Metacognitive Strategies: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Metacognition Defined
  • 0:50 What Are Metacognitive…
  • 2:43 From Struggling…
  • 3:03 Lesson Planning with…
  • 5:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Marin Carlson
This lesson will define and explain in detail what metacognitive strategies are and how they can be used in the classroom to help deepen students' thinking about content and develop students who are ready and willing to tackle new content.

Metacognition Defined

The simplest definition of metacognition is thinking about your thinking. A more complex definition that is widely cited within educational literature is an appreciation of what one already knows, together with a correct apprehension of the learning task and what knowledge and skills it requires, combined with the ability to make correct inferences about how to apply one's strategic knowledge to a particular situation and to do so efficiently and reliably. This definition was originally written by Shawn Taylor in the book Better Learning Through Better Thinking. In simpler terms, this means that metacognition is being aware of what you know and don't know, understanding what you will need to know for a certain task and having an idea of how to use your current skills to learn what you don't know.

What Are Metacognitive Strategies?

The definition above is a mouthful, which makes it seem like a difficult concept, but we as adults use metacognitive strategies all the time to succeed at tasks in our personal and professional lives. Imagine that you are a graduate student who needs to write a dissertation. You already have years of experience in academic writing and know how to cite sources, find research and write it up. But the format of the dissertation is different from the work you have previously done, and it's a daunting task because it's such a long paper. On the first day of your dissertation seminar class, you have a million questions for the professor. This is a perfect example of you using metacognitive strategies!

First, you have already considered what you know how to do and acknowledged that you have some experience with similar tasks. Second, it's clear in your head how you will apply your current knowledge to this new situation - the Works Cited page will be a breeze, you know which research search engines yield the best results, you know how to break big projects into manageable chunks and to create a timeline for this work. Third, you know how to fill in the blanks and where to turn to get the information you're lacking. Thanks to your metacognitive strategies at work here, you have everything you need to get started and to troubleshoot when problems arise during the process.

This is how teachers want students to approach new learning, with students feeling empowered and not overwhelmed, armed with a toolbox of strategies that help them tackle new learning and easily make connections to what they already know. Because these strategies do not come naturally to a lot of students, we must explicitly teach them, and research shows it makes a big difference in their performance.

From Struggling Students to Expert Learners

Successful students use metacognitive strategies throughout a task and actually start thinking before they start the task itself. These four quadrants represent categories of metacognitive strategies that successful students and adults employ throughout their daily work:


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