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The concept of metacognition is especially present in areas such as education and psychology. It is one of the basic pillars of learning , reflection and self-awareness. It is also considered one of the issues that most differentiates us from animals, since it represents an innate capacity in humans.

Definition of Metacognition

Its use and study concerns the field of behavioral sciences , cognition, education and psychology. Since it has to do with how to become aware of our own thinking, our way of making judgments, learning and generating ideas.

This concept, which we do not commonly use in our language, is used frequently in the scientific field and among the academic community .

However, it is not currently accepted by the Royal Spanish Academy of Language (RAE). Therefore, its definition is exposed to these areas where this term is studied and developed, especially in psychology, which is where it was proposed and where this term was born, which is closely related to the theory of mind .

What is metacognition?

As we have said previously, there is no official definition proposed by the RAE. However, the Cervantes Institute does offer us a definition, being the following: “The concept of metacognition refers to the ability of people to reflect on their thought processes and the way they learn.

Thanks to metacognition, people can know and regulate their own basic mental processes that intervene in their cognition. “

This capacity that only human beings have allows us to become aware of our actions to learn from experience, and also from the experience of others.

Different types of strategies

But not only that, but we learn to learn , through relearning processes, questioning our own thoughts and beliefs for the benefit of wisdom and a greater approach to reality. Something that if we consider it well can also belong to the world of philosophy.

This very important capacity of the human being begins to be activated during the period of childhood, around 3 years of age. And although it is found from our birth, it is not until this moment when it is put into operation thanks to the appropriate stimulation.

From this period on we began to use metacognition either unconsciously or consciously.

Metacognitive levels

This is something that can happen, and it would respond more to a psychopathology like that of autism. Originating through a problem related to the theory of mind.

At the level of thought, this ability, such as metacognition, is situated in a higher order, as it is characterized by high levels of consciousness and voluntary control. It is used to manage other more primary mental processes.

We say that it is essential in the development of learning because it allows us to plan cognitive activities, and understand how our intellectual processes work, so that we develop strategies to learn and acquire knowledge in a more effective way. Possibly this is one of the keys that responds to the development and constant evolution of the human being .

What is metacognition for?

One of the pioneers in using this term was the American cognitive theorist John Hurley Flavell Flavell, in 1976 .

This Researcher who affirmed two questions about what metacognition refers to: on the one hand, it refers to “ the knowledge that one has about one’s own cognitive processes and products or any other matter related to them.

For example, the properties of the information relevant to learning »and, on the other,« to the active supervision and consequent regulation and organization of these processes , in relation to the cognitive objects or data on which they act, usually for the sake of some specific goal or objective ”.

Characteristics of Metacognition

Since then, various areas of research have emerged around metacognition, all of them with the aim of contributing to new conceptions of learning and instruction. Constructivist ideas have been acquiring greater notoriety due to the relationship they have with this concept .

This approach to how people learn, and especially students in education, highlights the active role of the learner, through awareness and regulation of their own learning.

The professor of psychology, Mario Carretero, in 2001 referred to metacognition as a kind of knowledge that people construct regarding their own cognitive functioning.

Examples of metocognition activities

As with constructivism, thanks to the organization of the information in a mental scheme, it can be accessed more easily through later retrieval. He also relates it to the regulation that people themselves carry out on their own cognitive activity when facing a task.

A student is able to use a strategy in the organization of the content of the diagrams, with the intention of evaluating the results obtained.

It should be noted that in terms of metacognition, it can be subdivided into two sections . On the one hand, metacognitive knowledge and, on the other, metacognitive control, both consistent with the distinction between declarative knowledge “know what” and procedural knowledge “know how”.

Difference between metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive control

The metacognitive knowledge has a declarative nature, while the metacognitive control is more of a procedural nature. Both types of metacognition play a relevant role in the learning process, and both are related to each other, as we will see below.

Metacognitive knowledge

This type of metacognition is divided into three sections, which we will detail:

  • Knowledge of the person

It is related to the knowledge we have about ourselves, the way we learn, the potentialities that we are capable of developing, and the cognitive limitations that we consider we have with respect to the performance of certain tasks. This type of metacongition is closely related to awareness and self-knowledge about one’s own personal abilities and possibilities . 

