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Metacognition

is the ability to be aware of and regulate one’s thought processes, which may improve one’s ability to effectively process information. Consider the benefits of being

more

aware of your own learning needs and how it might affect both your personal and

professional

goals.

In your initial post, discuss the following:

How could an increased awareness of information processing, your learning preferences (versus a specific style), and your attention and self-regulation strategies potentially affect your performance in your academic journey?

How will an increased awareness of information processing, your learning your learning preferences (versus a specific style), and your attention to self-regulation strategies impact your career development?

When considering your career goals, how might you apply your increased understanding of how we learn? (In your organization? Your community? Your volunteer efforts?)

Did you learn anything important about yourself through the process of learning about learning?

What did you learn about your peers in the class through the process of learning about learning?

How will you apply what you have learned about yourself in your future learning activities (whether you are the learner or the instructor in these activities)?

Do you agree or disagree that by applying the elements of metacognition into your studies, you will improve your ability to learn

more

effectively?

8
Owning Our Learning
Experiences
Jacob Ammentorp Lund/iStock/Thinkstock
Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter, you should be able to do the following:
• Describe metacognition and how it is developed.
• Explain strategies that can be used to support metacognitive development.
• Identify challenges of measuring metacognition in aging populations.
• Explain the relationship between metacognition and self-regulated learning.
• Describe self-regulated learning strategies.
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Introduction

Introduction
Have you ever:
• set personal goals for a long- or short-term project?
• reflected on the best strategies and steps to accomplish your goals?
• identified behaviors that were hindering successful knowledge acquisition?
• adjusted information to better fit your learning preferences?
• evaluated your personal strategies for learning?
These questions represent how an awareness of one’s own learning can be used to support
knowledge acquisition. They highlight the roles of self-analysis and self-correction in the process for increased learning success, which is addressed in discussions about metacognition and
self-regulation. Research has suggested that each of these variables supports the processes for
increased awareness of our own abilities, needs, and subsequent successes. Metacognition is
the ability to be aware of and regulate one’s thought processes. Self-regulation is the process
of monitoring and managing one’s thoughts and behaviors and, as mentioned in Chapter 5, is
a key variable associated with some motivational theories. As these two definitions suggest,
metacognition and self-regulation are intertwined in that one must first develop an honest selfawareness, before successful self-monitoring can take place. For example, when one begins to
learn something new, it is important to reflect on one’s goals and what variables might affect
the process and one’s subsequent success. Some people might find that sounds are distracting
when they are working. Others might find it difficult to remember verbal instructions and are
more comfortable with written guidance. In both of these examples, if the learners are more
aware of what they can do to support their personal success (e.g., studying in a quiet area or
reading through documented instructions), then they can increase their likelihood of successful knowledge acquisition.
Steiner (2014) has indicated that a successfully self-aware adult learner is one who:
• has an independent self-concept;
• can direct their own learning;
• has accumulated a reservoir of life experiences that can be a resource;
• has learning needs closely related to changing social roles;
• is problem-centered and interested in immediate application of knowledge; and
• is internally, rather than externally, motivated to learn. (para. 2)
If one does not have self-awareness skills, thinking can be distorted by self-deception—a
thought process that can lead to misinformation, which can create miscommunications
and inaccurate learning. Adults with less developed self-awareness can often display
self-deception. (See Applying Skeptical Inquiry: Self-Deception to learn more about selfdeception studies conducted by Dr. Cortney Warren.) This distorted thinking negatively
affects cognitive awareness, causing individuals to potentially avoid negative feelings and
emotions. A lack of self-awareness can affect one’s behaviors and often leads to feedback
avoidance, which then affects what is attended to during information processing (Steiner,
2014). In addition, this distorted thinking can support the development of inaccurate
memories. (Remember the discussion about false memory development in Chapter 3?) It’s
easy to say that we are self-aware, but, as you read this chapter, you might find that true
self-awareness is more complex.
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Introduction

How self-aware do you think you are? Are you selfaware in every area of your life and regarding all
your behaviors? Self-awareness is a concept that
may be more difficult to accommodate to your
own knowledge about learning because it directly
affects, and questions, your current mindsets. But if
we are more aware of our metacognition and selfregulation processes, we can begin to understand
how these areas can affect successful knowledge
acquisition.
The topics covered in this chapter will also help
you put the information provided in the previDo you regularly use a planner or
ous chapters into perspective, elaborating on how
organizer to remember due dates and
learners can improve their learning efficiency. In
future events or to keep track of a to-do
the previous chapters, you discovered that associalist? Do you learn more effectively in a
tions, responses to stimuli, memory development,
quiet or a busy environment? Tracking
cognitive processes, emotions, our attentiveness,
how you learn, remember information,
our learning preferences, and even intelligence (IQ,
or regulate your time is important for
EI, and MI) can all affect how we learn and how we
developing self-awareness skills.
learn most effectively. Prior discussions have even
mentioned specific connections to self-awareness
(sections 2.3, 2.4, 5.4, 6.3, and 7.3), metacognition (5.1, 5.4, and 6.3), and self-regulation (sections 5.1, 5.4, 7.1, and 7.3). However, knowing how to blend these ideas into learning strategies can be more difficult. The topics in this chapter will help you improve your understanding and application of metacognition and self-regulation. An increased awareness about how
you think, what you know, and what you have learned will help you apply information about
learning to your personal and professional life in a more effective and fulfilling way.
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Applying Skeptical Inquiry: Self-Deception
Dr. Cortney Warren, the author of Lies We Tell Ourselves: The Psychology of Self-Deception
(2014), discusses an interesting perspective, explaining how and why humans lie to
themselves. The content suggests that recognizing and acknowledging our self-deceptive
tendencies can help us change and grow—to take responsibility for our actions and make
better choices. This awareness can also influence your goals to become a metacognitive and
self-regulated learner. Watch Dr. Warren’s TEDx Talk, “Honest Liars—The Psychology of SelfDeception,” to learn more about self-deception.

Questions
1.
2.
Does Dr. Warren’s talk induce any “aha” moments when you reflect on your own selftalk? Your own rationales?
Do you have behaviors that are consistent or inconsistent with something you
learned as a child?
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Section 8.1
Metacognition
8.1 Metacognition
Have you ever intentionally wondered about how you think, process, or strategize? If so, you have
been applying metacognition, a key component for becoming a self-regulated learner (Harris &
Graham, 1999; Schraw, Crippen, & Hartley, 2006; Zimmerman, 2002; Zimmerman, Bonner, &
Kovach, 2002). The word metacognition is composed of two parts: meta- and cognition. Metahas numerous meanings, but in this case, it refers to an acute analysis of something; cognition refers to the process of knowledge acquisition involving thoughts, experiences, and senses
(which we discussed in Chapters 2, 3, and 4). Thus,
metacognition represents thinking about thinking at
a deeper, more critical level.
Flavell (1976) defined metacognition broadly as
“one’s knowledge concerning one’s own cognitive
processes or anything related to them” (p. 232).
When an individual is applying metacognition successfully, this suggests that he or she is exercising an
awareness and management of his or her own cognitive processes. When a person manages his or her
Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock
cognitive processing, which may include awareness Evaluating how you learned and
of performance or the application of strategies, he or processed certain information or a
she is applying metacognitive regulation. For exam- specific task is using metacognition.
ple, when members of a football team view a video
of the previous night’s game, they often critically consider what they did well, what should be
improved, and what did not work at all, so that the team can improve its performance at the
next game. The same could be said about other learning contexts. When a person performs a
learned task and considers what processes were applied, what was successful or not successful, and which strategies did not work, these analyses provide the learner with opportunities to
determine what he or she can do to more effectively support his or her learning outcomes.
You can use these descriptions of metacognition to hypothesize about what learners can do to
be more aware of their own metacognitions. What does it mean to be aware? How can learners become more knowledgeable about how they utilize attention, memory, perception, and
thinking when learning? For example, if you noticed that you had more difficulty understanding
the information about cognitivism than behaviorism, then you are applying metacognition. Or
maybe you noticed that the presence of background noise while you were reading the content
about cognitivism negatively affected the attention you needed to retain the information that
you were reading. This is also an example of metacognition. However, research has suggested
that such metacognitive judgments, or personal evaluations of one’s own learning, can be
inaccurate at times (Kratzig & Arbuthnott, 2006). Thus, skeptical inquiry about metacognition,
with an acute awareness of possible self-deceptions, and how it does or does not support effective learning is essential. (Dr. Saundra McGuire provides a brief description of metacognition in
Reinforcing Your Understanding: Thinking About Thinking.)
Over the last decade, researchers have studied the use of metacognition in many domains, such
as academic performance (Coutinho, 2008), child development (Wellman, 1985), and nursing
management (Jang, Ryu, Kim, Chung, & Kim, 2007). The series of excerpts in this section is from
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Metacognition
Section 8.1
Darling-Hammond, Austin, Cheung, and Martin (2016). These authors further explain the concept of metacognition and discuss two distinct areas: metacognitive regulation and metacognitive knowledge. In addition, they explain how metacognition relates to learning and the strategies that can be employed to support our learning.
Reinforcing Your Understanding: Thinking About Thinking
Dr. Saundra McGuire, vice chancellor for learning, teaching, and retention at Louisiana State
University, discusses metacognition. She explains what it is, why it is important, and how to
use the strategy of metacognition, which allows you to analyze what you’re doing and how
you’re thinking about it, in your own knowledge acquisition.

