Metacognitive Study Skills

If you’re looking for ways to actually apply metacognitive strategies to enhance learning outcomes, read this article. It’s a gold mine of information about how to recognize metacognitive errors and how to fix them. It discusses problems with learning as they apply specifically to study strategies. This is crucial in my classroom, because of the effect metacognitive skills can have on motivation. As Pierce explains, students attribute failure to their lack of ability, something they can’t change, rather than to their learning skills, which they can change. In addition, underachieving students then tend not to seek help from tutors and other support services because they believe it would not be worth their effort and to deliberately put little effort into their work so they can attribute their failure to lack of effort rather than lack of ability.

As I’ve seen in my classroom, learning metacognitive skills can improve results and lift students out of this self-defeating spiral.

Peirce, W. (2003, January 1). METACOGNITION:Study Strategies, Monitoring, and Motivation. METACOGNITION.

Posted in Instructional Strategies, Learning how to Learn, Motivation, Teaching Process-How to be a student, Teaching Thinking - Metacognition, Problem Solving | Leave a comment

Metacognitive Learning Skills Factsheet

This fact sheet provides a brief discussion about metacognition, dividing metacognitive knowledge in to three categories:

  • Person variables: What you know about your own strengths and weaknesses in learning and processing information.
  • Task variables: What you know about the demands of doing a particular task
  • Strategy variables: The strategies you have for learning

and suggests using a strategy that spans 3 phases to develop metacognitive learning skills:

  • Develop a plan before approaching a learning task
  • Assess understanding throughout the learning process (i.e. formative assessment)
  • Evaluate their thinking against their results after task completed(i.e. in IT, we call it post-project review)

Fact Sheet: Metacognitive Processes

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What is metacognition?

In this article, Michael Martinez clarifies what metacognition is, explores the different dimensions of metacognition and presents ideas about how to teach metacognitive skills. He presents a taxonomy of metacognition that really clarifies the different dimensions of metacognition. He divides metacognitive functioning in to three major categories:

  • Metamemory and Metacomprehension – relates to understanding one’s own knowledge. Metamemory refers to one’s self-awareness about one’s memory (You don’t remember who was at Christmas Dinner and you know you don’t remember), whereas metacomprehension refers to one’s self-awareness about one’s understanding (You don’t understand what you just read and you realize that you don’t understand it.)
  • Problem solving – which he defines as the pursuit of a goal when the path to the goal is uncertain
  • Critical thinking – the ability to assess whether an idea or message is valid by assessing whether it is clear, logical, rational, coherent, whether there is any evidence, and whether the analysis is convincing

Lastly, he provides some recommendations about teaching metacognitive skills in the classroom. I found this article not only answered the question of what metacognition is, but helped clarify its dimensions so that I could further sort my thinking (and my resources) about metacognition.

What is Metacognition? by Michael Martinez

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Emotions and Thinking

When this topic first came up, I thought immediately it would be all about how to handle emotional students, but instead we delved in to how emotions play a role in not only how you learn, but how you think. For people recovering from addiction in a Recovery House – which is where I teach – learning about how they think and how this shapes their habits is what they spend a significant part of their time at, which leads to some very insightful comments around the coffee table. I found myself fascinated by the topic and eager to learn more. Here is an interesting resource about the topic.


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Introverts, Extroverts and Groups

This article provides practical advice about how to distinguish between introverts and extroverts and how to facilitate groups that include both.

How to Facilitate Introverts and Extroverts in Your Group or Class

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Problem Solving – Worthwhile Problems

Developing problem solving skills is a fundamental part of learning math. This article explores the issues around teaching problem solving in the math classroom, pointing out that students learn problem solving skills slowly but that problem solving skills should be integrated in to every math class. It also recommends using “Worthwhile problems” instead of simple ones for teaching both mathematical concepts and problem solving skills. For a similar idea, see my post about Dan Meyer’s Patient Problem Solving.

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (2014). Why is Teaching With Problem Solving Important to Student Learning? Brief.  from National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:

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Metacognition in Action

If we don’t ‘think about our thinking,’ we won’t learn from our mistakes or from our successes. We’ll always start from scratch when we face a problem. By using metacognition, we’ll be able to more effectively apply what we learn now to the future.” Read the Article.

An Effective Five-Minute Lesson On Metacognition

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Learning how to Study

In 3250, one of our forum discussions was on learning how to learn, a component of which is learning how to be a student – how to read for comprehension, how to listen for comprehension, how to take effective notes, and other technical skills you need to acquire to be an effective and efficient student. I think it’s important to make distinction between metacognition – thinking about thinking and academic skills – thinking about learning and so I’ve divided the topic along these lines. These articles are specifically about academic skills such as learning how to motivate yourself, take notes, study, manage your time as opposed to covering topics such as understanding your motivation or recognizing the impact of your emotions on your thinking processes. For more on these topics, see Teaching Thinking category.

I read many articles on the subject of academic skills. Below are the ones I thought were most useful.

  • Learning to Learn: Metacognition – Do these exercises to learn more about how you learn
  • Metacognitive note taking – A useful article about how to take useful notes, notes that capture both the content of the lecture and your understanding of the material.
  • Effective Note Taking Strategies – If you’ve ever wondered if you should take notes, you should know that researchers found that important information in notes had a 34% chance of being remembered, while important information not written down had only a 5% chance of being remembered. Here’s a short hand out on effective note taking.
  • Top 10 Study Tips for Busy Adult Learners – Here’s some smart tips on how to be a successful student
  • How to get the most of studying: A video series   This is a series of 5 videos that cover how your beliefs can undermine your learning, how you learn series, principles of optimizing learning, applying learning optimization and a better response to blowing the test.
  • Metacognition  This is a helpful little video that introduces the concept of analyzing how you learn. Think of it as metacognition applied to studying and doing well in school.


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Problem solving with retrograde analysis

They always say that you win at chess by being a few moves ahead of your opponent. In this video, chess grandmaster Maurice Ashley talks about some of the strategies chess players use to do that, specifically,

  • Chunking – taking a group of positions and seeing what possibilities are there, the divide and conquer method
  • Pattern recognition – looking for patterns you recognize
  • Stepping-stone method – freeze frame the position and try to guess the next possible moves
  • Retrograde analysis – work backwards. From where you want to go, try to see where you would have had to be to get there, or as he puts it, from the end game, look backwards.

These are all useful strategies in chess because they help you to eliminate the moves that will have a low possibility of success so you can concentrate on higher percentage strategies. The one Ashely likes is retrograde analysis, figuring out where you have to be in the last step before where you want to be. He gives a lot of examples of how to use this strategy to solve problems, but his best advice is to apply this to your life when you’re young so that you end up where you want to be when you’re old.

Working backward to solve problems – Maurice Ashley

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Flipped Learning

If you’re interested in learning more about the Flipped Classroom idea, this is a good article to get you started. The Flipped Classroom model grew out of an idea two Colorado chemistry teachers had to help students who had other commitments (probably basketball games or the like), keep up with their studies. They started recording lections and demonstrations for them and posting them on YouTube. It turned out to be a great idea for all students because those that missed class could view the material that was covered. But, it also improved the performance of other students, probably because it allowed the advanced students to zoom ahead and provided review for the students who needed it. It also freed up class time for the teachers to work individually with students, because they didn’t have to spend the time giving a lecture.

The paper provides a thorough explanation of the flipped classroom model. It defines flipped learning, explains what is required – the four pillars and provides a good survey of the research done in to the flipped classroom model, from elementary to post-secondary schools.

A review of Flipped Learning


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