ERIC Identifier: ED327218
Publication Date: 1990-11-00
Author: Blakey, Elaine - Spence, Sheila
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources Syracuse
Developing Metacognition. ERIC Digest.
Metacognition is thinking about thinking, knowing "what we know" and
"what we don't know." Just as an executive's job is management of an organization,
a thinker's job is management of thinking. The basic metacognitive strategies
1. Connecting new information to former knowledge.
2. Selecting thinking strategies deliberately.
3. Planning, monitoring, and evaluating thinking processes. (Dirkes,
A thinking person is in charge of her behavior. She determines when
it is necessary to use metacognitive strategies. She selects strategies
to define a problem situation and researches alternative solutions. She
tailors this search for information to constraints of time and energy.
She monitors, controls and judges her thinking. She evaluates and decides
when a problem is solved to a satisfactory degree or when the demands of
daily living take a temporary or permanent higher priority.
Studies show that increases in learning have followed direct instruction
in metacognitive strategies. These results suggest that direct teaching
of these thinking strategies may be useful, and that independent use develops
gradually (Scruggs, 1985).
Learning how to learn, developing a repertoire of thinking processes
which can be applied to solve problems, is a major goal of education. The
school library media center, as the hub of the school, is an ideal place
to integrate these types of skills into subject areas or students' own
areas of interest. When life presents situations that cannot be solved
by learned responses, metacognitive behavior is brought into play. Metacognitive
skills are needed when habitual responses are not successful. Guidance
in recognizing, and practice in applying, metacognitive strategies, will
help students successfully solve problems throughout their lives.
STRATEGIES FOR DEVELOPING METACOGNITIVE BEHAVIORS
1. Identifying "what you know" and "what you don't know."
At the beginning of a research activity students need to make conscious
decisions about their knowledge. Initially students write "What I already
know about..." and "What I want to learn about...." As students research
the topic, they will verify, clarify and expand, or replace with more accurate
information, each of their initial statements.
2. Talking about thinking.
Talking about thinking is important because students need a thinking
vocabulary. During planning and problem-solving situations, teachers should
think aloud so that students can follow demonstrated thinking processes.
Modeling and discussion develop the vocabulary students need for thinking
and talking about their own thinking. Labelling thinking processes when
students use them is also important for student recognition of thinking
Paired problem-solving is another useful strategy. One student talks
through a problem, describing his thinking processes. His partner listens
and asks questions to help clarify thinking. Similarly, in reciprocal teaching
(Palinscar, Ogle, Jones, Carr, & Ransom, 1986), small groups of students
take turns playing teacher, asking questions, and clarifying and summarizing
the material being studied.
3. Keeping a thinking journal.
Another means of developing metacognition is through the use of a journal
or learning log. This is a diary in which students reflect upon their thinking,
make note of their awareness of ambiguities and inconsistencies, and comment
on how they have dealt with difficulties. This journal is a diary of process.
4. Planning and self-regulation.
Students must assume increasing responsibility for planning and regulating
their learning. It is difficult for learners to become self-directed when
learning is planned and monitored by someone else.
Students can be taught to make plans for learning activities including
estimating time requirements, organizing materials, and scheduling procedures
necessary to complete an activity. The resource center's flexibility and
access to a variety of materials allows the student to do just this. Criteria
for evaluation must be developed with students so they learn to think and
ask questions of themselves as they proceed through a learning activity.
5. Debriefing the thinking process.
Closure activities focus student discussion on thinking processes to
develop awareness of strategies that can be applied to other learning situations.
A three step method is useful. First, the teacher guides students to
review the activity, gathering data on thinking processes and feelings.
Then, the group classifies related ideas, identifying thinking strategies
used. Finally, they evaluate their success, discarding inappropriate strategies,
identifying those valuable for future use, and seeking promising alternative
Guided self-evaluation experiences can be introduced through individual
conferences and checklists focusing on thinking processes. Gradually self-evaluation
will be applied more independently. As students recognize that learning
activities in different disciplines are similar, they will begin to transfer
learning strategies to new situations.
ESTABLISHING THE METACOGNITIVE ENVIRONMENT
A metacognitive environment encourages awareness of thinking. Planning
is shared between teachers, school library media specialists, and students.
Thinking strategies are discussed. Evaluation is ongoing.
In the creation of a metacognitive environment, teachers monitor and
apply their knowledge, deliberately modeling metacognitive behavior to
assist students in becoming aware of their own thinking.
Metacognitive strategies are already in teachers' repertoires. We must
become alert to these strategies, and consciously model them for students.
Problem-solving and research activities in all subjects provide opportunities
for developing metacognitive strategies. Teachers need to focus student
attention on how tasks are accomplished. Process goals, in addition to
content goals, must be established and evaluated with students so they
discover that understanding and transferring thinking processes improves
In this rapidly changing world, the challenge of teaching is to help
students develop skills which will not become obsolete. Metacognitive strategies
are essential for the twenty-first century. They will enable students to
successfully cope with new situations. Teachers and school library media
specialists capitalize on their talents as well as access a wealth of resources
that will create a metacognitive environment which fosters the development
of good thinkers who are successful problem-solvers and lifelong learners.
Dirkes, M. Ann. (1985, November). "Metacognition: Students in charge
of their thinking." Roeper Review, 8(2), 96-100. EJ 329 760.
Heller, Mary F. (1986, February). "How do you know what you know? Metacognitive
modeling in the content areas." Journal of Reading, 29, 415-421. EJ 329
Palinscar, A. S.; Ogle, D. S.; Jones, B. F.; Carr, E. G.; & Ransom,
K. (1986). Teaching reading as thinking. Alexandria, VA: Association for
Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Scruggs, Thomas E.; Mastropieri, M. A.; Monson, J.; & Jorgenson,
C. (1985, Fall). "Maximizing what gifted students can learn: Recent findings
of learning strategy research." Gifted Child Quarterly, 29(4), 181-185.
EJ 333 116.
Biggs, John B. (1987). Student approaches to learning and studying.
Hawthorne, Victoria, Australia: Australian Council for Educational Research.
ED 308 201.
Dirkes, M. Ann. (1988, December). Self-directed thinking in the curriculum.
Roeper Review, 11(2), 92-94. EJ 387 276.
Marzano, Robert J.; Brandt, Ronald S.; Hughes, Carolyn Sue; Jones, Beau
Fly; Presseisen, Barbara Z.; Rankin, Stuart C.; & Suhor, Charles. (1988).
Dimensions of thinking: A framework for curriculum and instruction. Alexandria,
VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. ED 294 222.
"Thinkers and readers (Secondary perspectives). (1990, March). Journal
of Reading, 33(6)," 460-62. EJ 405 093. ---------------
This digest originally appeared as "Thinking for the Future," by Elaine
Blakey and Sheila Spence, in Emergency Librarian, 17(5), May-June 1990,
11-14. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.