Excerpts from “Thinking About Thinking: Metacognition”
By L. Darling-Hammond, K. Austin, M. Cheung, and D. Martin
“Going Meta”
[. . .] Simply put, metacognition means “thinking about one’s own thinking.” There are two
aspects of metacognition: (1) reflection—thinking about what we know, and (2) self-regulation—managing how we go about learning. Taken together, these processes make up an
important aspect of learning and development. Developing these metacognitive abilities is
not simply about becoming reflective learners, but about acquiring specific learning strategies as well.
Research has shown that one of the key traits good problem-solvers possess is highly developed metacognitive skills. They know how to recognize flaws or gaps in their own thinking,
articulate their thought processes, and revise their efforts (Brown, Bransford, Ferrara, & Campione, 1983). As adults, we actively engage in these skills in our everyday thinking. We decide
what method to use to solve a problem or when to ask for help. We use metacognitive skills to
help us decide which elements we understand and which we do not understand. In short, we
direct our own learning. Students and novices often lack these skills or fail to recognize when
to use them (Flavell & Wellman, 1977). As educators, it is important for us to help foster the
development of metacognitive skills in students. These are skills that will help students learn
how to learn.
Sometimes people use the phrase “going meta” when talking about metacognition, referring
to the process of stepping back to see what you are doing, as if you were someone else observing it. “Going meta” means becoming an audience for your own performance—in this case,
your own intellectual performance. When a person is learning to play golf, for example, seeing a videotape of her own swing can help her to understand what she is doing well and what
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Metacognition
Section 8.1
she is doing poorly. Typically, we do not know what we are doing when we do it, but it is very
hard to improve a process that we are engaged in if we do not have a sense of what we are
doing in the moment. Even a skilled professional ballet dancer relies on mirrors to help him
understand what he looks like and what he is doing as he dances. He has to be able to see
his performance as others might see it before he can begin to improve it. The ability to view
our own performance is particularly useful when we learn physical skills. However, cognitive
work is often invisible and cannot be directly observed.
How do we help students become thoughtful about their own performance as they are learning to reason about mathematics and history? The challenge is helping students learn how to
“go meta” in regard to thought processes that are not directly visible in order to improve their
cognitive performances. [. . .]
Early Ideas About Metacognition
Although the word metacognition did not come into common use until the 1970s, when it was
introduced by psychologist John Flavell, the notion of reflecting about one’s thinking can be
found in writings dating back to Plato, who emphasized the importance of reflecting through
dialogue. John Dewey, often considered the father of progressive education, viewed reflection
as a central part of active learning. Dewey observed:
As long as our activity glides smoothly along from one thing to another . . .
there is no call for reflection. Difficulty or obstruction in the way of reaching a
belief brings us, however, to a pause. In the suspense of uncertainty, we metaphorically climb a tree; we try to find some standpoint from which we may
survey additional facts and, getting a more commanding view of the situation,
decide how the facts stand related to one another. (Dewey, 1933, p. 14)
Both Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky described the role of metacognition in cognitive development. In his research with 7- to 11-year-olds, Piaget demonstrated children’s ability to verbalize the processes they used in completing a task and the ways in which they were aware of
their thinking. He called this awareness “consciousness of cognizance,” which maps closely to
our notion of metacognition. Vygotsky further explored these ideas in his research about the
child’s “inner voice,” or the process of verbalizing internal thoughts as a way to make sense
of something. Articulating internal thoughts out loud not only helps a student learn, but can
demonstrate an awareness of the learning process—both important aspects of metacognition
as we define it today. [. . .]
Two Components of Metacognition
Metacognition is most commonly broken down into two distinct but interrelated areas. John
Flavell, one of the first researchers in metacognition and memory, defined these two areas
as metacognitive knowledge—awareness of one’s thinking—and metacognitive regulation—
the ability to manage one’s own thinking processes. These two components are used together
to inform learning theory.
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Section 8.1
Metacognition
Metacognitive Knowledge—Reflecting on What We Know
Students have thoughts, notions, and intuitions about their own knowledge and thinking. Flavell (1979) describes three kinds of metacognitive knowledge:
• Awareness of knowledge—understanding what one knows, what one does not know,
and what one wants to know. (“I know that I understand that plants need sunlight
but I do not know why.”) This category may also include an awareness of others’
knowledge. (“I know that Sarah understands long division, so I’ll ask her to explain
this problem to me.”)
• Awareness of thinking—understanding cognitive tasks and the nature of what is
required to complete them. (“I know that reading this newspaper article will be
easier for me than reading my textbook.”)
• Awareness of thinking strategies—understanding approaches to directing learning. (“I am having difficulty reading this article. I should summarize what I just read
before going on.”) [. . .]
Metacognitive Regulation—Directing Our Learning
When a student has information about her thinking (metacognitive knowledge), she is able
to use this information to direct or regulate her learning. This kind of metacognition is also
referred to as executive control. Just as a business executive manages and oversees activities in a company, executive control can be thought of as managing and overseeing one’s own
thinking. For example, if an individual who performs poorly on a task evaluates his or her
behaviors to understand why the desired result was not achieved, then he or she could use
this analysis to create a plan to improve the behaviors.
Metacognitive regulation involves the ability to
think strategically and to problem solve, plan,
set goals, organize ideas, and evaluate what
is known and not known. It also involves the
ability to teach to others and make the thinking process visible.
Ann Brown and her colleagues (1983) describe
three ways we direct our own learning:
• Planning approaches to tasks—identifying the problem, choosing strategies, organizing our thoughts, and
predicting outcomes;
• Monitoring activities during learning—testing, revising, and evaluating
the effectiveness of our strategies; and
• Checking outcomes—evaluating the
outcomes against specific criteria of
efficiency and effectiveness.
Ibrakovic/iStock/Thinkstock
A student who reflects on what she learned
or how she performed on an exam could
use metacognitive regulation to determine
her next steps. For example, if she failed an
exam, she could hire a tutor or carve out
more study time to better prepare for the
next test.
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Metacognition
Section 8.1
Learning how to be mindful of one’s process and how to think strategically about a task can
make problem solving more efficient. The strategic essay writer knows how to plan his central
thesis and supporting points, rather than simply writing thoughts in a stream of consciousness, just as the strategic mathematics student is able to step back and consider different
approaches to a problem, rather than trying all the possible numbers that might give a correct answer. Such learners are accustomed to monitoring their work as they are working: “Am
I making my points clear and understandable?” “Am I getting closer to a solution or farther
away?” They also look back on their work to evaluate their own success: “Have I convinced
my reader?” “Does this solution make sense?” Learning how to monitor one’s own thinking
process can enable the learner to self-correct, rather than always relying on others to be the
audience and sounding board for one’s work. [. . .]
Good metacognitive thinkers are also good intentional learners. That is, they are able to direct
their learning in the proper ways to build understanding. They know when to use strategies
and how to use them (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1989). They are able to redirect the normal
frustration that occurs when things are confusing or are not initially productive into further
learning and research strategies. Teachers can help students become intentional learners by
helping them manage uncertainty, redirect their efforts productively, and persevere when
they get frustrated. Teachers can do this by modeling and discussing aloud their thinking process when they themselves approach uncertain tasks (“I am thinking I could try this approach
or that approach. Let’s see what happens if I try this one”), as well as what they do when they
hit a snag or dead end. They can also monitor students as they work to catch them at points
when they need encouragement or are becoming frustrated and need a new strategy. The
ability to work strategically can be taught and must be learned if students are to succeed at
being self-directed learners throughout their lives. [. . .]
Strategies for Learning
To have increased success, students must become more aware about how to incorporate
active reflection in their learning. They must observe and scaffold the processes of reflection, questioning, evaluating, and other thinking strategies that may not come naturally. The
strategies below include opportunities to reflect on learning and to learn to regulate or direct
one’s work:
• Predicting outcomes—Predicting helps learners to better understand what kinds of
information they might need to successfully solve a problem. Prediction also helps
learners compare their initial thoughts with the final outcomes of a problem or
experiment.
• Evaluating work—Learners should review their work and determine where the
