Self-regulation and metacognition share a complex relationship: both are useful in short term learning and both can be considered long term education goals. Those of us who have strong mechanisms for self-regulation and self-control learn more with less effort, enjoy learning more and go onto live happier and productive lives
Student academic outcomes are also positively influenced by the use of metacognitive strategies, while good self-regulation is a strong predictor of academic achievement throughout school, for instance preschool children who are good self-regulation are more likely to be more proficient at Maths and reading. Therefore, both self-regulation and metacognition must be viewed as a boon to learning content and not merely an addition. In fact, there can be are “enormous” consequences for ours students in both academic endeavours and in social relationships if they fail to develop robust self-regulatory skills.
Thankfully, self-regulation is a learnable skill, and as such requires practice and feedback as would learning content knowledge. And so…
The next section is about the role of metacognition in the acquisition of declarative and procedural knowledge.
Right now, you are probably thinking along one of three lines:
1. Great, that sounds really interesting, or
2. Great, that sounds awfully difficult: or
3. Great, I already know something about that!
Instinctively, at the very inception of learning our metacognitive monitoring process kicks in. In retrospect, you will recognise all of these thoughts from your experience as a learner, but recognising them and controlling and using them are different matters. For instance, thinking that this section will be difficult could lead to the decision to go off to make a nice cup of tea, and thereby avoiding the effort you think is needed to read this. Alternately, it may be the spur to concentrate, to make sure that you get it. Self-regulation and metacognitive thinking are clearly wrapped up with motivation and its subsequent decision making
Self-regulated learning is our ability to understand and control our learning environment, and involves goal setting, selecting strategies and monitor our progress. The following diagram neatly summarises self-regulation. (adapted from Schraw et al 1996)
The simplest, and perhaps most potent definition of self-regulation is our “ability to inhibit automatic responses” This requires control over our emotions, the ability to focus and refocus our attention onto tasks and on our longer- term goals. When this is in place we can then choose the right cognitive process that will help us best complete the task.
Metacognition is perhaps the most intriguing part of self-regulation for teachers, as having well developed metacognitive strategies are “the distinguishing quality between good and poor learners” It is quite often given the prosaic thinking about our thinking tagline, that undersells its value. Metacognition simply means “beyond knowing”, inferring that it is about what we know, what we do not know, and the thinking that monitors and controls the learning process. In a sense, it involves us becoming the audience to our own performance. Flavell, the originator of modern educational views of metacognition neatly summated it as “a critical analysis of thought”, in which our knowledge about our own cognitive processes and products (or indeed anything related to them), are seen as something that can be used to regulate and orchestrate these processes. Thus, leaving us with a noble definition for metacognition as the abilities of individuals to adjust their cognitive activity in order to promote more effective comprehension.