Jan 14, 2021 By : Chitra Makhija, Cambridge Primary Educator

Building Metacognitive Skills

“Too often, we teach students what to think but nothow to think.”

– OECD Insights (2014)

As a Grade 5 teacher and a mother of a nine year old, I always wondered what are the best ways to develop metacognition in my daughter and the students of my class. After completing an Enrichment course with Cambridge on Metacognition I was able to join the dots, it’s as easy as when we encourage children to reflect on their learning journey we are instinctively building metacognitive skills. Metacognition is something we all do without even noticing, like making that simple list before we travel or when we reflect on the day that has gone by, it is very important for children to use these techniques to be able to become problem solvers. The root word in Latin meta means “beyond” – so we can translate it into “beyond thinking.” So let me as a practitioner take you through how to develop metacognition in our children in their day to day lives.

Metacognition is carried out in 4 phases- plan, monitor, evaluate and reflect. Some questions which would help children to carry out these 4 phases:

During the  planning phase, we give children a goal and encourage them to consider how they will approach the task and which strategies they will use. At this stage, it is helpful for children to ask themselves:

‘What am I being asked to do?’

‘Which strategies will I use?’

‘Are there any strategies that I have used before that might be useful?’

During the monitoring phase, children implement their plan and monitor the progress they are making towards their goal.

Children might decide to make changes to the strategies they are using if these are not working. As they work through the task, it will help them to ask themselves:

‘Is the strategy that I am using working?’

‘Do I need to try something different?’

During the evaluation phase, children determine how successful the strategy they used was in helping them to achieve their goal. To evaluate, they could consider:

‘How well did I do?’

‘What didn’t go well?’ ‘What could I do differently next time?’

‘What went well?’ ‘What other types of problems can I use this strategy for?’

Reflection is a fundamental part of the plan-monitor-evaluate process. Encouraging children to self-question throughout the process will support reflection.

For instance, encouraging children to organise their week by creating a schedule. This would get children involved to reflect on the plan, monitor the progress and evaluate the plan to see if it worked for them. A suggestion that I would like to add to this process would be to give children a criteria on what needs to be included in the plan and allow them to plan their own time. For example: The two criterias could be that they would need to include study time and outdoor playing time, giving children the freedom to plan the week on their own also gives them a chance to take ownership of their schedule.

Some ways to help children practice Metacognition on a daily basis:

  1. Metacognitive talk – Metacognitive talk involves a person saying out loud what they are thinking while they are carrying out a task.- What do you do when you are struggling with a problem at work? Modelling to children how to deal with an unexpected situation.
  2. Maintaining a thinking journal – Reflecting in a journal to be able to identify the learning process. Making a list of strategies that you have used in the past and have worked, or even making a checklist of the steps that helped you to solve a problem. Children can maintain the journal in the KWL format. What I Know? What I Want to know? What have I Learnt? Before, after and during a lesson this would be effective note taking skill as well. 

Children need to be able to identify which method of learning works for them and make changes to their own learning behaviours when required. For example: I know that if I write something down, I will be able to remember it for a longer time. Some of us know, packing for a trip can be really tedious especially when we need to pack for the family or planning a party. I usually always need a checklist to be able to effectively carry out such tasks. 

Teaching children to become more metacognitive helps them to move from a mindset which is fixed to a mindset which is open-minded to accept change.





About the Author:

Chitra Makhija, Cambridge Primary Educator

Equipped with a Masters degree in Reading and Language Arts and certified with a Cambridge Enrichment course in Metacognition, Chitra is a passionate educator and a dedicated teacher. An avid reader, nicknamed bookworm by her family, Chitra’s love for books is endless and she has ensured her nine year old daughter takes after her in this aspect! She believes in being a lifelong learner and finds small life lessons through the innocence in children. According to her, Education is the biggest asset that any child can acquire.