Metacognitive Breakthrough

My students and I have been looking at the area of metacognitive training for a few years now, and have some exciting news to report.

Metacognition is one of those elusive concepts that is loosely defined, difficult to measure, and virtually impossible to explicitly increase (at least in adults). It is widely recognised that the more metacognitive skills someone has, the more successfully they learn, but how do we go about increasing these skills (for us specifically, it has been in adult learners).

For those who are only passingly familiar with metacognition, there are two aspects of metacognition that are important – metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive regulation. Basic awareness can be taught (this is what metacognition is…), but there has been a real struggle to teach individual metacognitive knowledge (I am aware of my own thinking processes and whether I know something of not), and very difficult to teach metacognitive regulation (this is how I use my metacognitive awareness to achieve my learning goals).

We have been looking at how we can implicitly training university students to increase their own metacognitive monitoring – an aspect of metacognitive knowledge. Through the use of a simplified version of certainty based marking, we have increased the number of metacognitive incidents in a task over a six week training period (one hour per week). We have demonstrated that subjects who repeatedly tried to maximise their scores through the application of metacognitive awareness (am I sure that I know something – or not) increased their metacognitive index, while a control group did not.

We’ll be writing it up this summer for publication – but it is exciting to be involved in research that has finally demonstrated a simple way to increase (in adults) such a critical skill for thinking.