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Metacognition & Self-Regulated Learning

Educational Theories

Formal and informal learning takes place in guided frameworks or structures commonly referred to as educational theories. According to educationalists, these are theories that outline the purpose of education, its application as well as the interpretation of educational learning. These theories provide a guide through which Knowledge, skills, and values are transmitted to individuals through learning institutions such as schools. In the cognitive theory of learning, Metacognition and self-regulated learning processes and their impacts on student achievement will be analyzed in this research paper.

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Educational theorists define Metacognition as the status of learners to have automatic awareness of the knowledge they already possess, and their ability in understanding, controlling as well as manipulating their individual cognitive processes in their brains (Metacognitive skills, n.d).

Flavell (1976) gave a more succinct definition of Metacognition as an individual’s knowledge in regard to their cognitive processes. For instance, the ability of individuals to notice that they have got troubles in learning something is a Metacognition process. Generally, Metacognition is a wide study that involves monitoring of memory and an individual’s self-regulation. It also includes meta-reasoning, awareness of one’s conscience as well as self-awareness (auto-consciousness).

Practically the above mental capacities are highly useful in regulation of an individual’s cognitive skills in order to maximize his or her potential in thinking, learning in addition to a proper evaluation of various phenomena. In a learning situation, it’s a thinking level through which learners actively control their thinking processes relevantly used in learning circumstances (Metacognitive skills, n.d).

Categories of Metacognition

Researchers and theorists classify Metacognition into three main categories, namely Metamemory, Metacomprehension, and self-Regulation (cognitive skills, n.d). Metamemory involves the learner’s awareness of their memory systems and the strategies on how they can effectively utilize their memories. Metacomprehension involves the learner’s ability in understanding communicated information, to comprehend failures as well as the application of Metacognition strategies in resolving the failures which have been identified (cognitive skills, n.d).

Self-regulated learning

Self-Regulation in learning refers to the ability of learners to adjust their learning processes in regard to the feedback of their current learning status, independently. Flavell (1976) referred to it as a process through which learners actively participate in their learning situation cognitively, metacognitively with intrinsic motivation. Such learners are characterized by attributes such as self-confidence, self-monitoring, self-motivation, and manipulation of the environment around them. Self-regulated learning involves learner’s self-induced control and monitoring of their learning processes independently. This is without any external force or persuasion.

Learners should be able to maintain necessary attitudes which bring into play, learning the available Metacognitive strategies and the purpose the strategies serve, on their own. For learners to be self-regulated and learn effectively, they should possess the capability of relevantly selecting, monitoring as well as evaluating their individual use of the strategies. In addition to the above-mentioned Metacognitive components, learners should be aware of a positive attitude as an important Metacognitive skill in approaching any given learning situation. Self-regulated learning, therefore, is a description of learning that is guided by the principle of cognition and metacognition (Pintrich& De Groot 1990).

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Metacognition is usually promoted through various strategies. Among them, is self-questioning strategies. For instance, students can question themselves about what they know about a previously learned topic. Another strategy is “loud thinking” while in the process of performing a certain task. Visualizing or graphical representation of an individual’s knowledge, as well as thoughts, is also a Metacognition strategy.

Metacognition and Self regulated learning in for student achievement

Metacognitive awareness and self-regulation in learning are very vital elements in the field of academics, which are key determinants of the success of a particular learning process, as manifested in the student’s achievement. Joseph (2003) noted that learner’s success and achievement come as a result of the learners’ ability to evaluate, monitor, and plan their learning process. Teachers, instructors, and other stakeholders involved in the learning process greatly influence the process of imparting Metacognitive skills and self-regulation learning among learners. They are the factor responsible for guiding and modeling the classroom practice of the Metacognition, hence plays a partial role in student’s achievement through Metacognition (Joseph, 2003).

Through Metacognition, students acquire self-reflective and introspective ability which are very vital in producing great knowledge among students. Through this knowledge, students gain the ability in controlling their learning, through the demonstration of active application of cognitive skills and strategies in the learning process (Buehl, 1996).

In the process of learning Metacognitive skills, learners undergo various steps which greatly improves their learning achievement. Motivation is established through metacognition learning process. For a student whose learning is motivated, chances of achieving the learning goals are increased. The Metacognitive process encourages students to “talk to themselves.” Self talk promotes their process of understanding and encoding other learning processes, obtaining feedback, and making adjustments in regard to the effectiveness of their learning processes. With time, the use of metacognition in learning becomes innate, which in turn boosts the learner’s learning processes, hence improving their achievements (cognitive skills, n.d).

Researchers findings suggests that various ways and activities can be adopted to promote Metacognition and self-regulated learning which in turn helps in the improvement of student’s achievement. For instance, lessons can be designed to include writing exercises which can promote student’s Metacognitive growth, especially if they encourage student’s reflection on their writing and reading practices, while monitoring and evaluating their ability to comprehend a text (Joseph, 2003).