strengths and weaknesses are in their work and their thinking. [. . .]
• Self-assessing—Learners should reflect on their learning and determine how well
they have learned something or how their skills have developed.
• Self-questioning—Learners should use questions to check their own knowledge
as they are learning. When they have learned to ask questions (of themselves or of
others) while they work, they intentionally direct their thinking and clarify the areas
where they need assistance.
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Metacognition
Section 8.1
• Selecting strategies—Learners should determine which strategies are useful for
a given task. Strategy selection may depend on understanding one’s own learning
style and strengths as well as understanding the features of a problem.
• Using directed or selective thinking—Learners should choose consciously to follow a
specific line of thinking or structured approach in order to find an answer.
• Using discourse—Learners should discuss ideas with each other and their teacher,
trainer, or mentor. This process makes thinking more concrete and helps them to
learn to ask questions, identify gaps in their own knowledge, and learn from others’
thoughts and ideas.
• Critiquing—Learners should provide feedback to their peers about their work in a
constructive way. This process allows those who are giving feedback to practice verbalizing their own thinking and those who are receiving feedback to improve their
own thinking process and performance.
• Revising—Learners should return to their work after receiving feedback. This
opportunity allows them to update their thinking and to check their use of learning
strategies. [. . .]
Source: Darling-Hammond, L., Austin, K., Cheung, M., & Martin, D. (2016). Thinking about
thinking: Metacognition. The Learning Classroom: Theory Into Practice. Used with permission
by Annenberg Learner: www.learner.org
A deeper understanding of metacognition can
help us better understand how we learn and
identify strategies that can lead to more effective learning. As with constructivism frameworks (Chapter 5), metacognition offers strategies to support the learner by giving him or her
more autonomy and a sense of efficacy during
the learning process. However, one cannot just
say “I know about metacognitive skills” and see
improvement in his or her learning process.
One must purposefully use strategies (e.g., idenMonkeybusinessimages/iStock/Thinkstock tify one’s goals, increase discourse about the
One way to increase success in learning is
learning components, or self-evaluate the facto instigate or participate in discussion,
tors that could better support one’s learning).
whether it’s with classmates, a teacher,
The next step is to practice using such skills.
coworkers, or family members. Asking
For example, if a new employee effectively selfquestions and gaining insights from different evaluates the successes and challenges that
people can help a person discover something occur during each work day, he or she would
new or change the way he or she thinks
be more apt to also consider what variables
about a topic.
may have affected these situations, supporting
the increased application of the behaviors that
offered him or her the most success (e.g., making sales calls first thing in the morning rather than
in the afternoon to support his or her physiological preference for mornings). As the employee
continues to practice self-evaluation, it becomes a natural part of his or her cognitive processing. Applying Skeptical Inquiry: Do You Effectively Utilize Metacognition? encourages you to
start thinking about how you can use metacognition more intentionally. In section 8.2, we will
discover the ways in which we can apply and encourage others to apply metacognitive skills.
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Section 8.2
Applied Metacognition
Applying Skeptical Inquiry: Do You Effectively Utilize
Metacognition?
Consider the information you just read about metacognition. Now ask yourself the following
questions about the content:
Reflection and Collaboration
In your own words, what do you think about what self-regulated learning and
metacognition tell us about learning more effectively?
Self-Reflection
If someone told you that metacognition was not a valid construct for learning
more effectively, how might you defend what you know to be true?
Why does metacognition make sense or not make sense to you?
Reasoning
Why should you assume that self-regulatory learning will improve learning
effectiveness?
How could you prove that becoming self-aware can improve your ability to
learn successfully?
Analysis
What evidence might prove to you that self-regulation does not promote
effective learning?
Connections
What real-life events could be applicable to self-awareness deception?
What ideas about self-awareness, self-regulated learning, and metacognition
make most sense to you?
Learners who are metacognitive will often ask themselves these types of reflective,
reasoning, analysis, and connection questions when they are learning new information.
Questions
1.
2.
3.
Did you ask yourself these questions as you read the material, before you tried this
exercise?
Why might asking yourself questions as you read be beneficial for your learning?
In what ways could you better apply metacognition to your own learning practices?
8.2 Applied Metacognition
Although metacognition must be honed by the learner, it’s a skill that can be taught to children, coworkers, students, or even clients. This indicates that one’s metacognition can change.
Learning how to help yourself and others develop this skill is just as important as understanding what metacognition is from a broader perspective. How might you apply metacognition
in your life?
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Applied Metacognition
Section 8.2
Darling-Hammond and colleagues (2016) have suggested that we “become more efficient and
powerful in our learning” through the utilization of metacognition (p. 159). As mentioned in
section 8.1, we use metacognition when we
• predict outcomes
• evaluate work
• self-assess
• self-question
• select strategies
• think selectively
• discourse
• critique
• revise
The next series of excerpts is from Darling-Hammond, Austin, Cheung, and Martin (2016). The
content provides strategies for helping children develop metacognitive skills and discusses how
metacognition can be used in classroom environments. Though young learners are the focus in
these excerpts, the discussions demonstrate how these skills can be encouraged by facilitators
of learning, whether the facilitator is a teacher, parent, counselor, or trainer. The reading also
clarifies that “going meta” is an intentional practice. The learner must invoke the process, but a
guide can help the learner develop and successfully apply the practice, affecting his or her ability
to become a self-regulated learner, which will be discussed further in section 8.3.
Excerpts from “Thinking About Thinking: Metacognition”
By L. Darling-Hammond, K. Austin, M. Cheung, and D. Martin
[. . .] Metacognitive strategies help us become more efficient and powerful in our learning
because they help us to find information, evaluate when we need additional resources, and
understand when to apply different approaches to problems. When children begin to master
these strategies—and learn when, how, and why to use them—they are able to learn more
effectively and intentionally (Brown, 1997). These strategies grow increasingly flexible and
useful the more they are used and understood. How and when do these strategies develop?
Development of Metacognitive Strategies in Children
Research suggests that metacognitive capabilities develop over time and depend upon a
knowledge base (Brown & DeLoache, 1978). Without knowledge of the domain of mathematics, for instance, young children would have difficulty directing their thinking about how to
solve a mathematical word problem. Young children build their knowledge base through concrete experiences with physical materials that they manipulate. When language is used to
describe their experiences (“Oh look, you have two stones. Now you have three!”) children
develop concepts that, with feedback and instruction, aggregate into more systematic knowledge. In areas in which children do have a knowledge base, they are quite capable of regulating their thinking in a variety of ways.
Before they learn metacognitive strategies, children do not use tactics like planning their work
or monitoring their own problem solving. They do not realize that they can use strategies
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Section 8.2
Applied Metacognition
and shortcuts to help them solve problems. This is
not to say that young children do not have metacognitive capabilities. A classic research example
involves 3-year-olds who were asked to remember
which cup a toy was placed under. Children were
able to spontaneously use a number of strategies,
like placing a hand on the cup, or moving the cups
around to help them remember the location. They
were able to use strategies to help them think and
remember, evidence that even very young children
can be purposeful in their activity (Wellman, Ritter,
& Flavell, 1975).
LeventKonuk/iStock/Thinkstock
Children learn in tangible ways before
they develop metacognitive strategies.
Counting blocks or practicing
memorization helps children develop
learning strategies.
The more children learn about general strategies for
learning in specific contexts, the better they become
at using them across domains. As John Bransford
and colleagues observe, “The broader the range of
strategies that children know and can appreciate
where they apply, the more precisely they can shape their approaches to the demands of a
particular circumstance” (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000, p. 100). [. . .]
A Culture of Metacognition in the Classroom
A number of conditions support a metacognitive classroom environment. Learning environments that are knowledge-centered and learner-centered, and that take into account the
role of assessment in learning, lay the foundation for a reflective classroom (Bransford et al.,
2000). Knowledge-centered classrooms focus on meaningful, powerful, nontrivial activities. When students are asked to engage in activities that build on their previous knowledge,
challenge them with complex tasks, and require active sense-making (decision-making
based on situational awareness), they are more likely to see the utility of being reflective and
