Explore why metacognition is an important thinking skill and the role it can play in improving student outcomes.

What is metacognition?

Metacognition is an important thinking skill which is defined as 'thinking about thinking.' This involves any behaviour directly linked with a person's control and monitoring of their own learning and thinking, including emotion.

These behaviours can include (but are not limited to):

  • setting goals

  • making sure a problem is understood before answering

  • monitoring memory recall and comprehension

  • reflection

  • generating and testing hypotheses

  • self-questioning

  • brainstorming ideas

  • strategy selection

The skill of becoming aware of one’s own thought processes is strongly linked to critical-thinking ability as well as supporting students to develop into life-long learners. Embedding metacognition in teaching and learning programs provides students with the opportunity to become active participants in their own learning as well as preparing them to become engaged citizens in a complex and dynamic society.

Teaching metacognition

Metacognitive skilfulness is developed through explicit teacher instruction, personal experience and prolonged practice, and can be applied across all Key Learning Areas (KLAs) at various stages of learning. See our resources below, which have been created to assist teachers in better understanding the various features of metacognition and how this skill can be applied in NSW classrooms.

Download our report and teaching guide

Read our report, ‘Metacognition – a key to unlocking learning’, which assesses the evidence base for metacognition as a foundation for effective learning, including information on development, effective teaching practice and subject specific examples.

Use our teacher-focused guide, ‘Metacognition: Key insights and implications for teaching practice’, for examples of teaching and learning strategies to support teachers in implementing a metacognitive approach in the classroom, as well as a summary of key information on metacognition from our longer report.

Other resources

Listen to our Edspresso episode with Shirley Larkin, ‘Transforming the classroom to encourage metacognition’. Dr. Larkin discusses her research in educational psychology, which focuses on how primary-aged students develop metacognition to enable them to learn in their own way, for their own purposes throughout life.

These Edspresso episodes also mention metacognition as part of broader thinking skills such as critical and creative thinking:

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