Having this skill is essential for improving your own productivity and effectiveness
Self-questioning involves pausing throughout a task to consciously check your own actions.
Without self-questioning, we may lack humility and awareness of our own faults.
Most importantly, we would not be able to improve because we never took the time to ask ourselves important questions like:
Is this the best way to carry out this task?
Did I miss something? Maybe I should check again.
Did I follow the right procedure there?
How could I do better next time?
Am I looking at this task the right way?
How can I do a better job at thinking about what I’m doing?
Good students question their actions both while they’re completing the task and after finishing it (see also: ‘reflection’).
Meditation involves clearing your mind. We could consider it to be a metacognitive strategy because meditators aim to:
Clear out the chatter that goes on in our heads.
Reach a calm and focused state that can prime us for learning.
Be more aware of our own inner speech.
Meditation for children is becoming increasingly popular in schools because educators can see the value of this task for helping students achieve greater self-awareness in the classroom.
Reflection involves pausing to think about a task. It is usually a cyclical process where we reflect, think of ways to improve, try again then go back to reflection.
Reflection is metacognitive only if you consciously reflect on what your thought processes were and how to improve upon them next time.
There are many models of reflection with varying steps. Most reflective cycles have at least the following phases:
A task is planned.
You attempt the task.
You look at how you did the task.
You come up with things you did well and areas for improvement.
You plan the next task, with a focus on improving on your weaknesses.
You try again …
You reflect again …
And so on.
Once you become skilled at reflection, you may also reflect while doing a task so that you can make adjustments to your thinking processes as you go. We call this sort of reflection reflection in action (as opposed to reflection on action).
Awareness Of Strengths And Weaknesses
Central to metacognition is a person’s capacity to see their own strengths and weaknesses. Only through looking at yourself and making a genuine assessment of your weaknesses can you achieve self-improvement.
One way to start looking at your strengths and weaknesses is to use a SWOT chart.
A SWOT chart is a chart with four sections:
Strengths: write down what you perceive to be your strengths as a learner.
Weaknesses: write down what you perceive to be your weaknesses as a learner.
Opportunities: identify opportunities you may have to improve your cognitive skills in the coming weeks or months.
Threats: identify potential threats that may prevent you from improving your cognitive skills in the coming weeks or months.
Writing Down Your Working
Most people will recall in high school math classes their teacher saying: “I want to see your working so I know how you got to your answer.”
This teacher is ensuring you are employing the right thinking processes and can show others how you went about thinking about the task.
When you become an expert at a topic you tend not to think about your thinking. We sometimes call this “unconscious competence”, which is the fourth stage of learning in the learner competence model.
Lev Vygotsky (a central figure in the sociocultural theory of education) argues beginner learners tend to think aloud before learning to think inside their heads.
The benefit of sociocultural theory‘s strategy of thinking aloud is that it makes you really think. You have to talk through what your brain is doing, making those thinking processes explicit.
Teachers will often ask students to speak out loud about what they’re thinking. It not only helps the student be more conscious of their cognitive processes, it also helps the teacher identify areas where the student is going astray.
A regulation checklist can either be task-based or generalized.
A task-based regulation checklist is usually created before a task begins. It will:
List the thought processes required to succeed in the task.
List the observable outcomes of higher order thinking linked to the task.
List the checkpoints during the task where people should pause to reflect on their thinking.
A general regulation checklist provides regulation strategies that can be used across any normal task, such as:
Reminders to pause and reflect-in-practice at regular intervals.
Prompts to remind students to think about what strategies they are using and whether they are appropriate for the task.
Self-questioning prompts to remind students to question their choices.
Quick charts and questionnaires to help people focus on their developments such as KWL charts.
When we plan ahead, we often have to think about how we’ll go about a task. We might call it our “plan of attack”.
Planning ahead involves thinking about what we’re going to do in order to complete a task. During your planning phase, you might make decisions such as:
Deciding what strategies you’ll use when your task, competition or activity begins.
Tossing up a range of different thinking skills you might use when approaching a task.
Reminding yourself not to make the same mistakes you made last time.
Preparing some tools that will help you keep your thinking on track, such as preparing graphic organizers.