Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Metacognitive Awareness: Investigating Theory and Practice

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Metacognitive Awareness: Investigating Theory and Practice

Article excerpt


Metacognitive awareness, an essential element in academic literacy, involves self-regulated learning through evaluating, monitoring, and planning. This article describes a study of how educational research on metacognition translates into classroom practices by examining reading and study skills instruction for students in grades nine, ten, and eleven focusing on the elements of direct instruction through teacher modeling and guided classroom practice. The author discusses pedagogical strategies and notes that the emphasis on metacognitive development makes teachers more aware of how students learn, resulting in better instruction. This study supports the need for additional scholarship that connects research on student metacognition to classroom practices.


Over the past three decades, educators have explored metacognition, noting that self-reflection involves the process of planning, monitoring, and assessing one's own learning (Paris & Paris, 2001; Arabsolghar & Elkins, 2001; Gardner, 1983; Flavell, 1979). This introspective ability is important because it produces the powerful knowledge that enables students to control their learning by demonstrating a conscious application of cognitive strategies. Much debate has centered on whether metacognitive awareness can be taught (Williams et al., 2002; Paris & Paris, 2001; Gardner, 1983). When instruction is direct and well focused, however, the results suggest that gains in practical intelligence are evident (Lambert, 2000; Weir, 1998; Buehl, 1996; Shelley & Thomas, 1996). Very importantly, research by Williams et al. (2002) describes the success of their curriculum intervention program for early adolescents and concludes that "practical intelligence can be identified, assessed, and taught in order to achieve meaningful increases in real-world success in the classroom" (207). This is significant because it encourages the teaching of self-reflective learning strategies, acknowledging that this instruction encourages students to become more aware of their strengths as learners.

Scholarship on the value of metacognitive instruction recognizes the importance of instruction emphasizing higher-order literacy (Greenleaf, Schoenbach, & Mueller, 2001; Paris & Paris, 2001; Thomas & Barksdale-Ladd, 2000; Lifford, Byron & Ziemian, 2000). Researchers know that successful students at all levels of education are self-regulating, having the ability to assess their knowledge and the motivation to review their cognitive processes (Hacker, 1998) and that this ability becomes more important as students get older because of the greater demands of high school and college (Peverly, Brobst, & Morris, 2002; Hoyt & Sorensen, 2001).

Many high school teachers recognize that their students need to move beyond the minimal expectations for completing class assignments into the higher order thinking required by metacognitive awareness (Fritz, 2002; Weir, 1998; Buehl, 1996). Although teachers are concerned with students' abilities to engage in more challenging activities that lead to the cognitive end of becoming skillful, independent learners, many educators seem to be unaware of how to incorporate metacognitive instruction into their lessons. In fact, researchers question how knowledgeable teachers are about metacognition, noting that more than twenty percent of teachers they surveyed indicated that they had not been taught about metacognition (Arabsolghar & Elkins, 2001). Scholarship suggests that teachers need direct instruction on strategies for teaching students to become self-regulating learners (Lifford, Byron & Ziemian, 2000; Ciariello, 1998) and that the teaching of metacognitive skills is frequently overlooked (Shelley & Thomas, 1996). Further, teacher education programs should involve the study of metacognitive awareness because pre-service teachers seldom apply their knowledge of metacognition when working with students in their field experiences (Thomas & Barksdale-Ladd, 2000). …

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