strategic learners. In such classrooms, students need access to procedural knowledge—How
are you going to do this and be successful?—as well as conditional knowledge—When is this
going to be useful to you?
Learner-centered classrooms take into account students’ current knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs:
If teaching is conceived as constructing a bridge between the subject matter and the student, learner-centered teachers keep a constant eye on both
ends of the bridge. The teachers attempt to get a sense of what students know
and can do as well as their interests and passions—what each student knows,
cares about, is able to do, and wants to do. (Bransford et al., 2000, p. 136)
Metacognitive activities that ask students to reflect on what they know, care about, and are
able to do not only help learners develop an awareness of themselves, but also give learnercentered teachers valuable information for their instruction.
It is important for teachers to give students opportunities to reflect on their learning
because it is often difficult for them to realize what they are doing both when they succeed
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Section 8.2
and when they fail. If a person hits a golf ball and he sees the ball has landed 2 feet to the
left of the tee, he has good evidence that there was something wrong with his swing. But he
still needs some way of analyzing and looking at his swing, or he will not learn how to hit
the ball so that it goes 200 yards and straight down the middle. Similarly, if a student writes
two essays and gets an A on one of them and a C on the other, he might not understand
what he did on the A essay that was different from the C essay. Thus, it is important for the
teacher to assist the student in reflecting on his own performance. Without this assistance,
he will not know how to improve. Metacognition involves taking what we learn in one situation and transforming it into a level of understanding that is much more likely to transfer
to another situation.
Developing a culture of metacognition in the classroom—where students are encouraged
to develop this kind of awareness—begins with making the purpose of learning activities
and the goals for performance clear to students. Most of us would not leave for a trip without having some sense of our destination. Our destination affects how we prepare, what
we pack, and the kind of experience we want to have. However, in schools, it is often more
apparent to the teacher than to her students why they are learning something. A teacher can
encourage students to “go meta” in their learning by informing her students what the journey is about, why they are taking this journey, what she expects of them, and what tools they
will need to help them get there successfully and enjoy the experience.
Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock
In the learner-centered classroom,
teachers give students prompt feedback,
encourage them while they learn, and
emphasize reflection on what was
learned.
Assessment based on clear standards and criteria
is critical to this process. Formative assessment—
opportunities for immediate feedback in the midst
of an activity—is one way to help students learn
from their learning. Students as well as teachers
can provide such feedback. As students engage
in activities and projects that require metacognitive thinking, they need frequent feedback about
whether or not their thinking is effective and useful to their learning. Self-assessment, peer assessment, and teacher assessment using rubrics that
describe the essential elements of a strong performance can give students concrete and specific
information about their work, which helps them
further direct their own learning and deepen their
understanding (Brown et al., 1983).
Self-assessments serve multiple purposes. Not only do they give students practice in reflecting on their own work, they also help teachers learn about how to help their students. As
a teacher listens to his students’ thinking about how they are learning and where they are
struggling, the teacher has the opportunity to think critically about how to improve his own
teaching so as to support the students’ immediate needs. Brigid Barron and her colleagues
observe:
An emphasis on self-assessment helps students to develop the ability to monitor their own understanding and to find resources to deepen it when necessary. . . . Learners get opportunities to test their mettle, to see how they are
doing and to revise their learning process as necessary. Without these assessment opportunities, the quality of learning can be disappointing—yet, [too
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Applied Metacognition
Section 8.2
often] this is not discovered until the end of the project when it is too late to
change and revise the process. (Barron et al., 1998, p. 284)
Metacognitive learning is supported by a culture that encourages and recognizes the importance of revision. When students are given feedback with the purpose of redirecting and
revising their work—rather than simply to assign a grade—they have the opportunity to
revisit their work with a greater understanding. When a teacher provides clear expectations
in terms of how she evaluates student work and provides models and examples that give
students a sense of the goals they are striving for, students are empowered to take on more
responsibility and ownership in their learning. The key to high-quality work is no longer a
mystery; expectations and goals are clear. Students are also more motivated to succeed when
they can see concrete pathways to improvement.
Many of the metacognitive skills described here are used when working with others. When
students collaborate and interact with one another, they must regulate the ways they explain
what they know and also be aware of their classmates’ knowledge. Students must ask such
questions as, “What do you know that I don’t know?” or “How can I explain what I know to you
so you will understand?” Classroom activities that encourage such exchanges, like group discussions, group problem solving, or reciprocal teaching, can provide opportunities for making internal thoughts external and building metacognitive awareness. [. . .]
Classroom activities that call on these metacognitive strategies take many forms and vary
depending on the topic. Generally, however, activities like journaling (where students keep a
journal in which they reflect on what they understand, what they are learning, and what they
do not understand), process reflection (where students reflect on their process of learning,
including what worked and what did not work for them), or self-assessment (where students
assess their own work against standards or criteria for quality) are all ways of activating
metacognitive skills. They all require that students consider their own thinking and how they
acquired their knowledge. [. . .]
Teachers can model thinking strategies by reflecting on their own processes as learners. They
can make transparent for students the processes they themselves use and can ask students to
display and discuss their own learning strategies for the class. For example, by demonstrating
on a screen how to examine a microbe under a microscope and by talking aloud about his process, a biology teacher can make visible processes that would not be obvious from observation alone. Similarly, by the teacher asking lab teams to brief the class on their processes and
findings, students can get access to many different approaches, which can provide different
“hooks” into the material.
It is also important for teachers to reflect on their own teaching with their students and with
other teachers. Modeling reflective processes such as thinking aloud about strategic decisions
(“Should we move on to the next topic, or have we not yet fully explored this one?”), evaluating one’s own work (“How well did I structure those groups?”), and making underlying
thoughts visible (“Here’s how I thought about grading these papers.”) contributes to a climate
of “going meta” on everyday tasks. [. . .]
Source: Darling-Hammond, L., Austin, K., Cheung, M., & Martin, D. (2016). Thinking about
thinking: Metacognition. The Learning Classroom: Theory Into Practice. Used with permission
by Annenberg Learner: www.learner.org
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Applied Metacognition
Section 8.2
Metacognition and Aging
In the previous section, we discussed variables that affect metacognitive development in children, but what happens during the aging process? The effects of aging are all too often obvious
to loved ones and friends of older adults, but what does the research suggest about changes in
metacognition that might occur as we age? There have been numerous studies about metacognition in relation to a person’s life span (Hertzog & Hultsch, 2000). Older adults are of special
interest among researchers because such individuals are susceptible to memory degeneration
(Hertzog & Dunlosky, 2011). In addition, there is evidence that older adults are often overconfident in their abilities (Dodson, Bawa, & Krueger, 2007; Hansson, Rönnlund, Juslin, & Nilsson,
2008). Investigations strive to find ways to counteract such age-related phenomena.
The study of judgments of learning is one area of interest among researchers who evaluate connections between the aging process and metacognition (Dunlosky & Metcalfe, 2009; Hertzog,
Dunlosky, Powell-Moman, & Kidder, 2002; Robinson, Hertzog, & Dunlosky, 2006). Judgments of
learning (JOLs) are individuals’ personal evaluations of how well they learned. For example,
if a person is asked upon graduation if he or she is prepared to work in the field of psychology,
his or her judgment about this readiness may or may not be accurate. In fact, research has
suggested that an individual’s ability to successfully encode information is the moderator of
successful JOLs (Hertzog, Dunlosky, Robinson, & Kidder, 2003). Further research has suggested
that, when compared with younger adults, older adults have similar abilities to recall information (Haber, 2012; Halamish, McGillivray, & Castel, 2011). These opposing findings reflect how
difficult it can be to identify clear details about degenerative, age-related cognitive processing.
The next series of excerpt s is from Palmer, David, and Fleming (2014). The authors consider how
metacognitive regulation and knowledge might change as we age.
Excerpts from “Effects of Age on Metacognitive Efficiency”
By E. C. Palmer, A. S. David, and S. M. Fleming
Effects of Aging
