Metacognition in Young Children

Metacognition in Young Children

Metacognition in Young Children

Metacognition in Young Children


Metacognition is known to be an important factor in academic achievement; however it is also important in a wider life context. The ability to reflect upon how we are thinking can help us to make wiser decisions in all aspects of our life.

This book addresses how metacognition might be fostered in young children. Examining theories of particular relevance to primary school age children the author combines her empirical work over the last 8 years with the work of other researchers to show that children of all ages display metacognitive processing, given the right kind of environment. Drawing on evidence from psychology and education, Metacognition in Young Children brings together international research from different curriculum areas. As well as the traditional areas of science, mathematics and literacy, the author considers metacognition in physical education, art, drama and music. The book argues for a development of metacognition theory, which takes account of wider contextual and political factors. This book includes:

  • Real classroom examples, taking account of the whole child, socio-cultural context and the curriculum
  • Practical examples of developing metacognition across the curriculum
  • Advice on building metacognitive environments in the classroom
  • Development of metacognition theory

Essential reading for educational psychology and research students, this book will appeal to trainee and practising teachers with an interest in facilitating young children's development into wise and thoughtful adults. It offers practical advice supported by theory and evidence.


It is at least conceivable that the ideas currently brewing in this area could
someday be parlayed into a method of teaching children (and adults) to make
wise and thoughtful life decisions as well as to comprehend and learn better in
formal educational settings.

(Flavell, 1979, p. 910)

What is this area? This area which can help people to understand better, to learn better, to achieve better academic results and for me, the most important part – to make “wise and thoughtful life decisions”? When John Flavell wrote this in 1979 he was giving a name to a process of thinking which we all engage in at sometime, but which we rarely sustain long enough to gain the benefits from. Flavell was referring to the process of reflecting on our own thinking and keeping track of how our thinking is getting us closer to or further away from our goal. The term “metacognition”, which Flavell and his colleague Ann Brown gave to this type of reflection has led to a whole new area of research and the fruits of these studies are now being seen in classrooms across the world. At the same time though, the word metacognition has sent some people running for the hills. When I ordered a book recently with the “M” word in the title, the book shop assistant checked the title with me at least half a dozen times as she tried to track down my order. Every time she asked a colleague, she would turn to me again and say “What was it called again?” When I proposed the title for this book some colleagues suggested that using the “M” word in the title would put readers off all together and I should make it more reader friendly by using phrases such as “higher order thinking” or “reflective thinking”. Why did I stick to my guns about the title? Well, the term metacognition, while a bit unwieldy, is specific and identifies a particular process of a shift in thinking. “Meta” refers to a change of position, a sense of going beyond or to a second order or higher level, and “cognition” refers to our faculty of knowing or thinking. So the “M” word describes a higher order of thinking, one that is reflective and goes beyond the ordinary level to reflect on thinking itself.

An example will clarify the distinction between the different levels of thinking. I may think “I will stop for a cup of tea now”, an ordinary level thought, but . . .

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