John Flavell, an American Developmental Psychologist, is accredited for the development of the Metacognition Theory. According to Flavell, “metacognition consists of both metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive experiences or regulation. Metacognitive knowledge refers to acquired knowledge about cognitive processes, the knowledge that can be used to control cognitive processes” (Livingston, 1997). In other words, it means “thinking about thinking.” (JAK)

Metacognition is the knowledge about one’s own thinking.
It deals with monitoring and regulating the stream of our thinking. It is something we use all the time, but not always effectively. Like we ask ourselves why we did something the way we did it, but we do not always come to a useful answer. But if we ask ourselves in the right way, then it can benefit our performance in learning.The more students are aware of their thinking processes as they learn, the more they can control such matters as goals, dispositions, and attention. (DIV)

Examples of metacognitive strategies

Engaging your metacognition can mean different things to different people. Here are a few examples of metacognitive strategies that people use:

  • Asking yourself if you have any prior knowledge of a topic before you read the materials
  • Stopping yourself during reading to ask yourself if you understand the materials
  • Rereading or asking questions for clarification on parts that you do not understand
  • Underlining, outlining, taking notes, summarizing (JAK)

Why use it?

“Those with greater metacognitive abilities tend to be more successful in their cognitive endeavors. The good news is that individuals can learn how to better regulate their cognitive activities” (Livingston, 1997). There is reason to believe that building your metacognition can improve your learning and intelligence. (JAK)

Applying metacognition to instruction

Not only can metacognition be taught and recognized in schools but also in businesses. The fields of Human Resources and Management can involve a great deal of instruction. In this example, trainer X is training trainee Y on how to be a secretary in a business office. As a trainer, it is your job to ensure the learner, or trainee, understands the materials so they will be able to effectively complete their job.

Trainer X could begin by asking the learner if they have any prior knowledge about being a secretary or if they have any work experience. During the training, the trainer should stop to ask questions to ensure the learner understands the material. They should also encourage the learner to ask the trainer to stop if they do not understand the materials being presented. Other examples could also include the trainer explaining to the learner what types of thoughts they personally have while they complete the same task the learner is attempting to complete. This could aid a learner with a weaker metacognition to recognize what they should be thinking about. This could help shape the learners metacognitive skills in the future. In reverse, the trainer could also ask the trainee to think aloud as they complete a specific task. This would be done to get a better picture as to the level of the learners understanding and how the learner is thinking about a particular task. The trainer could then inform the trainee that they are doing a good job or could indicate where the learning is lacking. (JAK)


Dunlosky, J., & Metcalfe, J. (2009). Metacognition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Elaine Blakey, Sheila Spence, (1990). Thinking for the Future. Emergency Librarian.

Livingston, J. A. (1997). Metacognition: An Overview. Retrieved July 1, 2011, from (JAK)

Theories of Learning in Educational Psychology . (2009). Retrieved July 1, 2011, from John Flavell: Metacognition:

Created by:Div and Jocelyn Kortan