[. . .] There is some debate as to whether metacognition changes as we age. On the one hand,
we might expect greater life experience leads to more accurate self-knowledge and greater
metacognitive efficiency. On the other hand, convergent evidence has revealed a specific neural basis for metacognitive efficiency in the human prefrontal and parietal cortex (Fleming,
Huijgen, & Dolan, 2012; Fleming, Weil, Nagy, Dolan, & Rees, 2010; McCurdy et al., 2013; Rounis, Maniscalco, Rothwell, Passingham, & Lau, 2010; Yokoyama et al., 2010) regions of the
brain, which are also highly susceptible to aging-related atrophy (Raz et al., 2005; Resnick,
Pham, Kraut, Zonderman, & Davatzikos, 2003), and therefore metacognitive efficiency may
be expected to decrease as we age. Such a hypothesis is consistent with reports that lack of
awareness of cognitive, physical, and perceptual abilities in healthy older adults can be problematic in everyday life. Hertzog and Hultsch (2000) demonstrated that there are notable
changes in self-appraisal as we age, and these tend to center on inaccuracies regarding beliefs
about cognitive ability and control over cognition. Older adults tend to demonstrate increased
overconfidence compared to actual performance when compared to younger adults (Dodson
et al., 2007; Hansson et al., 2008). For example, when older adults between the ages of 65
and 91 years old were asked about their driving abilities, 85% of the drivers in this age range
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Applied Metacognition
Section 8.2
rated themselves as “good” or “excellent” drivers despite an increased frequency of accidents
(Ross, Dodson, Edwards, Ackerman, & Ball, 2012).
However, the literature on laboratory measures of metacognition such as confidence judgments and JOLs has shown mixed results. Some studies reveal stable or even improved
accuracy of confidence ratings with age for general knowledge (Dodson et al., 2007; Pliske
& Mutter, 1996), problem solving (Vukman, 2005), or memory recall tasks (Lachman, Lachman, & Thronesbery, 1979). Similarly, studies investigating JOLs, FOKs (feelings of knowing),
and “judgments of forgetting” have found that older adults’ predictions of recall or recognition were as good as those of younger adults (Eakin, Hertzog, & Harris, 2014; Haber, 2012;
Halamish et al., 2011). In contrast, other studies report significant age differences in the
accuracy of confidence judgments about learning of emotional information (Tauber & Dunlosky, 2012), study-time allocation (Froger, Sacher, Gaudouen, Isingrini, & Taconnat, 2011),
and recall and recognition (Bender & Raz, 2012; Dodson et al., 2007; Huff, Meade, & Hutchison, 2011; Kelley & Sahakyan, 2003; Pansky, Goldsmith, Koriat, & Pearlman-Avnion, 2009;
Perrotin, Isingrini, Souchay, Clarys, & Taconnat, 2006; Soderstrom, McCabe, & Rhodes, 2012;
Souchay, Isingrini, & Espagnet, 2000; Souchay, Moulin, Clarys, Taconnat, & Isingrini, 2007;
Toth, Daniels, & Solinger, 2011; Wong, Cramer, & Gallo, 2012). [. . .]
In many of these studies it has proven
difficult to disassociate metacognitive
accuracy from age-related changes in performance. Common measures of metacognitive accuracy [. . .] are affected by task
performance (Masson & Rotello, 2009),
potentially confounding changes in metacognition with age with changes in performance. For example, if two individuals, A
and B, have identical metacognitive ability,
but A performs better than B on the primary
task, A’s metacognition score will appear
Jacoblund/iStock/Thinkstock
higher than B’s due to this performance
It
is
difficult
to
prove
if
metacognition
increases
confound. (In other words, it may not be a
or
decreases
with
age.
Some
assume
that
as we
reduced metacognitive ability, as much as
it is another variable associated with aging acquire more knowledge throughout a lifetime,
such as poor eyesight or memory deficits.) self-awareness grows with it.
Accordingly, Daniels, Toth, and Hertzog
(2009) found that older adults had lower accuracy of immediate JOLs for predicting old/new
item recognition, but reasoned that this may reflect age-related memory deficits as opposed
to deficits in metacognition. [. . .]
Research has also drawn conceptual similarities between characteristics of memory metacognition and executive functions (Fernandez-Duque, Baird, & Posner, 2000; Pannu & Kaszniak,
2005; Shimamura, 1995; Souchay et al., 2000). Executive functions, or the processes controlled by the central executive system (discussed in Chapter 3), include attentional selection,
updating, and attention switching. In particular it has been suggested that any age-related
decline in metacognition may be due to executive limitations associated with aging (Souchay
& Isingrini, 2004), such as working memory impairment. Again, however, results from initial
studies examining this issue are mixed. [. . .]
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Applied Metacognition
Section 8.2
Perceptual Metacognitive Efficiency
Our own research (Hertzog & Dunlosky, 2011) investigates the effects of age on metacognitive
efficiency in healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 84. We found that perceptual metacognitive efficiency declined with age, despite task performance being controlled to ensure
all participants performed with the same accuracy. In other words, older adults were less
efficient at introspecting about whether they are performing well or badly on a perceptual task
than younger adults. This result is consistent with previous observations of a weaker match
between beliefs and abilities in older adults (Hultsch, MacDonald, Hunter, Levy-Bencheton,
& Strauss, 2000; Ross et al., 2012) and age-related differences in the accuracy of confidence
judgments (Bender & Raz, 2012; Dodson et al., 2007; Huff et al., 2011; Kelley & Sahakyan,
2003; Pansky et al., 2009; Perrotin et al., 2006; Soderstrom et al., 2012; Souchay et al., 2000,
2007; Toth et al., 2011; Wong et al., 2012). However, many previous studies did not control for
the influence of task performance on measures of metacognition. This is particularly critical
when studying aging as metacognitive ability may be difficult to distill from other age-related
changes in cognitive abilities. [. . .]
We suggest, based on our research, that there is age-related decline in perceptual metacognitive
efficiency (one’s belief about their efficiency) while controlling for age-related differences in
task performance and executive function. [. . .] Quantifying changes in metacognition with age
is critical for an understanding of higher-order cognitive functions in an aging population, especially as deficits in metacognitive monitoring may lead to impaired control of behavior (Koriat
& Goldsmith, 1996). Aging-associated diseases such as Alzheimer’s are accompanied by metacognitive deficits that may lead to non-adherence to treatment and impaired decision making
(Cosentino, 2014). Our results, when combined with previous research in adolescents (Weil et
al., 2013), reveal a non-linear relationship between age and perceptual metacognitive efficiency,
increasing during adolescence, plateauing in early adulthood, and declining in older age.
Source: Adapted from Palmer, E. C., David, A. S., & Fleming, S. M. (2014). Effects of age on metacognitive efficiency. Consciousness and Cognition, 28(100), 151–160. Published by Elsevier.
In the first series of excerpts, Darling-Hammond and colleagues (2016) suggested beneficial
metacognitive strategies, as applied to children and in the classroom. An understanding of how
such strategies effectively support learning in this setting can also facilitate our understanding
of how best to support learners in similar contexts.
In the second series of excerpts, Palmer and colleagues (2014) emphasized the difficulty of measuring metacognitive functioning as one ages. They suggested that older adults may perform
as well as or better than younger adults in some areas. However, their findings also indicated
that older adults may potentially experience declined perceptions about how well or poorly they
perform on a task (also referred to as perceptual metacognitive efficiency). For example, if two
people, one age 40 and the other age 75, were each asked about how well they did at putting
together a puzzle, the older adult might perceive that he did poorly, when in actuality he put
the puzzle together more efficiently than the 40-year-old. However, we should continue to apply
our own skeptical inquiry and consider whether related factors might influence metacognition.
(Although only a speculation based on information that we learned in Chapter 6, is it possible
that an individual’s sense of confidence or efficacy while completing a task might be affected by
physiological or psychological deterioration, rather than the metacognitive accuracy alone?) See
Applying Skeptical Inquiry: Aging, Knowledge Acquisition, and Decision Making to consider
some of the other research findings associated with age-related changes that can affect learning.
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Applied Metacognition
Section 8.2
Applying Skeptical Inquiry: Aging, Knowledge Acquisition,
and Decision Making
Research on the effects of aging on knowledge acquisition has diverse findings, and these
findings can help us better understand the range of potential considerations and causes of
age-related changes on learning. For example:
•
•
•
•
Salthouse has suggested that older adults process information less quickly than
younger adults (1992, 1994).
Cohen (1996), Kausler (1990), and Salthouse, McGuthry, and Hambrick (1999) all
have suggested that there are age-related deficits in explicit memory and learning.
Some research has suggested that specific types of processing are affected by age,
but others are not (Chen, 2002; Chen, 2004; Chen & Blanchard-Fields, 2000).
Reyna (2004) has suggested that older adults have a decreased need for some
cognitive tools based on their increased ability to utilize affective information in
decision making.
It is apparent that a multitude of variables can influence the process of learning for older
adults, which can make our goal of understanding learning an even more complex task.
The following lecture is presented by Dr. Thad Polk, University of Michigan. Dr. Polk researches
cognition using functional MRI, computational modeling, and behavioral experimentation. His
work considers how cognition is affected by aging, experience, and genetics. Watch the video of
Dr. Polk’s lecture, “Aging: It’s Not What You Think,” for more information.

