What Are Metacognitive Skills?

Metacognitive skills involve self-awareness. It is the information you already know as well as information you do not know. How do you retain the information you do not know and once you have it, how do you recall information regarding a particular subject?

By Rick Gonzales | Published

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Metacognitive skills involve self-awareness. It is the information you already know as well as information you do not know. How do you retain the information you do not know and once you have it, how do you recall information regarding a particular subject?

These skills begin to develop during childhood, typically around the age of 8. This development is how children begin to learn different school subjects. They are skills that don’t focus on the one, but the many. As the child grows, so does the development of their metacognitive skills. They evolve as students reach their teenage years and continue to grow and develop well into adulthood. These metacognitive skills typically fit into three distinct categories of one’s learning process.

Planning – This is the first phase of metacognition. Planning asks a child what it is they want to learn and if they have any prior knowledge that will help them along the way. This tells them what they will need to focus on and just how long they will have to achieve this learning.

Monitoring – While this phase is the second one, it actually continues throughout the entire learning process.  Monitoring allows a student to question how well they are retaining the presented information. They are able to monitor if the pace of learning needs to slow or quicken based on how well they are grasping the material. If the subject is too difficult to process on their own, they need to assess if they need further guidance.

Evaluation – This is the final phase. This is when a student gets to evaluate their ability to learn during the second, monitoring, phase. Students can question if what they just learned can help them in other areas. This helps them determine weaker areas in the learning process to address if they need additional work. They also get to reflect on things they should have done differently to make the most of their learning experience.


Why is the development and honing of metacognitive skills so important to the individual? First, it helps individuals with their processes of learning. It also helps individuals to understand how they learn effectively. Having sharp skills will allow for quicker learning while also allowing individuals to retain learned information which helps not only as they venture through their educational years, but also as they become working professionals. This is all key in understanding which methods they will use to better educate themselves and help overcome any barriers that may pop up from time to time.


Although there are three distinct categories revolving around metacognitive skills, there are a number of examples that involve a variety of traits that help the individual learn, identify certain tasks, take on challenges, and, finally, evaluate potential success. Adjustment and failures are also factors that need to be identified. Here are a few examples:

Planning and Organization – Simply put, a good, organized plan will help you decide what you need to learn and which methods you will employ to learn effectively. These important skills will help you build a strong base for learning and retaining whatever information is being taught.

Goal Setting – Here an individual sets their goals so they can reach them in a specific timeframe. Setting goals is very a very important trait for those wishing to improve their metacognitive skills. Students’ goal setting will allow them to think ahead. They will be able to create objectives they can focus on throughout the entire learning experience – before, during, and after.

Problem Solving – This metacognitive skill is vastly important as it helps individuals identify issues within their learning environment. After determining where things went wrong and what they need to improve upon, an individual will be able to home in on their problem-solving skills in order to develop smart solutions. A change in their learning environment may be in order.

Self-Evaluation – The ability to look back on your learning experience is important an important skill. Understanding where you came from to determine where you are going is key in getting there. Self-evaluation allows for the individual to see what type of focus they have. They can assess their strengths as well as their weaknesses.

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Self-Correction – So, if you can master self-evaluation, then you should be able to master self-correction. Understanding where things may have jumped off the rails will help in determining how to avoid such a problem in the future. Self-correction will enable you to remember everything that you may need to work on.

Concentration – For all of the above to happen, concentration is an important metacognitive skill to have. Not only do you need it for the current task at hand, but whatever goes right or wrong will need your full attention. Concentration will also be key in evaluating how you learn and your ability to retain what you learn.


There are a number of ways that an individual can use to better their metacognitive skills. Some just come naturally as you work your way through the learning process, but others are ones you can actively process. Here are a few ideas:

Your Learning Style – One of the first things you must do is to determine what exactly your learning style is. How do you learn best? Are you a visual learner, a verbal learner, a social learner, a solitary learner, a kinesthetic learner? Once you know your style, you can then focus on things that will improve your learning environment.

Larger Goals – You may not understand it at first when assigned a task, but these things eventually are tied into larger goals. Knowing this is a very important part of metacognitive learning. For example, if one is to complete extra assignments on a specific subject, then review said assignments with a teacher or tutor, it all becomes part of the larger goal to ace a test or even pass a class.

Organized Plans – It seems innocuous. Writing down a plan is something that many of us have done. But as many of you can attest, it is important. A solid list of steps needed to complete a task can go a long way. It also allows you to see where in the process you truly need to throw your focus.

The Right Environment – No doubt everyone learns differently. Different pace, different style, different atmosphere. Some like to learn in solitary confinement while others prefer the full group experience. Whichever way you prefer it, make sure it is ideal.

Whether you’re aware of it or not, the development of metacognitive skills is key to your development as a learner and a thinker. These skills grow (hopefully) as you age and allow you to tackle the fundamentals of school, and as you make it through that, then through your professional life. There is no one specific way to enhance these skills, but a combination that can lead you to a better learning experience.