In a study conducted amongst children in California’s title 1 schools which registered the lowest performance in the state, it was noted that Metacognitive intervention on the children’s vocabulary had a great positive impact, leading to great achievement on their vocabulary and reading comprehension. The schools designed instruction in a comprehensive manner, allowing for strategies such as metacognition and self regulated learning process among the children.

Twelve weeks after the vocabulary intervention, the researchers noted that the intervention had bore fruits in terms of the children’s achievements and overall class performance. It was noted that their Metacognitive skills had significantly advanced, and that the difference between the student’s scores in title 1 schools and those in the above average performing learning institution was almost insignificant. This meant that through metacognition and cognition, the pupils had advanced their learning skills hence the improvement in their individual achievements, academically (Lubliner & Smetana, 2005).

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Hanging objects such as posters in classrooms, this reminds and prompts students to think more on or about what they are thinking. These objects enhance and further develop students’ metacognitive and cognitive skills, which in turn trigger their awareness, planning, monitoring and controlling their learning processes. Having in possession of all these skills, efficient learning greatly improves, which brings about academic achievement among individual students (Tishman, Jay & Perkins, 1992).

Tishman, Jay & Perkins (1992) observed that use of metacognitive prompts in the instruction process, develops student’s remembrance of thinking about their own thinking while working, and this contributes to their success and achievement in their endeavors.

Students who have developed self regulating abilities, awareness, and monitoring of their thinking usually have greater capabilities in comprehending texts and solving problems at hand, be it academic or general problems. Such students are more capable of great achievements academically or general achievement in their lives. Exposure to metacognitive strategies of legendary great thinkers is usually informative and highly inspirational to students, which are factors behind their success and achievement.

In a study conducted on southeast Asian children on the impacts self-regulated learning had on mathematics achievement, low achievement in mathematics and other subjects were blamed on poor study habits. The researcher noted that implementing a self regulated learning program would tremendously improve their study habits as well as achievement in mathematics. After training students on self regulated learning, they develop various capacities.

They become capable of developing and applying their strengths in the learning processes, set their individual goals of learning which are meaningful, work independently or with the help of others in achieving the goals and develop and utilize a range of the most appropriate learning strategies on varying learning tasks. Moreover, such students are capable of understanding, planning, monitoring and evaluating their individual learning process, and overcoming obstacles on their way to achieving their own set learning goals. Having acquired these capabilities, their learning achievements are greatly improved (self-regulated learning, n.d)

Leadership and Metacognitive instruction and how it improves schools

Teaching and instructing learners is itself a leadership element which helps to build or develop student’s leadership skills and other relevant skills, knowledge and values necessary for a mutual relationship with other parties involved in the school’s activities. Thorough instruction a language of thinking is developed within the learners and also the instructors, which in turn improves schools performance via individual’s achievements, school’s management and its leadership as well.

Teachers and instructors are the main players in leading students through the learning process. In a good, well focused and direct instruction, improvements in students’ practical intelligence are evident (Buehl, 1996). A good leadership keenly follows up the development of a suitable curriculum program through which “practical intelligence can be identified, assessed, and taught in order to achieve meaningful increases in real-world success in the classroom” (Williams et al. 2002).

This kind of instruction (which is a leadership element) encourages self-awareness of student’s individual strength and weakness as learners. After creating this awareness, the curriculum program should allow the instructors to further lead the students in improving their individual performance, which consequently leads to class and school improvement.

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Though instruction on metacognition, students gains the ability to think about their own thinking, as well as thinking of other people, control, monitor and evaluate the thinking to be critical and concise. They gain the knowledge to control various factors which affect their learning process and the learning environment as well. When students are well led in acquiring relevant metacognition skills, their conducts within the school setting improves tremendously, a factor which contributes to the easening of management and leadership process within schools, hence the school’s improvement in terms of coordination of various parties as well as in academics(Williams et al. 2002).

Teachers should provide a leadership role of describing Metacognitive and self regulation learning strategies which enable students to explore their learning understandability. While executing their leadership role in metacognitive instruction, teachers helps in the development of their students’ metacognitive abilities in operational and moral thinking, advances their abilities of thinking abstractly, understanding the thinking of other people as well as being responsible for their own actions.

After acquiring metacognitive skills through the instruction process, the development of complex skills, knowledge, aspirations and attitudes associated with leadership development starts to manifest in the students. Having gained these skills, their interaction and relations with other members of the school community improves tremendously, as they are now more cognitive beings than before. The development of their leadership skills also improves schools the management as they are partially elements of the entire school management (Marzano, 1998).