Questions
1.
2.
Are you surprised by Dr. Polk’s findings? Why or why not?
Do these findings suggest the existence of a potential bias about aging adults today?
Researchers have identified several reasons why metacognition is a significant element of knowledge acquisition and learning. For example, a developed metacognition supports executive functioning, including cognition and information processing. Other findings include the following:
• Metacognition may compensate for IQ and experiences, improving one’s ability to learn
successfully (Swanson, 1990).
• Metacognition is a core component of information processing models of self-regulation
(Butler & Winne, 1995; Winne, 2001).
• Metacognitive monitoring skills support the development of human expertise in general (Glaser & Chi, 1988).
• Metacognition develops positive self-efficacy, which then positively affects performance
(Coutinho, 2008).
• Metacognition is an underlying factor in, and predictor of, academic success as defined
by grade point average in college students with learning disabilities (Ruban, 2000;
Trainin & Swanson, 2005).
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Section 8.3
Self-Regulated Learning
• Metacognition is important for developing critical thinking skills (Ku & Ho, 2010).
• Metacognition is related to overall academic success for college students (Hall, Smith,
& Chia, 2008; Md. Yunus & Ali, 2008; Nietfeld, Cao, & Osborne, 2005; Schleifer & Dull,
2009; Uwazurike, 2010).
• Accurate metacognition leads to improved self-regulation that, in turn, positively
affects performance (Thiede, Anderson, & Therriault, 2003).
Several of the items in this list spotlight the connections between metacognition and selfregulation, which will be discussed in the next section. Metacognition influences executive
functioning (cognitive effectiveness), self-regulation, constructivist-based frameworks, and
motivation. In addition, the reliance of self-regulation development on effective metacognition suggests the importance of bridging the different theoretical frameworks (e.g., cognitivism, constructivism, and humanism) in the endeavor to better understand how we learn.
8.3 Self-Regulated Learning
Pioneered by Dr. Barry Zimmerman, self-regulated learning theory (SRL) suggests that
strategies that are based on cognitive science can be used to encourage learners to take ownership of their learning experiences. SRL has been studied widely since the 1970s (Paris & Winograd, 2001), but it is often a misunderstood element in the holistic approach to learning because
some mistakenly consider it a mental ability or even a skill (Zimmerman et al., 2002). However,
Zimmerman et al. (2002) have suggested that self-regulation is a set of behaviors monitored by
a self-directive process. When successfully implemented, learners can transform, through guided
practice and feedback (Paris & Paris, 2001), their psychological and intellectual abilities into
applicable skills (Zimmerman et al., 2002).
Self-regulated learning is thus the process of setting, monitoring, regulating, and
attaining goals through cognition, metacognition, and motivation. According to
Schraw et al. (2006), self-regulated learning is governed by three components:
• Cognition—Includes the skills
essential to encode, memorize,
and recall information (see Chapters 2 and 3)
• Metacognition—Includes the
skills that assist learners in identifying, understanding, and monitoring their cognitive processes
(see sections 8.1 and 8.2)
• Motivation—Includes the beliefs
(e.g., self-efficacy) that can affect
the use of cognitive and metacognitive skills (see section 6.4)
Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Thinkstock
Self-regulated learning is key to processing
and retaining information. If group study and
discussion are what help you learn, then it is
important to set aside time and plan accordingly
with other people. If you have recently begun
learning a new hobby, you might set a realistic
goal and schedule time to practice.
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Self-Regulated Learning
Section 8.3
However, other researchers have suggested that these three components are not exclusive and
posit that self-regulated learning includes a variety of interacting components:
• Some researchers have suggested that cognitive, metacognitive, motivational, behavioral, and environmental elements are associated with self-regulation (Butler & Winne,
1995; Zimmerman, 2000).
• Some researchers have suggested that self-regulated learning also includes goal setting and identification, self-monitoring, self-instruction, strategy development, and
self-reinforcement (Harris & Graham, 1999; Schraw et al., 2006; Zimmerman, 2002).
A self-regulated learner is an individual who has developed the ability to understand and
regulate his or her learning behaviors and environments. Self-regulated learners have identified the goals they would like to achieve and the strategies that support the meeting of this goal
(Paris & Paris, 2001). This takes the form of diverse strategies and self-monitoring techniques
(e.g., managing emotions, taking notes, time management, and the use of tools and resources
such as graphic organizers, audio assistive technology, and asking for assistance from peers or
instructors). It’s also suggested that self-regulated learners are those who find a way to have
success even when they experience negative learning conditions.
Research has provided evidence that self-regulation can be taught and learned, increasing the
motivation and success of the learner (Zimmerman & Schunk, 2001). The following excerpts are
from Zimmerman (2002). The discussions provide more information about the nature of selfregulation, the processes involved, and how it is utilized. Whether you are a learner, instructor,
trainer, or counselor, a better understanding of self-regulation and how to integrate it more
effectively can help you improve learning experiences for yourself and others. As you read, be
mindful that a learner who is able to self-regulate effectively must first employ metacognitive
knowledge and regulation.
Excerpts from “Becoming a Self-Regulated Learner: An Overview”
By B. J. Zimmerman
Developing Lifelong Habits
Self-regulation is not a mental ability or an academic performance skill; rather it is the selfdirective process by which learners transform their mental abilities into academic skills.
Learning is viewed as an activity that students do for themselves in a proactive way rather
than as a covert event that happens to them in reaction to teaching. Self-regulation refers
to self-generated thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are oriented to attaining goals (Zimmerman, 2000). These learners are proactive in their efforts to learn because they are aware
of their strengths and limitations and because they are guided by personally set goals and
task-related strategies, such as using an arithmetic addition strategy to check the accuracy
of solutions to subtraction problems. These learners monitor their behavior in terms of their
goals and self-reflect on their increasing effectiveness. This enhances their self-satisfaction
and motivation to continue to improve their methods of learning. Because of their superior
motivation and adaptive learning methods, self-regulated students are more likely not only to
succeed academically but to view their futures optimistically. [. . .]
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Self-Regulated Learning
Section 8.3
Self-regulation of learning involves more than detailed knowledge of a skill; it involves the
self-awareness, self-motivation, and behavioral skill to implement that knowledge appropriately. For example, there is evidence (Cleary & Zimmerman, 2000) that experts differ from
non-experts in their application of knowledge at crucial times during learning performances,
such as correcting specific deficiencies in technique.
Contemporary research tells us that self-regulation of learning is not a single personal trait
that individual students either possess or lack. Instead, it involves the selective use of specific
processes that must be personally adapted to each learning task. The component skills include:
a) Setting specific proximal goals for oneself
b) Adopting powerful strategies for attaining the goals
c) Monitoring one’s performance selectively for signs of progress
d) Restructuring one’s physical and social context to make it compatible with one’s
goals
e) Managing one’s time use efficiently
f) Self-evaluating one’s methods
g) Attributing causation to results
h) Adapting future methods
A student’s level of learning has been found to vary based on the presence or absence of these
key self-regulatory processes (Schunk & Zimmerman, 1994, 1998).
Contemporary research reveals that the self-motivated quality of self-regulated learners
depends on several underlying beliefs, including perceived efficacy and intrinsic interest. [. . .]
For example, experts spend approximately four hours each day in study and practice and find
these activities highly motivating. They vary their methods of study and practice in order to
discover new strategies for self-improvement. With such diverse skills as chess, sports, and
music, the quantity of an individual’s studying and practicing is a strong predictor of his or
her level of expertise. There is also evidence that the quality of practicing and studying episodes is highly predictive of a learner’s level of skill (Zimmerman & Kitsantas, 1997, 1999).
However, few beginners in a new discipline immediately derive powerful self-motivational benefits, and they may easily lose interest if they are not socially encouraged and guided, as most
music teachers will readily attest (McPherson & Zimmerman, in press). Fortunately, the motivation of novices can be greatly enhanced when and if they use high-quality self-regulatory
processes, such as close self-monitoring. Students who have the capabilities to detect subtle
progress in learning will increase their levels of self-satisfaction and their beliefs in their personal efficacy to perform at a high level of skill (Schunk, 1983). Clearly, their motivation does
not stem from the task itself, but rather from their use of self-regulatory processes, such as selfmonitoring, and the effects of these processes on their self-beliefs.
Structure and Function of Self-Regulatory Processes
This brings us to the essential question of how does a learner’s use of specific learning processes, level of self-awareness, and motivational beliefs combine to produce self-regulated
learners? Social learning psychologists view the structure of self-regulatory processes in
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Section 8.3
Self-Regulated Learning
terms of three cyclical phases. The forethought phase refers to processes and beliefs that
occur before efforts to learn, the performance phase refers to processes that occur during
behavioral implementation, and the self-reflection phase refers to processes that occur after
each learning effort. The processes that have been studied in each phase to date are shown in
Figure 8.1, and the function of each process will be described next (Zimmerman, 2000).
Figure 8.1: Phases and sub-processes of self-regulation
The self-regulatory process includes three phases: forethought, performance, and self-reflection. Each
phase also includes two sub-processes.
Performance phase
Self-control
Imagery
Self-instruction
Attention focusing
Task strategies
Self-observation
Self-recording
Self-experimentation
Forethought phase
Task analysis
Goal planning
Strategic planning
Self-motivation
beliefs
Self-efficacy
Outcome expectations
Intrinsic interest/value
