Science Teaching Series

Internet Resources

I. Developing Scientific Literacy

II. Developing Scientific Reasoning

III. Developing Scientific Understanding

IV. Developing Scientific Problem Solving

V. Developing Scientific Research Skills

VI. Resources for Teaching Science


24.2.4 – Metacognition: Teaching students to think about their thinking

John Flavel argues that learning is maximized when students learn to think about their thinking and consciously employ strategies to maximize their reasoning and problem solving capabilities. A metacognitive thinker knows when and how he learns best, and employs strategies to overcome barriers to learning. As students learn to regulate and monitor their thought processes and understanding, they learn to adapt to new learning challenges. Expert problem solvers first seek to develop an understanding of problems by thinking in terms of core concepts and major principles (6.1-4, 7.1-7, 11.1-4). By contrast, novice problem solvers have not learned this metacognitive strategy, and are more likely to approach problems simply by trying to find the right formulas into which they can insert the right numbers. A major goal of education is to prepare students to be flexible for new problems and settings. The ability to transfer concepts from school to the work or home environment is a hallmark of a metacognitive thinker (6.4).

Metacognition & Intelligence

"Metacognition, or the ability to control one's cognitive processes (self-regulation) has been linked to intelligence (Borkowski et al., 1987; Brown, 1987; Sternberg, 1984, 1986a, 1986b). Sternberg refers to these executive processes as "metacomponents" in his triarchic theory of intelligence (Sternberg, 1984, 1986a, 1986b). Metacomponents are executive processes that control other cognitive components as well as receive feedback from these components. According to Sternberg, metacomponents are responsible for "figuring out how to do a particular task or set of tasks, and then making sure that the task or set of tasks are done correctly" (Sternberg, 1986b, p. 24). These executive processes involve planning, evaluating and monitoring problem-solving activities. Sternberg maintains that the ability to appropriately allocate cognitive resources, such as deciding how and when a given task should be accomplished, is central to intelligence." (1997 by Jennifer A. Livingston )

Learning Styles