Marzano (1998) noted that teachers plays a vital leadership role in leading their students in internalizing and developing their metacognitive skills and strategies. It is through direct instruction, use of practical and modeling, whereby students’ learning is promoted, hence schools’ improvement. He maintained that the instruction of metacognition should be coupled with all necessary leadership skill, and the most effective strategies be used at the appropriately for the individuals’ and schools’ improvement all round.

Metacognition if well taught to learners, it moves learners towards a state of independence, interdependence in addition to the state of self-efficacy. Moreover, students gain the ability to master information and problem solving becomes easier than ever before.

Metacognitive instruction also leads to development of skills such as self-regulatory and self-monitoring, which consequentially leads to students’ intellectual growth, boosts their academic achievement, while imparting necessary leadership skills amongst them. Students whose intellect has grown substantially, tends to achieve higher academically, and if these attributes are coupled with excellent leadership skills (molded by metacognition), the school is deemed to improve significantly in all spheres (in academics, management, leadership among other areas) (Marzano, 1998).

Through metacognitive instruction, the development of thinking skill is highly developed, as well as other skills which enhance the learning process of an individual student. In fact the main objective of metacognitive instruction is to enable students to be more strategic, more flexible in their thinking and self reliant in their daily tasks within or outside the school compound. Teachers and instructors should identify the most appropriate cognitive and metacognitive strategies, which are deemed to be used previously by successful leaders in order to mold successful leaders among the students within the school.

Such measure will impact positively in improving schools’ leadership (Livingston, 1997). Students are the ones at the grassroots level of the schools’ leadership system. If this system has to achieve success, then it should start at the students’ level. This will be effectively achieved if the students have learnt and internalized the principles of metacognition.

In their leadership role, metacognition instructors should provide the experience and practice of the metacognitive strategies during the instruction process, as it will make learning more effective; hence trigger the school’s general improvement (Livingston, 1997).

Metacognitive instruction should feature the aspects of student’s planning on how to approach a given tasks, either a learning, leading or any other task at hand. The student should possess the capability to monitor and evaluate the progress of the task. Instructors should teach students on how best they can apply the learnt metacognitive skills through a metacognitive control. Through this way, their individual learning achievement as well as the schools achievement will be improved significantly (Livingston, 1997).

It is an important role for metacognitive instruction to help students acquire and determine how to effectively and appropriately utilize metacognitive skills as well as strategies, not only in reading but also in other aspects of life, such as in leadership. If applied specifically within the school context, its improvement and success is eminent. It’s therefore evident that metacognition very great and critical role for individual’s and school’s learning success. Effective leaderships within the school environment also thrive on effective instruction of metacognition, and sound application and practice metacognitive skills and strategies by both the instructors and the students (Livingston, 1997).


The cognitive theories of metacognition and self regulated learning are among the most effective theories for any learning process. Metacognition, which basically implies the thinking of thinking, creates awareness on learners, specifically on what they are thinking about, comprehending, monitoring, controlling as well as evaluating their entire thinking process. Through self regulated learning, learners internalize the metacognitive skills and strategies, and gain the capability to think independently and interdependently. Coupled with metacognition, self regulated learning is the main factor behind improving student’s success and achievement academically as well as in life generally. Individuals’ achievements accumulate to school’s improvements.

Metacognitive instruction, which is leadership role, remains a core factor in imparting metacognitive skills among students. When metacognitive skills are manifested in the students, school leaderships becomes easier, hence overall improvement of the school is evidenced.


Buehl, Doug. (1996). Improving Students’ Learning Strategies through Self-Reflection. Teaching & Change, 3, 227-243.

Effects of self-regulated learning on mathematics achievement of selected Southeast Asian Children. (n.d). Web.

Flavell, J. H. (1976). Metacognitive aspects of problem solving. In L. B. Resnick (Ed.), the nature of intelligence. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Joseph, Nancy L. (2003). Metacognitive awareness: investigating theory and practice. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 2, 1-8.

Lubliner, S. & Smetana, L. (2005). Effects of Comprehensive Vocabulary Instruction on Title I Students’ Metacognitive Word-Learning Skills and Reading Comprehension, The Journal of Literacy Research. Web.

Marzano, R. J. (1998). A theory-based meta-analysis of research on instruction. Aurora, CO: McREL. Web.

Metacognitive skills (n.d). Web.

Pintrich, P. R., & De Groot, E. V. (1990). Motivational and Self-Regulated Learning Components of Classroom Academic Performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(1), 33-40.

Tishman, J, E. Jay & D. N. Perkins. (1992). Teaching thinking dispositions: From transmission to enculturation. Cambridge, MA: ALPS. Web.

Williams, Wendy M. et al. (2002). Practical Intelligence for School: Developing Metacognitive Sources of Achievement in Adolescence. Developmental Review 22(1), 162-210.

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