Literacy 7-12

Systems Change
Literacy 7-12 > Factors > Metacognition


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Thinking about how we think and learn allows us to pay attention to and control our cognitive processes. By using these metacognitive skills to continually monitor and regulate their thinking and understanding, learners are able to better plan their reading and writing strategies and think critically about what they read. Metacognition improves throughout childhood and peaks by the end of adolescence.

Main Ideas

Metacognition refers to the ability to think about our own understanding, that is, "thinking about thinking." There are several important components of Metacognition:

  • Metacognitive knowledge is the knowledge we have about our cognitive processes and provides a basis for metacognitive procedures. This knowledge, which continues to develop throughout adolescence, includes:
    • Knowledge about the strengths and weaknesses of our own cognitive abilities (e.g., "I have trouble concentrating when I am writing.") which can inform students' behaviors (e.g., providing more time for writing projects)
    • Knowledge about the task at hand (e.g., "This assignment will only take me about one hour to complete because I can use my strong understanding of narrative structure.")
    • Knowledge about strategies (e.g., "My best writing happens when I make an outline first and work in a quiet place.")
  • Metacognitive regulation is the use of metacognitive knowledge to guide behavior, and involves two important skills that constantly interact to help us read and write more effectively:
    • Monitoring involves observing our own thinking and cognitive processes. Monitoring during reading, also called comprehension monitoring or metacomprehension, refers to readers regularly evaluating their understanding as they progress through the text. Monitoring is also important while writing; for example, successful writers will monitor their writing plan, including what they have written and are about to write.
    • Control is the ability to regulate our own thoughts and cognitive processes. Control during reading involves readers taking action to improve their understanding of the text, such as rereading a paragraph they did not initially understand. Control is also used while writing; for example, writers may revise their writing plans after reading a first draft.

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