Learning goal orientation
Self-reflection phase
Self-judgment
Self-evaluation
Causal attribution
Self-reaction
Self-satisfaction/affect
Adaptive/defensive
Adapted from “Becoming a Self-Regulated Learner: An Overview,” by B. J. Zimmerman, 2002, Theory Into Practice, 41(2), 67. doi:10.1207/
s15430421tip4102_2. Francis & Taylor, Ltd. Copyright © 2002 Routledge.
Forethought Phase
There are two major classes of forethought phase processes: task analysis and self-motivation.
Task analysis involves goal setting and strategic planning. There is considerable evidence of
increased academic success by learners who set specific proximal goals for themselves, such
as memorizing a word list for a spelling test, and by learners who plan to use spelling strategies, such as segmenting words into syllables.
Self-motivation stems from learners’ beliefs about learning, such as self-efficacy beliefs
about having the personal capability to learn and outcome expectations about personal consequences of learning (Bandura, 1997). For example, students who feel self-efficacious about
learning to divide fractions and expect to use this knowledge to pass a college entrance exam
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Self-Regulated Learning
Section 8.3
are more motivated to learn in a self-regulated fashion. Intrinsic interest refers to the students’ valuing of the task skill for its own merits, and learning goal orientation refers to valuing the process of learning for its own merits. Students who find the subject matter of history,
for example, interesting and enjoy increasing their mastery of it are more motivated to learn
in a self-regulated fashion.
Performance Phase
Performance phase processes fall into two major classes: self-control and self-observation.
Self-control refers to the deployment of specific methods or strategies that were selected
during the forethought phase. Among the key types of self-control methods that have been
studied to date are the use of imagery, self-instruction, attention focusing, and task strategies.
For example, in learning the Spanish word pan for “bread,” an English-speaking girl could
form an image of a bread pan or self-instruct using the phrase “bread pan.” She could also
locate her place of study away from distracting noises so she could control her attention better. For a task strategy, she could group the Spanish word pan with associated words for foods.
Self-observation refers to self-recording personal events or self-experimentation to find out
the cause of these events. For example, students are often asked to self-record their time use to
make them aware of how much time they spend studying. A boy may notice that when he studied alone, he finished his homework more quickly than when studying with a friend. To test
this hypothesis, the boy could conduct a self-experiment in which he studied parallel lessons
alone and in the presence of his friend to see whether his friend was an asset or a liability. Selfmonitoring, a covert form of self-observation, refers to one’s cognitive tracking of personal
functioning, such as the frequency of failing to capitalize words when writing an essay.
Self-Reflection Phase
There are two major classes of self-reflection phase
processes: self-judgment and self-reaction. Selfjudgment is the act of evaluating one’s behaviors,
and two forms of self-judgment are considered
here. One form of self-judgment, self-evaluation,
refers to comparisons of self-observed performances against some standard, such as one’s prior
performance, another person’s performance, or an
absolute standard of performance. Another form
of self-judgment involves causal attribution, which
refers to beliefs about the cause of one’s errors or
successes, such as a score on a mathematics test.
Attributing a poor score to limitations in fixed ability can be very damaging motivationally because it
implies that efforts to improve on a future test will
not be effective. In contrast, attributing a poor math
score to controllable processes, such as the use of
the wrong solution strategy, will sustain motivation
because it implies that a different strategy may lead
to success.
Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Thinkstock
Part of self-judgment is causal
attribution, which can be either
positive or negative. For example, after
an interview, a job candidate finds
out she didn’t receive the position.
She could attribute this either to her
amateur ability as a worker or to her
interview skills or work experience.
The latter two options are controllable
and are positive attributions because
the candidate can actively practice and
change them.
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Self-Regulated Learning
Section 8.3
Self-reaction is the act of providing one’s self with both positive and negative reinforcement.
One form of self-reaction involves feelings of self-satisfaction and positive affect regarding
one’s performance. Increases in self-satisfaction enhance motivation, whereas decreases in
self-satisfaction undermine further efforts to learn (Schunk, 2001). Self-reactions also take
the form of adaptive/defensive responses. Defensive reactions refer to efforts to protect one’s
self-image by withdrawing or avoiding opportunities to learn and perform, such as dropping a
course or being absent for a test. In contrast, adaptive reactions refer to adjustments designed
to increase the effectiveness of one’s method of learning, such as discarding or modifying an
ineffective learning strategy.
This view of self-regulation is cyclical in that self-reflections from prior efforts to learn affect
subsequent forethought processes (e.g., self-dissatisfaction will lead to lower levels of selfefficacy and diminished effort during subsequent learning) (Zimmerman & Bandura, 1994).
In support of this cyclical view of self-regulation, high correlations were found among learners’ use of forethought, performance, and self-reflection phase processes (Zimmerman &
Kitsantas, 1999). For example, students who set specific proximal goals are more likely to
self-observe their performance in these areas, are more likely to achieve in the target area,
and will display higher levels of self-efficacy than students who do not set goals (Bandura &
Schunk, 1981). Other studies have revealed that experts display significantly higher levels of
self-regulatory processes during practice efforts than novices (Cleary & Zimmerman, 2000).
Novice Versus Expert
The self-regulation profile of novices is very distinctive from that of experts. Novices fail to
engage in high-quality forethought and instead attempt to self-regulate their learning reactively. That is, they fail to set specific goals or to self-monitor systematically, and as a result,
they tend to rely on comparisons with the performance of others to judge their learning effectiveness. Because typically other learners are also progressing, their performance represents
a constantly increasing criterion of success that is very difficult to surpass. Furthermore,
learners who make comparative self-evaluations are prompted to attribute causation to ability deficiencies (which are also normative in nature), and this will produce lower personal
satisfaction and prompt defensive reactions.
In contrast, the self-regulation profile of experts reveals they display high levels of selfmotivation and set hierarchical goals for themselves with process goals leading to outcome goals in succession, such as dividing a formal essay into an introduction, a body, and
a conclusion. Experts plan learning efforts using powerful strategies and self-observe their
effects, such as a visual organizer for filling in key information (Zimmerman & Risemberg,
1997). They self-evaluate their performance against their personal goals rather than other
learners’ performance, and they make strategy (or method) attributions instead of ability
attributions. This leads to greater personal satisfaction with their learning progress and
further efforts to improve their performance. Together these self-reactions enhance various self-motivational beliefs of experts, such as self-efficacy, outcome expectations, learning goal orientation, and intrinsic interest.
Knowing the differences in the structure and function of self-regulatory processes between
experts and novices has enabled researchers to formulate intervention programs in schools
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Self-Regulated Learning
Section 8.3
for children who display lower levels of self-regulatory development (Schunk & Zimmerman,
1998). [. . .]
Contrary to a commonly held belief, self-regulated learning is not asocial in nature and origin. Each self-regulatory process or belief, such as goal setting, strategy use, and self-evaluation, can be learned from instruction and modeling by parents, teachers, coaches, and peers.
In fact, self-regulated students seek out help from others to improve their learning. What
defines them as “self-regulated” is not their reliance on socially isolated methods of learning,
but rather their personal initiative, perseverance, and adoptive skill. Self-regulated students
focus on how they activate, alter, and sustain specific learning practices in social as well as solitary contexts. In an era when these essential qualities for lifelong learning are distressingly
absent in many students, teaching self-regulated learning processes is especially relevant.
Source: Zimmerman, B. J. (2002). Becoming a Self-Regulated Learner: An Overview. Theory
Into Practice. Francis & Taylor, Ltd. Copyright © 2002 Routledge.
Self-regulation suggests that learners can be as successful as they choose to be when they have
the knowledge to apply strategies that support information processing in the most effective and
efficient way. As suggested, applying self-regulation intentionally supports the effort of development from novice to expert. This intentionality also applies when practicing each phase of the
self-regulatory process (forethought, performance, and self-reflection). This process provides
the opportunity for a learner to be more engaged and autonomous in his or her performances,
behavior modifications, and outcomes. See Reinforcing Your Understanding: Tips for Regulating Your Learning to learn specific self-regulation strategies that you can apply in your online
education courses.
Consider how this information will apply to your present or future endeavors: Will you train
employees? Counsel children or adults? Support geriatric programs? Raise children? Volunteer
for a nonprofit? The content about self-regulation appropriately completes this text because it
suggests that, in the end, the learner will be the one to decide what he or she believes and what
is applicable, whether you are the learner or you are responsible for guiding other learners. It is
up to the learner to discover more information, evaluate the findings, and consider the implications. Whatever your path, a developed understanding about how we learn and how we learn
more effectively can help you and those you instruct throughout the learning process.
Reinforcing Your Understanding: Tips for Regulating Your
Learning
Myron Dembo is the author of Motivation and Learning Strategies for College Success: A Focus
on Self-Regulated Learning and a now-retired professor of educational psychology at the
University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education. Time management and goal
setting are just two of the challenges that students might face when learning new material.
In the video provided, Dembo discusses online learning and suggests behaviors that support
self-regulation and increased performance for distance learners.

