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Metacognition is often defined as “thinking about thinking.” However, to truly understand why it is so important for individuals with learning differences to have metacognitive skills, we must flush out this definition a bit more. So, metacognition is one’s ability to use prior knowledge to plan a strategy for approaching a learning task, take necessary steps to problem solve, reflect on, and modify one’s approach as needed. It helps learners choose the right cognitive tool for a task and plays an important role in successful learning. It builds an understanding of “self” that helps us learn and connect in the learning space with others.

Learning is, at its core, creating understanding. Constructing this understanding requires both cognitive and metacognitive elements. As learners, we “construct knowledge” using cognitive strategies, and then guide, regulate, and evaluate learning using metacognitive strategies. It is through this “thinking about thinking,” that real learning occurs. As students become more skilled at using metacognitive strategies, they gain confidence and become more independent as learners.

Here at Compass, we try to foster reflection in all aspects of the learning process including assessments and assignments. We do this by asking students to predict outcomes and identify what was enjoyable or difficult about a particular task or assignment. We encourage talking through a task or skill. We recognize that while we are the experts in the content and instruction, the students are the experts on themselves. Actively involving students in their own learning helps produce metacognitive understanding.

Furthermore, metacognition aids in almost all facets of learning for students that learn differently. It leads to better executive function, higher order thinking, self-regulation and mindfulness. The book Teaching Students to Drive Their Brains is a great tool for understanding the importance of metacognition and the process of incorporating it into teaching. Follow that link for a preview of the first chapter! For further reading, enjoy Metacognition: the gift that keeps on giving.

We continue to incorporate teaching strategies that enhance self-understanding understanding of the learning process.