What Is Meta-Cognition?

Most of us have heard of cognition, or how we think. But, did you know there’s a step beyond cognition? It’s called meta-cognition. Meta-cognition is a higher order of thought that means thinking about how we think. Then of course there’s thinking about thinking about the way you think, but that’s getting a little redundant and murky.


So, what is the purpose of meta-cognition? It’s meant to self-regulate or trouble shoot the thinking and learning process. Could you imagine having a ‘toolkit’ to use for whenever you were having trouble with problem solving? It’s a daunting idea that could help any student learn to tap into their greater potential.


There are three main-components of meta-cognition. These classifications are meta-cognitive knowledge, meta-cognitive regulation, and meta-cognitive experience. Each of these categories may sound like advanced scientific jargon, but I promise you, it’s much simpler than it sounds.

– Meta-cognitive knowledge is having an awareness as an individual and as a human thinker.

– Meta-cognitive regulation is how we order and regulate a set of learning processes and experiences.

– Meta-cognitive experience are simply experiences that relate to the active-learning process.


Meta-cognitive knowledge and meta-cognitive regulation can be broken down into more sub-parts, but I’ll spare you for sake of just keeping this as just a brief overview of the amazing thing that is meta-cognition.


The purpose is to put the learner on a level that allows active control of the process. Meta-learners figure out what they know, what they don’t know, and what they need to know. They set their plans of action, monitor their progress and comprehension, and evaluate their proximity to completion.


Meta-learners equip themselves with the tools that can compensate for IQ. H.L. Swanson, a Professor of Education from The University of California in Riverside, found that students with higher meta-cognitive skills actually performed better than students with a lower meta-cognitive skill set, despite IQ. Similar to the tale of David taking on Goliath. Goliath was larger and stronger, but David had an advantage with his sling and stone.


The best thing about meta-cognitive abilities is that they aren’t subject specific. So what would work for learning to play the guitar will work for a math problem. The only catch is that the skills and strategies are best internalized through learning a skill.


There’s a fine irony for you.


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