations.
Another distinction in metacognition is executive management and strategic knowledge. Executive management processes involve planning, monitoring, evaluating and revising one’s own thinking processes and products. Strategic knowledge involves knowing what (factual or declarative knowledge), knowing when and why (conditional or contextual knowledge) and knowing how (procedural or methodological knowledge). Both executive management and strategic knowledge metacognition are needed to self-regulate one’s own thinking and learning (Hartman, 2001).
Finally, there is a distinction between domain general and domain-specific metacognition. Domain general refers to metacognition which transcends particular subject or content areas, such as setting goals. Domain specific refers to metacognition which is applied in particular subject or content areas, such as editing an essay or verifying one’s answer to a mathematics problem.
Relation to sapience
Metacognologists believe that the ability to consciously think about thinking is unique to sapient species and indeed is one of the definitions of sapience. There is evidence that rhesus monkeys and apes can make accurate judgments about the strengths of their memories of fact and monitor their own uncertainty, while attempts to demonstrate metacognition in birds have been inconclusive. A 2007 study has provided some evidence for metacognition in rats, but further analysis suggested that they may have been following simple operant conditioning principles.
Metacognitive-like processes are especially ubiquitous when it comes to the discussion of self-regulated learning. Being engaged in metacognition is a salient feature of good self-regulated learners. Groups reinforcing collective discussion of metacognition is a salient feature of self-critical and self-regulating social groups. The activities of strategy selection and application include those concerned with an ongoing attempt to plan, check, monitor, select, revise, evaluate, etc. Metacognition is ‘stable’ in that learners’ initial decisions derive from the pertinent fact about their cognition through years of learning experience. Simultaneously, it is also ‘situated’ in the sense that it depends on learners’ familiarity with the task, motivation, emotion, and so forth. Individuals need to regulate their thoughts about the strategy they are using and adjust it based on the situation to which the strategy is being applied. At a professional level, this has led to emphasis on the development of reflective practice, particularly in the education and health-care professions.
Recently, the notion has been applied to the study of second language learners in the field of TESOL  and applied linguistics in general (e.g., Wenden, 1987; Zhang, 2001, 2010). This new development has been much related to Flavell (1979), where the notion of metacognition is elaborated within a tripartite theoretical framework. Learner metacognition is defined and investigated by examining their person knowledge, task knowledge and strategy knowledge. Wenden (1991) has proposed and used this framework and Zhang (2001) has adopted this approach and investigated second language learners’ metacognition or metacognitive knowledge. In addition to exploring the relationships between learner metacognition and performance, researchers are also interested in the effects of metacognitively-oriented strategic instruction on reading comprehension (e.g., Garner, 1994, in first language contexts, and Chamot, 2005; Zhang, 2010). The efforts are aimed at developing learner autonomy, independence and self-regulation.
Metacognition helps people to perform many cognitive tasks more effectively. Strategies for promoting metacognition include self-questioning (e.g. “What do I already know about this topic? How have I solved problems like this before?”), thinking aloud while performing a task, and making graphic representations (e.g. concept maps, flow charts, semantic webs) of one’s thoughts and knowledge. Carr, 2002, argues that the physical act of writing plays a large part in the development of metacognitive skills (as cited in Gammil,2006, p. 754).
- Educational psychology
- Educational technology
- Learning styles
- Mirror test
- Phenomenology (philosophy)
- Phenomenology (psychology)
- Phenomenology (science)
- Second-order cybernetics
- ^ a b c Metcalfe, J., & Shimamura, A. P. (1994). Metacognition: knowing about knowing. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.>
- ^ a b Dunlosky, J. & Bjork, R. A. (Eds), Handbook of Metamemory and Memory. Psychology Press: New York.>
- ^ a b Wright, Frederick. APERA Conference 2008. 14 Apr. 2009. http://www.apera08.nie.edu.sg/proceedings/4.24.pdf..>
- ^ Oxford Psychology Dictionary;metacognition
- ^ Nisbet, Shucksmith (1984). The Seventh Sense (p6) SCRE Publications
- ^ Demetriou, A., Efklides, A., & Platsidou, M. (1993). The architecture and dynamics of developing mind: Experiential structuralism as a frame for unifying cognitive developmental theories. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 58, Serial Number 234.
- ^ Demetriou, A., & Kazi, S. (2006). Self-awareness in g (with processing efficiency and reasoning). Intelligence, 34, 297-317.
- ^ doi:10.1016/j.artint.2005.10.009
- ^ Couchman, Justin J.; Coutinho, M. V. C., Beran, M. J., & Smith, J. D. (2010). “Beyond Stimulus Cues and Reinforcement Signals: A New Approach to Animal Metacognition”. Journal of Comparative Psychology 124 (4): , 356 –368. doi:10.1037/a0020129. http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/features/com-124-4-356.pdf.
- ^ Metacognition: Known unknowns. Issue 2582 of New Scientist magazine, subscribers only.
- ^ Rats Capable Of Reflecting On Mental Processes
- ^ PMID 17346969
- ^ Foote, Allison L.; Crystal, J. D. (20 March 2007). “Metacognition in the Rat”. Current Biology 17 (6): 551–555. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2007.01.061. PMC 1861845. PMID 17346969. http://www.current-biology.com/content/article/abstract?uid=PIIS0960982207009311.
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- Chamot, A. (2005). The Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA): An update. In P. Richard-Amato and M. Snow (eds), Academic Success for English Language Learners (pp. 87–101). White Plains, NY: Longman.
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- The International Association for Metacognition
- Metacognition in Learning Concepts
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- UIUC.edu – ‘Metacognitive knowledge’
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- Workshops on Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning in Educational Technology
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