Metacognition refers to learners' automatic awareness of their own knowledge and their ability to understand, control, and manipulate their own cognitive processes.2 Metacognitive skills are important not only in school, but throughout life. For example, Mumford (1986) says that it is essential that an effective manager be a person who has learned to learn. He describes this person as one who knows the stages in the process of learning and understands his or her own preferred approaches to it - a person who can identify and overcome blocks to learning and can bring learning from off-the-job learning to on-the-job situations. As you read this section, do not worry about distinguishing between metacognitive skills and some of the other terms in this chapter. Metacognition overlaps heavily with some of these other terms. The terminology simply supplies an additional useful way to look at thought processes. Metacognition is a relatively new field, and theorists have not yet settled on conventional terminology. However, most metacognitive research falls within the following categories: 1.
Metamemory. This refers to the learners' awareness of and knowledge about their own memory systems and strategies for using their memories effectively. Metamemory includes (a) awareness of different memory strategies, (b) knowledge of which strategy to use for a particular memory task, and (c) knowledge of how to use a given memory strategy most effectively. 2.
Metacomprehension. This term refers to the learners' ability to monitor the degree to which they understand information being communicated to them, to recognize failures to comprehend, and to employ repair strategies when failures are identified.
Learners with poor metacomprehension skills often finish reading passages without even knowing that they have not understood them. On the other hand, learners who are more adept at metacomprehension will check for confusion or inconsistency, and undertake a corrective strategy, such as rereading, relating different parts of the passage to one another, looking for topic sentences or summary paragraphs, or relating the current information to prior knowledge. (See Harris et al., 1988; - add more) 3.
Self-Regulation. This term refers to the learners' ability to make adjustments in their own learning processes in response to their perception of feedback regarding their current status of learning. The concept of self-regulation overlaps heavily with the preceding two terms; its focus is on the ability of the learners themselves to monitor their own learning (without external stimuli or persuasion) and to maintain the attitudes necessary to invoke and employ these strategies on their own. To learn most effectively, students should not only understand what strategies are available and the purposes these strategies will serve, but also become capable of adequately selecting, employing, monitoring, and evaluating their use of these strategies. (See Hallahan et al., 1979; Graham & Harris, 1992; Reid & Harris, 1989, 1993.) In addition to its obvious cognitive components, metacognition often has important affective or personality components. For example, an important part of comprehension is approaching a reading task with the attitude that the topic is important and worth comprehending. Being aware of the importance of a positive attitude and deliberately fostering such an attitude is an example of a metacognitive skill. In the preceding paragraph, metacognition has been described as a conscious awareness of one's own knowledge and the conscious ability to understand, control, and manipulate one's own cognitive processes. This is not quite accurate; but it's difficult to define metacognition more accurately. (It's easier to point out examples of metacognitive activity than to define what it is.) It would be more accurate to say that metacognitive strategies are almost always potentially conscious and potentially controllable...
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