Metacognition literally means “thinking about thinking.” It’s how we, as humans, have developed the ability to understand and reflect upon our thoughts and behaviours. Over the last few years, Metacognition has become a hot topic in education, and for good reason: Research shows that Metacognition improves learning and boosts academic performance. It acts like an “inner voice”, helping you plot a more successful learning journey. What’s more, metacognitive ability peaks in adolescence. So, if you’re about to sit your GCSEs or A-Levels, this is the perfect time to start working on your metacognitive abilities.
Here are some ways that you can harness the power of Metacognition to become a better learner and achieve your full potential:
Whenever you’re about to start studying, take a minute to think about what you already know about this topic. If it’s something completely new, make some predictions about what you might learn. You can do this with a pen and paper, perhaps in a spider diagram or rough notes, or do it in your head. By taking a few minutes to activate existing knowledge, you’re training your brain to revisit old material and make links to new information. This is guaranteed to improve your overall knowledge retention and recall.
When you’re studying, there are some questions you can ask yourself to develop your metacognitive ability. For example, when you’re about to answer a question, ask yourself if you’ve ever solved a problem like this before. If you have, think and mentally retrace the steps you took. Taking stock of what you know is the key to deep learning.
Taking time to think about what you’ve learned and how you’ve learned it is one of the most important steps you can take. After a practice exam question or revision session, spend five minutes thinking about what went well and what could be improved. Make a note of these thoughts and use them next time you study, perhaps in a learning journal or notebook.
The trick here is to be honest with yourself. Are you great at researching facts but have problems remembering them? Do you struggle with reading comprehension or need more practice with spelling and grammar? Is there someone you could reach out to, like a parent or teacher? By acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses as a learner, you take control of your learning and are more likely to make long-term improvements.
While it may not seem like a cool topic of conversation, talking to your friends about how they approach an exam question or study activity is an interesting and worthwhile exercise. They may have strategies that you can use or adapt when you study. Again, it’s all about reflecting on your own strengths and weaknesses, so that you can take your learning to the next level.
Kaye Jones is a teacher and freelance writer, with a passion for history and education.