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In the simplest terms, metacognition refers to the ability to think about one’s thinking or cognitive processes. It is generally understood as the ability to contemplate one’s own thinking, to observe oneself when processing cognitive tasks, and to organize the learning and thinking processes involved in these tasks. Learners who engage in metacognitive thinking are able to monitor and regulate their learning and, as a result, assume greater responsibility for their progress. Metacognitive thinking involves assessing or reviewing one’s current and previous knowledge, identifying gaps in that knowledge, planning gap-filling strategies, determining the relevance of new information, and potentially revising beliefs. In psychological terms metacognition includes: metacognitive knowledge (what one knows about one’s own knowledge and behaviour); metacognitive skills (how one behaves or acts in relation to a given task); and metacognitive experiences in terms of a cognitive and/or emotional judegment of one’s present situation. Metacognitive knowledge may also be separated into two main classes: (a) declarative metacognitive knowledge includes knowledge about one’s own thinking and that of other people as well as knowledge about demands on one’s own cognition; (b) procedural metacognitive knowledge refers to the control and regulation of the execution processes involved in carrying out learning tasks. Metacognition is dependent on general intellectual abilities which are developed over long periods of time on the basis of confrontations with many different kinds of problems. From a metacognitive point of view, learners are managers of their own general and specific knowledge. However, not only do they have to possess the domain-specific and general knowledge relevant for learning transfer, they also have to know how to apply this knowledge in the context of new problems. (Adapted from: Seel 2012).

See also ‘Learning to learn’.

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