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Summary & Resources
Chapter Summary
Summary & Resources
Metacognition and self-regulation are two areas of learning psychology that suggest that
behaviors can effectively increase our personal success in knowledge acquisition. These
variables are not fixed; they can be developed and strengthened throughout life (DarlingHammond et al., 2016). Self-awareness is essential to both metacognition and self-regulation.
A crucial part of this chapter is identifying how we can connect the metacognition and selfregulation strategies with the information that was introduced in other areas of the text. For
example, how might self-regulation and metacognition support the associations of meaning
you acquire, your memory development, or your construction of knowledge?
The benefits of developing one’s metacognition and becoming a self-regulated learner tap
into much of the content we have considered in this text. The learning process is physiological, psychological, biological, and complex. The psychology of learning encompasses different ideologies for testing, different perspectives about applicability, and diverse scholarly
opinions about the validity of one theory, model, or framework over another.
It is essential to understand the more traditional theoretical frameworks, such as behaviorism, and the key role cognition has in better understanding how we learn. From these key
theories, numerous other models and variables have been identified, each building off one
another and encouraging us to ask more questions about what affects successful learning. For example, constructivism suggests that reality is perceived and that knowledge is
not knowledge unless it has an attached meaning that aligns with one’s context or culture.
Models based on humanistic ideologies spotlight the roles of motivation and attention to
the whole person, including individual needs, learning preferences, and goals. Each of these
frameworks adds a dimension to the field of learning and offers us knowledge that we can
use to increase our own success and to support others.
Understanding how we learn, from a holistic perspective, has many advantages that affect
not only how we as individuals learn, but also how we more successfully train, counsel, parent, and instruct others. In discussions about behavioral analysis (behaviorism), we learned
that our awareness of environmental stimuli, reinforcers, and associations can affect our
learning behaviors. In discussions about cognitivism, we learned that memory development
and successful information processing are affected by our attention, perceptions, emotions,
processing ability, schema development, chunking, and cognitive mapping. Details about
constructivism encouraged us to consider how culture, diversity, and experience can mold
our interpretations and constructions of our knowledge. The ideas suggested by humanism
remind us of the importance of personal motivation, goal setting, and preferential learning,
which might each affect the learning process. These findings can be effectively monitored,
developed, and improved through the application of self-regulation and metacognitive
strategies.
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Summary & Resources
Key Ideas
• Metacognition is an individual’s awareness and management of his or her thoughts
and thinking processes.
• Metacognitive regulations support highly developed metacognitive skills.
• Metacognition suggests that an individual has control of, or autonomy over, his or
her own learning.
• Effective metacognitive regulation includes intentional planning, self-monitoring,
and self-development.
• Perceptual metacognitive efficiency is a learner’s perceptions about the effectiveness
of his or her own learning capabilities.
• Self-regulation develops psychological and intellectual abilities into usable skills that
can be used to attain more effective learning.
• Self-regulation can be developed and is not a personal trait that individual learners
either possess or lack.
• A low level of self-awareness increases the likelihood for self-deception.
• Self-deception can result in false memory development and reduced cognitive
awareness, which can affect learning.
• Self-regulated learning is supported by three components: cognition, metacognition,
and motivation.
• Self-regulated learning includes goal setting and identification, self-monitoring, selfinstruction, strategy development, and self-reinforcement.
• Learners can use self-reinforcers and self-reactions to develop their behaviors that
support learning.
Additional Resources
Metacognition and self-regulation are models for learning that promote efficiency based on
cognition and information processing. Through self-management and awareness of one’s
own weaknesses and strengths, learners can have the potential to exercise more control
over and improve their learning experiences. Visit the following resources to further your
understanding of the topics that were introduced in this chapter. Some resources may also
be accessible via your university library.
Metacognition
• “Metacognition and Student Learning” from The Chronicle of Higher Education:
http://www.chronicle.com/article/MetacognitionStudent/130327
• Manasia, L. and Pârvan, A. (2014). Challenging adult learning and work experience
through metacognitive reflection. A case study approach. Social and Behavioral Sciences, 142(14). 447–453. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science
/article/pii/S1877042814046229
• Khezrlou, T. S. (2012). The relationship between cognitive and metacognitive
strategies, age, and level of education. The Reading Matrix, 12(1). Retrieved from
http://www.readingmatrix.com/articles/april_2012/khezrlou.pdf
• Baker, L. (1989). Metacognition, comprehension monitoring, and the adult reader.
Educational Psychology Review, 1(1), 3. doi:10.1007/BF01326548
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Summary & Resources
Self-Regulated Learning
• Florez, I. R. (2011). Developing young children’s self-regulation through everyday
experiences. Young Children, 72(3), 46–51. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org
/files/yc/file/201107/Self-Regulation_Florez_OnlineJuly2011.pdf
• Weimer, M. (2010, July). What it means to be a self-regulated learner. Faculty Focus.
Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning
/what-it-means-to-be-a-self-regulated-learner/
Key Terms
executive control The ability to use what
an individual knows about his or her own
thinking to direct or regulate his or her
learning.
executive functions The processes controlled by the central executive system that
regulate information processing, including
attentional selection, updating, and attention switching.
forethought phase One of three phases
associated with self-regulatory processes;
includes processes that occur before
efforts to learn, such as task analysis and
self-motivation.
judgments of learning (JOLs) An individual’s evaluations of how well he or she
learned something.
knowledge-centered classrooms Learning environments that focus on activities
that are meaningful and build on learners’
previous knowledge, include complex tasks,
and require active decision making.
learner-centered classrooms Learning
environments that focus on learners’ current
knowledge, skills, attitudes, and interests to
build learning and reflection skills.
metacognition The ability to be aware of
and regulate one’s thought processes.
metacognitive judgments Personal evaluations of one’s own learning.
metacognitive knowledge One’s awareness of what one knows or doesn’t know,
what one wants to know, what one needs to
think about to complete a task, and how to
manage one’s own learning.
metacognitive skills Thought processes
that support one’s ability to plan, set goals,
and then sustain, monitor, and manage the
progress of tasks.
performance phase One of three phases
associated with self-regulatory processes;
includes processes that occur during
efforts to learn, such as self-control and
self-observation.
self-control The ability to manage one’s
emotions, desires, and behaviors; a process
associated with the performance phase.
self-judgment The act of evaluating one’s
own behaviors; a process associated with
the self-reflection phase.
self-motivation The act of doing something
based on one’s own enthusiasms, goals,
or interests, without being pressured by
others; a process associated with the forethought phase.
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Summary & Resources
self-observation An unbiased assessment
of one’s attitudes, reactions, and thought
processes; a process associated with the
performance phase.
self-reaction The act of supplying one’s self
with both positive and negative reinforcement; a process associated with the selfreflection phase.
self-reflection phase One of three phases
associated with self-regulatory processes;
includes processes that occur after learning efforts, such as self-judgment and
self-reaction.
self-regulated learner An individual who
has developed the ability to understand and
regulate his or her learning behaviors and
environments to promote more effective
learning.
self-regulated learning The process of
setting, monitoring, regulating, and attaining
goals through the use of cognition, metacognition, and motivation.
self-regulated learning theory (SRL) Suggests that strategies based on cognitive
science can be used to encourage learners
to take ownership of their learning experiences; instructors use feedback to help
engage learners in the learning process.
sense-making The process of making decisions based on one’s situational awareness
during complex or ambiguous tasks.
task analysis The process of evaluating a
task and then setting goals and making plans
to attain success; a process associated with
the forethought phase.
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