Saturday, November 2, 2013

How did the idea of metacognition come about?

Most simply put, metacognition is one's thought about his or her thoughts (Mayer, 2008).

John Flavell of Stanford University work on metacognition was influenced by Piaget. He writes, "I believe we are "at risk" (almost in the medical sense)  for egocentric thinking all of our lives, just as we are for certain logical errors." (Flavell, 1992, p. 108) - (from Flavell's textbook on cognitive development). We can arrive at our own points of view  directly, but we arrive at other's points of view indirectly. This means that we must put much effort and understanding in order to arrive at an accurate representation of another's point of view.

Flavell is credited with the founding work that launched metacognition into the educational arena. He identified and described the influence of metacognition in the learning process (Flavell, 1979). Now metacognition is considered a fundamental part of a 21st century education, because students who are more metacognitively aware tend to have higher performance outcomes (Binkley, et al., 2012), and metacognitive strategies can be learned (Flavell, 1979, 1992).

For those interested, more about metacognition....

There is an underlying Piagetian and perspective taking influence in this construct. Metacognition develops with age and can be influenced or taught more or less. According to Flavell, young school age children are unlikely to rehearse names in order to memorize while older children tend to rehearse. Young school age children can be taught to rehearse, and when this strategy was employed, significant changes in ability to recall improved.  When given the choice to rehearse or not to, the children who have been taught this skill tend not to choose to use it. These findings are the reason Flavell discontinued an investigation of private speech and embarked on a study of memory strategies which in turn lead to ideas about learning  and memory efforts and how learners  employ strategies in these endeavors. Metacognition is clearly related to  Piaget's work in that the egocentrisim found in young children limits their ability to view their own thought process as an object of thought - still too tied into Self at this stage. Second, formal operational thinking is clearly tied to metacognitive processes, because this thinking involves considering cognitive concepts of proposition, hypotheses, and imagined possibilities.

Flavell defines metacognition" as knowledge and cognition about cognitive phenomena" (Flavell, 1992, p. 113) and more specifically, "the part of [a learners' ] acquired world knowledge that has to do with cognitive matters...the knowledge and beliefs...accumulated through experience and stored in long-term memory that concern the human mind and its doings. Some of this stored knowledge seems more declarative ("knowing that") than procedural "knowledge how" p.115). According to Flavell there are three sub-areas of metacognitive knowledge - person, tasks, and strategies. The first concerns one's beliefs and knowledge regarding how human beings process information, including universal differences and similarities. Second, task knowledge is about the strategies one chooses to handle a certain task and knowledge about the difficulty or ease of the task. Last, strategy knowledge pertains to one's understanding about which strategies are best suited for a particular  task. All in all, metacognitive knowledge is the interaction of two or all three of these categories.  Flavell's conceptualization evolved through a sort of path beginning with an examination of private speech, then memory strategies, on to metamemory, and finally to metacognition.

Binkley, M., Erstad, O., Herman, J., Raizen, S., Ripley, M., Miller-Ricci, M., & Rumble, M. (2012). Assessment and teaching of 21st century skills. In P. Griffin, B. McFaw & E. Care (Eds.), Assessment and teaching of 21st century skills (pp. 17-66). New York: Springer.

Flavell J. (1979). Metacognition and cognitive monitoring: A new era of cognitive-developmental inquiry. American Psychologist, 34, 906-911. 

Flavell, J. H. (1992). Perspectives on perspective taking. In H. Beilin and P. B. Pufall (Eds) Piaget's   theory: Prospects and possibilities (pp. 107-139). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum.

Mayer, R. E. (2008). Learning and Instruction. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

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