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Metacognition for Effective Online Learning

by Janice Florent

The thinker statue in Stuttgart

Students who succeed academically often rely on being able to think effectively and independently in order to take charge of their learning. They are thinking about their own thinking; mastered the knowledge about their own learning. This is referred to as metacognition. Metacognition is about understanding how to learn effectively, in a limited amount of time, using strategies that are corrected over time.

According to Flavell (1979), metacognitive knowledge involves three key variables:

  1. Self-awareness: The capability to analyze one’s own strong and weak areas of knowledge and how to fulfill the deficiencies.
  2. Task analysis: What do learners know about the task and what they need to do to complete it successfully?
  3. Selection of strategy: Problem solving strategies that enable the learners to understand and comprehend new knowledge.

Incorporating metacognitive strategies into your course design can help to create autonomous and self-starting learners, who are responsible for their own learning and are willing to share the synthesized version of their knowledge with peers.

In a recent eLearning Industry blog post, Christopher Pappas listed five tips for enhancing metacognition in eLearning. Those tips are:

Integrate a wide range of skills and subjects.

The real world setting offers unpredictable problems that require a range of skills to solve. Students will need to employ their metacognitive capabilities in the real world to solve such multi-faceted problems. Replicate this requirement in the online classroom. Provide problem scenarios that require a broad spectrum of skills to solve.

Model the metacognitive process.

Leading by example is one of the most effective ways to encourage metacognition in your students. Create a tutorial or video presentation that showcases the metacognitive process. State the problem or question in the beginning of the presentation; then guide them through the steps you would use to solve it. Be as detailed as possible and include every mistake they could make along the way, as mistakes can serve as invaluable teaching tools as well.

Give them control.

The freedom of choosing a learning activity is a powerful learning experience. Give your students more control over which modules they can learn first, which projects they can complete first and what activities they can follow first. By doing this, you generate authentic interest, rather than forcing them to master a particular subject. They are also more likely to use their critical thinking, analysis, and creative thinking skills to solve the problem if they were the ones who chose to tackle the problem themselves.

Review, identify and evaluate.

At the end of every eLearning activity, encourage your students to review, identify, and evaluate the process. Ask them to review the eLearning activity, itself, including their personal opinions about it. Then ask them to identify the strategies they utilized and why they chose these strategies, before evaluating their overall performance and assessing their strengths and weaknesses throughout the task.

Encourage learners to differentiate what they know from what they need to know.

The objective of any eLearning activity is to fill the learning gap. Before each eLearning activity encourage the students to determine what they currently know and what they need to learn by the end of the task. This might be developing specific skills or acquiring new information. Once they have completed the task, have them evaluate their original statements in order to determine if they have achieved their individual goals. You can also ask them to modify or add to their statements throughout the eLearning activity if necessary.

You should utilize these tips to enhance metacognition in your course design to benefit your students by facilitating their learning process and helping them to achieve better results.

If you are interested in getting more information about designing your course to enhance metacognition, read Christopher Pappas’ blog post "5 Instructional Design Tips to Enhance Metacognition in eLearning."

Photo credit: The thinker by Iulian Ursu | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

1 thought on “Metacognition for Effective Online Learning

  1. Pingback: CAT FooD » Blog Archive » Metacognition: The Gift That Keeps Giving

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