The Importance of Metacognition Skills and the Ways to Build the Skills of Students

Good readers possess a variety of skills that help them comprehend a text, think about it, and expand upon its ideas. One of the skills that effective readers possess is metacognition. Metacognition is the ability to monitor one’s own thinking. This has several elements to it including recognizing when comprehension is taking place, when it is not taking place, understanding how one learns, and knowing how to monitor one’s own progress.

Metacognition is an important skill for readers to possess because it provides them with the tools to monitor their own learning. Students who are metacognitive are able to set goals for themselves, determine what they need to do to reach those goals, can realign themselves should they stray from the path to reaching their goals, and prepares students to be more independent. Students who have goals in their learning experience more motivation, and are aware of what they need to learn in order to reach their goal. Metacognition also allows students to determine what goals are reasonable for them to attain, and what goals are out of their current range.

All students from time to time become distracted in their reading. A metacognitive reader is able to more quickly recognize this, and can get themselves back on task in order to reach their goals, which provides them with independence. Students who can get themselves back on track are less likely to seek support from the teacher in staying on task. Independence can also come in the form of seeking out information without being prompted by a teacher. These skills carry into other subjects as well, not just reading.

There are a variety of ways to build the metacognition skills of students. One way is to create learning goals for students, and have them reflect on the learning goal at the end of a lesson or unit. This requires them to think about what they have learned, if they are still lacking information, and what may be needed to reach the goal. Over time, students begin to do this independently, which gives them autonomy and control of their own learning. Another way to teach metacognition is creating rubrics for assignments and providing students with the rubric. While finishing an assignment, students can refer back to the rubric to determine if their assignment meets the criteria, and can determine what additional information may need to be added. One final way to build metacognition is teaching fix-it strategies.

These are strategies that help realign students on the path to reaching a goal, or completing a task. Some fix-it strategies include re-reading a passage to better understand it, taking short breaks to increase mental function, looking for patterns in a text that make upcoming parts more understandable, and asking questions about the text to check for understanding. Students who have these abilities, and the discipline to enact them, are able to think more deeply about texts, and are more likely to understand them.

Metacognition is a skill that everyone possesses to an extent. It allows them to reflect on their own learning, think about their own thinking, and find ways to repair issues in learning. Students learn some of these skills on their own, but educators can create learning opportunities that build these skills to a greater extent. This is important for educators to do, because metacognition pushes students closer to independence, and gives them the tools to be successful throughout their education and across subject areas.

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