Metacognologists believe that the ability to consciously think about thinking is unique to sapient species and indeed is one of the definitions of sapience. There is evidence that rhesus monkeys and apes can make accurate judgments about the strengths of their memories of fact and monitor their own uncertainty,while attempts to demonstrate metacognition in birds have been inconclusive. A 2007 study has provided some evidence for metacognition in rats, but further analysis suggested that they may have been following simple operant conditioning principles, or a behavioral economic model.
* Metacognitive strategies
Metacognitive-like processes are especially ubiquitous when it comes to the discussion of self-regulated learning. Being engaged in metacognition is a salient feature of good self-regulated learners. Groups reinforcing collective discussion of metacognition is a salient feature of self-critical and self-regulating social groups. The activities of strategy selection and application include those concerned with an ongoing attempt to plan, check, monitor, select, revise, evaluate, etc.
Metacognition is ‘stable’ in that learners’ initial decisions derive from the pertinent fact about their cognition through years of learning experience. Simultaneously, it is also ‘situated’ in the sense that it depends on learners’ familiarity with the task, motivation, emotion, and so forth. Individuals need to regulate their thoughts about the strategy they are using and adjust it based on the situation to which the strategy is being applied. At a professional level, this has led to emphasis on the development of reflective practice, particularly in the education and health-care professions.
Recently, the notion has been applied to the study of second language learners in the field of TESOL and applied linguistics in general (e.g., Wenden, 1987; Zhang, 2001, 2010). This new development has been much related to Flavell (1979), where the notion of metacognition is elaborated within a tripartite theoretical framework. Learner metacognition is defined and investigated by examining their person knowledge, task knowledge and strategy knowledge.
Wenden (1991) has proposed and used this framework and Zhang (2001) has adopted this approach and investigated second language learners’ metacognition or metacognitive knowledge. In addition to exploring the relationships between learner metacognition and performance, researchers are also interested in the effects of metacognitively-oriented strategic instruction on reading comprehension (e.g., Garner, 1994, in first language contexts, and Chamot, 2005; Zhang, 2010). The efforts are aimed at developing learner autonomy, interdependence and self-regulation.
Metacognition helps people to perform many cognitive tasks more effectively. Strategies for promoting metacognition include self-questioning (e.g. “What do I already know about this topic? How have I solved problems like this before?”), thinking aloud while performing a task, and making graphic representations (e.g. concept maps, flow charts, semantic webs) of one’s thoughts and knowledge. Carr, 2002, argues that the physical act of writing plays a large part in the development of metacognitive skills.
Strategy Evaluation matrices (SEM) can help to improve the knowledge of cognition component of metacogntion. The SEM works by identifying the declarative (Column 1), procedural (Column 2) and conditional (Column 3 and 4) knowledge about specific strategies. The SEM can help individuals identify the strength and weaknesses about certain strategies as well as introduce them to new strategies that they can add to their repertoire.
A regulation checklist (RC) is a useful strategy for improving the regulation of cognition aspect of one’s metacognition. RCs help individuals to implement a sequence of thoughts that allow them to go over their own metacogntion. King (1991) found that fifth-grade students who used a regulation checklist outperformed control students when looking at a variety of questions including written problem solving, asking strategic questions, and elaborating information.
Metacognitive strategies training can consist of coaching the students in thinking skills that will allow them to monitor their own learning. Examples of strategies that can be taught to students are word analysis skills, active reading strategies, listening skills, organizational skills and creating mnemonic devices.
* Meta-Strategic Knowledge
“Meta-Strategic Knowledge” (MSK) is a sub-component of metacognition that is defined as general knowledge about higher order thinking strategies. MSK had been defined as “general knowledge about the cognitive procedures that are being manipulated”. The knowledge involved in MSK consists of “making generalizations and drawing rules regarding a thinking strategy” and of “naming” the thinking strategy.
The important conscious act of a meta-strategic strategy is the “conscious” awareness that one is performing a form of higher order thinking. MSK is an awareness of the type of thinking strategies being used in specific instances and it consists of the following abilities: making generalizations and drawing rules regarding a thinking strategy, naming the thinking strategy, explaining when, why and how such a thinking strategy should be used, when it should not be used, what are the disadvantages of not using appropriate strategies, and what task characteristics call for the use of the strategy.
MSK deals with the broader picture of the conceptual problem. It creates rules to describe and understand the physical world around the people who utilize these processes called Higher-order thinking. This is the capability of the individual to take apart complex problems in order to understand the components in problem. These are the building blocks to understanding the “big picture” (of the main problem) through reflection and problem solving.
* Characteristics of Theory of Mind: Understanding the mind and the “mental world”: