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MetaCognition: a critical learning competency

How often do we stop to think about our thinking?

Metacognition is the awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes, is a cornerstone of effective learning. It allows individuals to evaluate, regulate, and adapt their cognitive strategies, leading to improved problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Edward de Bono, in his Six Thinking Hats framework, refers to this as the ‘Blue Hat’ thinking, which involves managing the thinking process itself.

As the philosopher John Dewey once said, ‘We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.'”

In the context of higher education, metacognition plays a pivotal role in fostering self-awareness and lifelong learning habits. This blog post explores how metacognitive strategies can enhance learning in ethics, sustainability, reflection, and business communication, illustrating the transformative power of self-awareness in education.

Metacognition comprises two primary components:

  • Metacognitive Knowledge: Includes declarative knowledge (understanding oneself as a learner), procedural knowledge (knowing how to perform tasks), and conditional knowledge (knowing when and why to apply specific strategies) (Schraw & Dennison, 1994; Flavell, 1979).
  • Metacognitive Regulation: Involves planning (selecting strategies and resources), monitoring (awareness of comprehension and performance), and evaluating (appraising the task performance and strategy effectiveness).

“The significance of metacognition is connected to the very essence of how we live. ‘The unexamined life is not worth living’ as Socrates wrote, underscores the importance of self-reflection and critical evaluation in personal and academic growth.”

Role of Metacognition

  • Enhancing Critical Thinking and Self-Reflection: (Declarative Knowledge), e.g. Students engage in case studies and reflective journals, promoting awareness of their thought processes and ethical considerations (Schön, 1983).
  • Understanding and Evaluating Personal Values and Biases: (Conditional Knowledge), e.g. In teaching ethics, we specifically incorporate reflective journals into the assessment process in order to facilitate students to examine their responses to ethical frameworks, encouraging them to consider different perspectives and refine their moral reasoning (Schön, 1983).

Integrating MetaCognition

  • Importance of Reflection in Learning: (Procedural Knowledge), e.g. Reflective practices, such as journals and self-assessment, allow students to consolidate their learning and understand concepts more profoundly (Azevedo & Cromley, 2004).
  • Developing Self-Regulation and Goal-Setting Skills: (Conditional Knowledge), e.g. In sustainability courses, students may be assigned projects that require them to reflect on their personal carbon footprint and sustainability practices, promoting a deeper understanding of their environmental impact and fostering sustainable thinking (Boud & Molloy, 2013).
  • Self-Monitoring and Evaluating Communication Effectiveness: (Procedural Knowledge), e.g. Students learn to monitor their communication skills and evaluate their effectiveness, leading to improved interactions (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000).
  • Adapting Communication Styles Based on Audience Feedback: (Conditional Knowledge), e.g. In business communication courses, role-playing exercises and presentations can be used to help students reflect on their communication strategies, allowing them to adapt and improve their approach based on audience feedback (Roll & Wylie, 2016).

Importance of Teacher Feedback and Feedback Literacy

Teacher feedback plays a crucial role in the development of metacognitive skills. Effective feedback helps students understand their strengths and areas for improvement, guiding them in refining their cognitive strategies and enhancing their learning outcomes. Feedback literacy, the ability to understand and use feedback effectively, empowers students to take an active role in their learning process, making them more reflective and self-regulated learners (Boud & Molloy, 2013).

Feedback is a shared responsibility between teachers and students. For feedback to be effective, both parties must engage actively in the process. Teachers provide constructive insights and evaluations, while students must learn to interpret, internalize, and apply this feedback to their learning strategies. This collaborative approach ensures that feedback serves its intended purpose of fostering continuous improvement and self-awareness.