  • Knowledge of the task
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Through this type of cognition we get a concrete idea about the task to be carried out, in such a way that it helps us to develop an approach and a strategy that is as effective as possible . It refers above all to the knowledge we have about the objectives and characteristics of the task we want to carry out.

Delving into the task itself, about the difficulty it may have and what adversities we may encounter , so that we can anticipate them. 

  • Knowledge of strategies

People also need to know what alternatives we have, what are the options we have to see the repertoire of possibilities to carry out a task.

This supposes an open mind, to make decisions about which is the strategy that can best adapt to what we really want to achieve . 

Metacognitive control

When we speak of metacognitive control we also refer to self-regulated learning. This idea is the one that basically agrees with the constructivist perspective, since the apprentice is considered an active, competent and participant component. Thanks to the cognitive control that we have, we are able to get involved, initiate and direct our own learning .

Self-regulated learning or metacognitive control is, therefore, regulated and directed by ourselves with the intention of reaching a goal or goal.

Through these types of metacognition that we have named we can get a more specific idea about what metacognition is for and how we use it in our daily lives .

It is, as we have seen, related to knowledge, learning, and the way in which learners select our own cognitive strategies, through motivation, strategy development and decision making.

When developing and planning learning programs, it is important to take into account these metacognitive aspects that human beings have. This serves to create, whether in areas such as school or even work, more advantageous conditions and environments for the development of learning.

Metacognition and types of learning

As we have been able to verify, doing a detailed analysis on what metacognition implies and the types of metacognition that we use to acquire knowledge, learn and develop cognitive strategies that help us make the best decision in each case.

We are facing different types of learning, from a theoretical perspective we are going to know those proposed by Ausubel in relation to metacognition . Which have had a growing relevance in the field of education.

Next, taking into account the relationship between knowledge and learning, between learning and cognitive and metacognitive strategies and between these and the learning approach proposed by Ausubel et al. (1973), we will refer to some aspects of this theoretical perspective, which, in recent years, has been acquiring increasing relevance in the educational field.

  • Responsive learning

The apprentice acts as a receiver before the information that is offered, either through the teacher, printed materials, audiovisual information or other means for the transmission of knowledge.

  • Memoristic learning

It involves a mechanical and repetitive procedure, in which the student makes arbitrary associations, where he does not even have to understand the information. Data, concepts and facts are memorized without knowing very well the relationship between them.

  • Significant learning

It is the most valued type of learning, it is achieved when the tasks are interrelated in a coherent way. The student decides to learn and acts as a builder and architect of his own knowledge. It gives a meaning to the information, organizing it, relating concepts and creating a conceptual structure.

Build new knowledge through intrinsic motivation, relying on those already acquired, assimilated and previously consolidated.

  • Learning by discovery

Before incorporating what has been learned into a cognitive structure, the student has to discover the material for himself. This is how discovery learning is generated. This type of learning can be reached through various stimuli, either by the guidance of a teacher or instructor, or even autonomously through one’s own personal experience.

Conclusions on metacognition

The concept that we have approached, that of metacognition, as we have been able to verify, is closely linked to the ability of the human being to know himself, become aware of his actions and implement strategies for learning and the acquisition of knowledge.

Through this capacity, human beings have an extraordinary resource for self-development, self-discovery, self-realization and self-knowledge. It gives us the possibilities to be the active protagonists of our own experience.

Metacognitive skills

In the educational field, metacogition has a tremendously relevant role, as we have seen. The objective is to develop in the classroom a context that favors meaningful learning, which takes into account the abilities and capacities of students to generate cognitive skills .

For this, it is necessary to promote the connection between the student and the object of study. The teacher must take into account for this that each student has a level and a rhythm to carry out their learning. The strategies to be developed with the students must be personalized and adapted to their needs.

The concept of metacognition is closely related to the concepts of theory of mind and constructivism . All of them help us to better understand how our learning develops and what measures are necessary to use to develop strategies that favor our potentialities, capacities and resources to get the most out of our experience in a beneficial and healthy way.

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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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