by Melanie Gallo, PhD
Have you ever had this to happen? You’re driving home from work and all of a sudden your sitting in your driveway. “How did I get here? I don’t even remember driving!” Or, you are watching tv only to realize that you have no idea what you just watched so you rewind to watch it again. THAT’s metacognition.
The definition of this technique is mainly referred to as the “awareness and understanding of one's own thought processes.”
To put it more simply, it’s knowledge about when and how specific strategies can be used to solve problems or to learn.
The term comes from the root word “meta,” which means further or on top of.
It is considered an essential part of learning successfully.
Besides, metacognition is directly linked to the self-reflection of strengths and weaknesses and the strategies a person devises to achieve a goal.
Practically, this is the foundation of culturally intelligent leadership, to underscore how a person thinks about a problem or situation.
History of Metacognition
Metacognition was introduced by John H. Flavell in 1976. He first defined the term as “one’s knowledge concerning one’s own cognitive processes and products or anything related to them.”
But even before Flavell, there have been cases in human history that have embarked on the study of the great importance of monitoring and regulating one’s comprehension process.
Also, Vygotsky (1896 - 1934) and Piaget (1896 - 1980) have both added self-regulation and self-reflection to their cognitive development theory.
How Does It Help Us?
Encouraging metacognition is a relatively straightforward and cheap way to improve learning.
The Education Endowment Foundation describes the approaches as having “consistently high levels of impact” while acknowledging that they can also be challenging to implement.
Educational consultants Dr. Robin Fogarty and Brian Pete developed a couple of easy research-based examples of how metacognition can help people in general.
Not only that, but it gives teachers and parents insightful tips on how to teach kids throughout kindergarten to middle school more easily.
Now, the thing here is that sometimes, whether we know this term or not, we use metacognition!
One great example is to think about the last time you’ve reached the bottom of a page and thought to yourself, “What did I read?”.
Your brain just became aware of something you did not know, so instinctively, you might have reread the last sentence and then gone through the whole page again.
Or maybe you’ll just rescan some of the paragraphs to fill in the information gaps!
In whatever way you decide to capture the missing information, this momentary awareness of knowing what you know or do not know is called metacognition.
When we notice ourselves having an inner dialogue about our thinking, and it prompts us to evaluate our learning, we are experiencing metacognition at work.
This is a perfect way to inspect your thought process and inflict or demand more from your reading and studying habits.
Not to mention that it can be put to use in real life.
Many people feel like they lose their train of thought through the day because of various external or internal reasons.
Most of the time, we simply have not been trained to be more efficient in paying attention.
Why It’s Worth Exploring
Reflective thinking is at the heart of metacognition. However, in today’s world of constant chatter and technology, reflective thinking can be at odds.
Practically, technology can prevent people, mostly young, from seeing what is in front of their eyes.
John Dewey, a renowned scientist and education reformer claimed that experiences alone were not enough.
Instead, what is critical is an ability to perceive and then weave meaning from the threads of our experiences.
The function of metacognition and self-reflection is to make meaning.
The creation of meaning is at the heart of what it means to be human.
This is precisely why metacognition is worth exploring… And applying.
Follow up with me next week in part 2 of this article series, where I explain more about how you can apply metacognition in your life for your best personal development!
I’m Melanie Gallo, Ph.D., a WorkLife Psychology coach and writer specializing in personality and thinking habits. Through my fun and innovative app called Coach2GO, I help today’s professionals define their WorkLifeJoy, then help them discover why they don't have it, why they need it, how to get it, and how to keep it. Get in touch directly or download my free Coach2GO app today.