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Definition

Metacognition in simple terms is thinking about thinking.  It's awareness of or knowledge about a person's own thought processes and knowledge. This allows a person to make conscious changes in mental strategy in problem solving and understanding new things.

See also: Executive function, Self-Regulation

Bodrova, E. et al. (2013) Play and Self-Regulation: Lessons from Vygotsky (Journal Article)

Abstract:

The authors consider the analysis of the literature on play research by Lillard and others in the January 2013 "Psychological Bulletin," an analysis that questioned the prevailing assumption of a causal relationship between play and child development, especially in the areas of creativity, reasoning, executive function, and regulation of emotions. The authors regard these connections as critical for teachers in early-childhood classrooms and for other advocates of child play. They claim that the conclusions of Lillard and her coauthors place these professionals in a difficult position because they already face sharp pressure to replace play with academic activities. The authors suggest that the difficulty researchers have in linking play to development partly results from a failure to account for both cognitive and noncognitive developments across a complex trajectory. To help see the problem more clearly, they argue for a return to the Vygotskian and post-Vygotskian theories that differentiate between immature and mature play. The authors then describe their creation, an observational tool based on such theories, that helps researchers and practitioners judge the quality of pretend play.

Date:
January 2013
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
6
Page/s:
111-123
Synonyms:
  • Creativity
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Literature review
  • Metacognition
  • Pretend play
  • Self-regulation
  • Executive function
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Dignath, C. et al. (2008) How can primary school students learn self-regulated learning strategies most effectively? (Journal Article)

Abstract:

Recently, research has increasingly focused on fostering self-regulated learning amongst young children. To consider this trend, this article presents the results of a differentiated meta-analysis of 48 treatment comparisons resulting from 30 articles on enhancing self-regulated learning amongst primary school students. Based on recent models of self-regulated learning, which consider motivational, as well as cognitive, and metacognitive aspects [Boekaerts, M. (1999). Self-regulated learning: Where we are today. International Journal of Educational research, 31(6), 445–457], the effects of self-regulated learning on academic achievement, on cognitive and metacognitive strategy application, as well as on motivation were analyzed. As the results show, self-regulated learning training programmes proved to be effective, even at primary school level. Subsequent analysis tested for the effects of several moderator variables, which consisted of study features and training characteristics. Regarding factors that concern the content of the treatment, the impact of the theoretical background that underlies the intervention was tested, as well as the type of cognitive, metacognitive, or motivational strategy which were instructed, and if group work was used as instruction method. Training context related factors, which were included in the analyses consisted of students’ grade level, the length of the training, if teachers or researchers directed the intervention, as well as the school subject in which context the training took place. Following the results of these analyses, a list with the most effective training characteristics was provided.

Date:
January 2008
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
3
Page/s:
101-129
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Learning
  • Meta-analysis
  • Metacognition
  • Self-regulation
Relevant age group/s:

Perfect, T. et al. (2002) Applied Metacognition (Book)

Abstract:

There is a growing theoretical and practical interest in the topic of metacognition; how we monitor and control our mental processes. Applied Metacognition provides a coherent and up-to-date overview of the relation between theories in metacognition and their application in real-world situations. As well as a theoretical overview, there are substantive chapters covering metacognition in three areas of application: metacognition in education, metacognition in everyday life memory and metacognition in different populations. The book has contributions from many of the leading researchers in metacognition from around the world.

Date:
January 2002
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
Page/s:
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Learning
  • Metacognition
  • Self-regulation
Relevant age group/s:

Whitebread, D. (1999) Interactions between children's metacognitive abilities, working memory capacity, strategies and performance during problem-solving (Journal Article)

Abstract:

This paper reports two related studies intended to explore the interactions between children's metacognitive abilities, their working memory capacity, the development and selection of strategies and their performance on problem-solving tasks. In the first study, a sample of 20 children aged 5 and 6 were presented with a reclassification task. In the second study, a sample of 72 children aged 6, 8 and 10 were presented with a multidimensional discrimination learning (MDL) task. Data was collected related to the children's metacognitive abilities, working memory capacity, response strategies and task performance. The results indicated that performance on both tasks was dependent upon developmentally changing interactions between these various aspects of cognitive functioning. In particular, the relationship of working memory capacity to performance was dependent upon metacognitive abilities. The results also suggested that metacognitive awareness did not directly affect performance, but that such a relationship was dependent upon the development of strategic control. The implications of these results for understanding U-shaped behavioural growth and other common developmental patterns are discussed. Within the educational sphere, the study emphasises the significance and possibility for children as learners of fostering certain kinds of metacognitive ability. Cet article rapporte les résultats de deux recherches destinées à explorer les interactions entre capacités métacognitives de l'enfant, capacité de la mémoire de travail, développement et sélection de stratégies, et performances à des tâches de résolution de problème. Dans la première étude, un échantillon de 20 enfants âgés de 5 ou 6 ans, était soumis à une tâche de reclassification. Dans la deuxième recherche, un échantillon de 72 enfants âgés de 6, 8 ou 10 ans était confronté à une tâche d'apprentissage de discrimination multidimensionnelle. Les résultats montrent que les performances aux deux tâches, dépendent des changements développementaux dans l'interaction entre les différents aspects du fonctionnement cognitif cités plus haut et mesurés dans cette recherche. En particulier, les relations entre mémoire de travail et performance dépendent des compétences métacognitives. Les résultats montrent aussi que la conscience métacognitive n'affecte pas directement les performances, mais que la relation entre les deux dépend du développement du contrôle stratégiques. Les explications des ces résultats pour l'interprétation des patrons de développement courants ou des évolutions en forme de U sont discutées. Dans le champ de l'éducation, l'étude contribue à mettre en valeur l'intérêt et la possibiblité d'encourager le développement de certains types de capacités métacognitives.

Author/s:
Date:
January 1999
Volume:
14
Page/s:
489-507
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Metacognition
  • Problem-solving
  • Self-regulation
  • Working memory
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Whitebread, D. et al. (2005) Developing independent learning in the early years (Journal Article)

Abstract:

This paper describes a research project currently running in Cambridgeshire Foundation Stage settings exploring the development of independent learning in young children. In the first year the project has explored the work of 16 practitioners working with 3–5 year old children, using a range of methodologies including questionnaires, interviews and reflective dialogues (based on video recordings of particular classroom episodes), reflective journals and child assessment checklists. The development of the range of abilities involved in becoming a self-regulating, independent learner has been conceptualised in terms of research and theory relating to the development of ‘metacognitive’ abilities and dispositions. It is argued that, while the development of independent learning is generally accepted as an important educational aim, current trends in Primary education which have encouraged a more teacher-directed approach, are not helpful. The paper advances a model of independent learning which is based on developmental psychological research, and presents interim findings from the project which suggest that even our youngest children are capable of considerable independence in their learning. While particular pedagogical techniques and approaches need to be developed, many of these are well-established and researched, and can be shown to be effective in fostering independent learning abilities within the Primary school context.

Date:
January 2005
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
33
Page/s:
40-50
Synonyms:
  • Cross-sectional
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Metacognition
  • Pedagogy
  • Self-regulation
Relevant age group/s:

Whitebread, D. et al. (2007) Development of Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning in Young Children: Role of Collaborative and Peer-Assisted Learning (Journal Article)

Abstract:

The authors present findings from a large 2-year study exploring the development of self-regulatory and metacognitive abilities in young children (aged 3 to 5 years) in educational naturalistic settings in the United Kingdom (English Nursery and Reception classrooms). Three levels of analysis were conducted based on observational codings of categories of metacognitive and self-regulatory behaviors. These analyses supported the view that, within the 3- to 5-year age range, there was extensive evidence of metacognitive behaviors that occurred most frequently during learning activities that were initiated by the children, involved them in working in pairs or small groups, unsupervised by adults, and that involved extensive collaboration and talk (i.e., learning contexts that might be characterized as peer-assisted learning). Relative to working individually or
in groups with adult support, children in this age range working in unsupervised small groups showed more evidence of metacognitive monitoring and control. Relative to children in supervised groups, they also showed more evidence of "other" and "shared" regulation. The implications for research,
theory, and educational practice are discussed.

