What is Metacognition?
Metacognition is all about having knowledge of our own cognitive processes. It is a skill that differentiates humans from other types of animals. It is essentially the practice of thinking about thinking.
During the process of metacognition, a person will become aware of their own behaviours and thoughts, and this can help them to control their own thinking process. By practising metacognition, a person can understand what success will look like and identify strategies to reach a specific learning objective.
There are three stages of metacognition:
- Planning (starters)
- Monitoring (main course)
- Evaluating (desert)
In the planning stage of metacognition, children and teachers think about the learning objective that has been set for a specific lesson, how they want to achieve the it and what strategies will be used to help them reach their goal. There are some important questions for learners to think about during the planning stage of metacognition such as:
- What am I being asked to do?
- What strategies will I find useful?
- How have I attempted similar tasks in the past?
- How can I improve it?
The monitoring stage of metacognition is important for learners to put what they have learnt in place as well as helping learners to track their progress, and how close to their goal they are. It is okay to make changes to a plan during the monitoring stage if they are not working.
After reaching a goal, it is just as important to evaluate and reflect upon the whole process. By doing this, learners will be confident in knowing which learning strategies work well for them, and which learning strategies they may want to avoid in the future.
At school, we have been using metacognition as an effective learning tool in the classroom. Initially, we began trialling it on small groups, solving problems with K’Nex and with stop motion animation videos. Following our initial success, we began using it in the wider classroom by asking the children lots of starter, main course and desert questions throughout their lessons and this year, we have adapted our activity days into ‘Metacognition Days’.
Our first Metacognition Day was at Christmas whereby we took a poem called the Magic Box and the children were then tasked with rewriting it to become ‘The Magic Christmas Box’. After this, the children had to decide how they were going to present their new poem and what possible problems there might be along the way. We had some terrific poems, presented as power points, artwork or 3D boxes.
The next Metacogition Day was science based and required the children to solve problems such as how to power a car by balloon, how to drop an egg from a height without it breaking and creating a gravity fed marble run. Needless to say, we had many cracked eggs, but the children were able to describe what went well and how they would do things differently.
Just before Easter, saw day number three. This time, the children were asked to come up with an innovative way to remember the Kings and Queens of England following a now, out dated, song from the BBC’s Horrible Histories team. (well worth a watch by the way, if you are not already familiar with it… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vC6okzIKQvg
With The coronation of King Charles fast approaching, it seemed like a great challenge and Mrs Packard was particularly pleased to spend an entire day doing History!
One group rewrote the song to perform to the rest of the school. The next created a game of snakes and ladders, which saw the ‘bad’ monarchs sending you down the snakes and the good ones, up the ladders. A third group created a display timeline for the classroom, whilst the fourth group created a game of Top Trumps.
We are really pleased with the success of these days and are continually looking at ways to improve and develop metacognition throughout the school.