Feedback literacy comprises several competencies that collectively contribute to the metacognitive learning process. These competencies include:

  • Understanding Feedback: Students must comprehend the feedback they receive, including its purpose and how it relates to their work.
  • Seeking Clarification: Students should feel empowered to ask questions and seek further explanation when feedback is unclear.
  • Reflecting on Feedback: This involves critically analyzing feedback to understand what changes are necessary and why they are important.
  • Applying Feedback: Students must develop the ability to implement feedback into their future work effectively.
  • Engaging in Dialogue: An ongoing conversation between teachers and students helps clarify expectations, address misunderstandings, and support the continuous refinement of learning strategies.

By developing these competencies, students become better equipped to engage in the metacognitive processes of planning, monitoring, and evaluating their learning. This holistic approach to feedback and feedback literacy significantly enhances students’ ability to self-regulate and adapt their learning strategies, ultimately leading to improved academic performance and personal growth.

Metacognitive Teaching Tools and Templates

  • Reflective Journals: Templates for reflective journals can guide students in structuring their thoughts and reflections systematically. One such template is the “Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle,” which prompts students to describe, analyse, and evaluate their experiences (Boud & Molloy, 2013).
  • Self-Assessment Checklists: Tools like Zimmerman’s (2002) self-regulation checklist help students monitor their learning strategies and progress.
  • AI-driven Feedback Platforms: As students engage in a dialogical conversation with AI, such as intelligent tutoring systems, their curiosity and interaction can enhance metacognitive awareness. These platforms provide personalized feedback and recommendations, helping students to better understand their learning processes and improve outcomes (Aburayya et al., 2023; Lim et al., 2023).


By integrating metacognitive practices across disciplines such as ethics, sustainability, reflection, and business communication, higher education can significantly enhance students’ critical thinking, self-awareness, and adaptability. Educators are encouraged to embed metacognitive strategies in their teaching methods, fostering a reflective and self-regulated learning environment for students.

Students can also leverage AI tools to assist their metacognitive practices. Tools such as intelligent tutoring systems and AI-driven feedback platforms can provide personalised insights and recommendations, helping students to better understand their learning processes and improve their outcomes (Roll & Wylie, 2016).

“In the words of Confucius, ‘Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.’ Embracing metacognition not only reveals the depths of our understanding but also lights the path toward continuous intellectual and personal growth.”



10 Numbers to Describe our world

10 Numbers to Describe our world

Tomorrow’s People: The Future of Humanity in Ten Numbers 
Paul Morland’s “Tomorrow’s People” is an engaging and insightful book that uses ten key numbers to predict and analyse the future trends affecting humanity. It effectively underscores the global interconnectedness of issues such as climate change, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and equality.


Here are the ten numbers that Morland uses to reinforce these themes.

1The impact of being the only child on family dynamics and society.
43The average age of a population and its implications for the workforce and economy.
100The rise of centenarians and the challenges of an aging population.
19The age of first childbirth and its influence on family size and population growth.
70,000Human migration and its impact on cultural and demographic shifts.
4,000,000,000Population growth in Africa and its global implications.
54The number of countries and the effects of geopolitical changes.
7The number of children per woman in high-fertility areas and the demographic transition.
23The significance of urbanisation and the growth of megacities.
94The increasing literacy rate and its role in shaping future societies.

Economic: Changes in workforce dynamics, pension systems, and healthcare.
Social: Shifts in family structures, migration patterns, and urban living.
Political: Geopolitical tensions, policy making, and governance challenges.
Environmental: Impact of population growth on resources and sustainability.

Tomorrow’s People” offers a compelling overview of how we live in a global environment and how these ten numbers will shape our future. The book urges proactive policies and global cooperation to address upcoming challenges, encapsulating Morland’s approach to understanding the future of humanity through crucial demographic and social indicators. It provides valuable insights into the interwoven fabric of our global society and the critical factors that will influence our collective future.

Morland, P. (2022). Tomorrow’s People: The Future of Humanity in Ten Numbers.   Picador. .

How many of these numbers truly resonate with you? How might they impact your perspective on our global future? Most of us are too comfortable to fully grasp their significance.