Date:
January 2007
Volume:
6
Page/s:
433-455
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Learning
  • Metacognition
  • Self-regulation
Relevant age group/s:

Whitebread, D. et al. (2009) Play, cognition and self-regulation: What exactly are children learning when they learn through play? (Journal Article)

Abstract:

This paper explores the particular aspects of learning which might be supported through playful activity and reviews research and theory which link children’s play, and particularly pretence or symbolic play, to the development of metacognitive and self-regulatory skills. Three studies are reported, one observational and two experimental, which have explored this
relationship. The observational study involved the video-recording of 582 metacognitive or self-regulatory ‘events’ within Foundation Stage settings. The two experimental studies replicated in different learning domains the classic study of Sylva, Bruner and Genova (1976), which contrasted the problem-solving performance of 3- to 5-year-old children who had experienced a ‘taught’ and ‘play’ condition. Evidence from the present studies reported and other studies supports the view that play, and
particularly pretence or symbolic play, which might be with objects or other children, is particularly significant in its contribution to the development of children as metacognitively skilful, self-regulated learners. Evidence from the observational study indicated that child-initiated playful activities, in small groups without adult supervision, supported the greatest proportion of self-regulatory behaviours. The experimental studies suggested that the experience of the ‘play’ condition was particularly effective in preparing the children for effortful, problem-solving or creative tasks which require a high level of metacognitive and self-regulatory skill. Metacognitive and self-regulatory development is crucially important in the development of academic skills which involve intentional learning, problem-solving and creativity. An understanding of the relationship between pretend or symbolic play and self-regulation is also helpful in providing clear guidelines for adults working with young children as regards their role in supporting and encouraging play in educational contexts.

Date:
January 2009
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
26
Page/s:
40
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Learning
  • Metacognition
  • Pretend play
  • Self-regulation
  • Symbolic play
Relevant age group/s:

Whitebread, D. et al. (2012) Preschool children's social pretend play: supporting the development of metacommunication, metacognition and self-regulation (Journal Article)

Abstract:

This paper presents an overview of the conceptual, developmental and functional aspects of metacommunication in preschool children's social pretend play. While the relationship between the representational aspects of social pretend play and positive developmental outcomes is well researched, metacommunicaton in social pretend play remains a largely under-researched phenomenon. A definition of social pretend play is proposed leading to propositions as to its specific functions for young children's learning and development. In particular, it is hypothesised that the development of metacommunication during social pretend play may make an important contribution to the early development of metacognition and self-regulation. Having proposed these specific functions for metacommunication, the implications of this for adult involvement in naturally occurring social pretend play are discussed. Identifying more specifically the components of social pretend play which support specific aspects of learning can inform pedagogical innovations, and the realisation of the full educational potential of social pretend play. While this review highlights some important conceptual, developmental and pedagogical issues in relation to metacommunicaton in social pretend play, these aspects clearly require elaboration. Suggestions are made for further research on metacommunciation development, and the conditions which support its emergence and development.

Date:
January 2012
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
1
Page/s:
197-213
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Literature review
  • Metacognition
  • Pedagogy
  • Peers play
  • Pretend play
  • Self-regulation
  • Social cognition
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Zachariou, A. et al. (2015) Musical play and self-regulation: does musical play allow for the emergence of self-regulatory behaviours? (Journal Article)

Abstract:

This paper is a pioneering attempt to bring together the notions of musical play and self-regulation and reports on a study aiming to explore 6-year-old children's self-regulation during musical play. While musical play is one of the first manifestations of musicality, a fundamental aspect of human functioning [Trevarthen, C. (2000). Musicality and the intrinsic motive pulse: Evidence from human psychobiology and infant communication. Musicae Scientiae, 3(1), 155–215], self-regulation is crucial in children's learning. Self-regulatory abilities flourish in playful contexts [Bruner, J. S. (1972). Nature and uses of immaturity. American Psychologist, 27(8), 687–708], since play's specific characteristics promote self-regulatory development. Even though musical play shows these characteristics, its relationship with self-regulation is under-researched. This paper presents observations of ten 6-year-old children while they were engaged in musical play sessions. Having adopted a mixed-methods approach, the results suggested that musical play allowed for self-regulatory behaviours to emerge. An understanding of the link between musical play and self-regulation could inform not only the theoretical underpinnings suggesting a relationship between play and self-regulation, but also current teaching practice in relation to music education.

Date:
January 2015
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
4
Page/s:
116-135
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Guided-play
  • Metacognition
  • Musical play
  • Playful learning
  • Self-regulation
  • Semiotic play
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline: