Common Core Brings Metacognition Back

The Common Core State Standards require students to not only use higher order thinking skills, but to employ all of the dimensions of learning, thus bringing back student accountability via his or her metacognitive concession.

The mental manager for information processing is known as metacognition.  Metacognition is a critical function of learning, yet it is often overlooked (Lovett, 2008). Metacognition simply stated is thinking about one’s thinking (Clark, 2003; Clark & Mayer, 2008; Lovett, 2008; Pintrich, 2002).  The act of thinking about one’s thinking is highly correlated with how well one learns and performs various tasks (Pintrich, 2002).  Moreover, learner assumptions and beliefs about learning also contribute to the learning process.  Kolb (1984) argued that life experiences of learners help shape their beliefs about learning. Teachers, on the other hand, parents, and educational leaders within pedagogical contexts contribute significantly to the shaping of student beliefs on learning.  The learners’ beliefs about the learning process have consequences on his or her learning trajectory (Lovett, 2008).  Aronson et al., (2002) found that learners who believe they will perform well in certain learning contexts tend to fulfill their beliefs.  For instance, Aronson et al., (2002) noted that African Americans and Hispanics alike succumb to stereotype threat within testing situations.  However, when the beliefs of these populations were manipulated within the experimental studies, the performance of both groups increased tremendously.  In the age of Common Core, we must encourage students to believe that they can grapple with complex text within the disciplines and solve complex mathematical problems. In other words, the Common Core is demanding educators to have courage to manage their students through the organic struggle of learning. Hence, it is necessary to assess learner beliefs on their learning prior to attempting to teach metacognitive tasks because the learner’s beliefs impact the cycle of self-regulated learning.

Self-regulated learning is a vital component to the metacognitive process.  Some would argue that self-regulated learning is synonymous with metacognition (Ley & Young, 2001).  Self-regulated learning is comprised of planning and setting goals, applying strategies and monitoring learning, and evaluating learning while making any necessary adaptations to the learning situation (Azevedo & Hadwin, 2005).  Self-regulated learning makes up the backbone of career and college readiness. Task constraints, motivation, beliefs about learning, and knowing one’s learning strengths and weaknesses are all fixed entities within the self-regulated learning course of action (Lovett, 2008).  With this in mind, teaching learners to plan and set goals becomes a critical skill to the learning process (Azevedo & Cromley, 2004).   In addition, learners have to practice accurate self-monitoring and application of metacognitive skills within various learning contexts. Something that the Common Core advocates for in its reading and math standards.

Azevedo and Cromley (2004) found that by explicitly teaching learners the self-regulated learning process, their conceptions and related learning behaviors significantly improved.  Moreover, learners trained in self-regulated learning techniques showed improved learning behaviors in time and effort planning, prior knowledge activation, goal-directed learning, evaluating the new content as a possible answer to the current goal(s), and periodically revisiting the goal to see if it has been achieved (Azevedo & Cromley, 2004).  Hence, self-regulated learning can be taught but one’s accurate self-monitoring, which is crucial to metacognition, is much more tedious to teach (Lovett, 2008).  Kruger and Dunning (1999), found that “people seem to be so imperfect in appraising themselves and their abilities” (p. 1122).  They further noted that

when people are incompetent in the strategies they adopt to achieve success and satisfaction, they suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it.  …They are left with the mistaken impression that they are doing just fine (Kruger & Dunning, 1999, p. 1121).

It is important to note that metacognition is strongly influenced by one’s self-appraisal of performance.  Learners must be able to produce correct judgments about their learning and recognize that their judgments are correct (Kruger & Dunning, 1999).  In fact, poor self-appraisals may be linked with the student’s history of success.  For instance, being an A student in Kindergarten through Grade 12 may cause students to believe that they are highly effective learners in institutions of higher education when in reality these students are mediocre when compared to the standards in higher education (Lovett, 2008).  Aside from traditional forms of testing that feed into erroneous student self-appraisals, the new Common Core evaluative tools call for performance based assessments that allow students to assertatain true self-appraisals of their learning through continuous feedback because students with poor self-appraisals are often resistant to adapting their learning strategies and adopting new ones.

In sum, explicitly teaching learners self-regulated learning strategies encourages them to check their personal assumptions about learning, know their weaknesses, and know when to adapt to the learning event (Lovett, 2008).  Instruction in self-regulated learning serves as a framework to metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive skill acquisition which builds secondary scholars who are career and college ready.  The Common Core State Standards submit that students who are career and college ready:

  • demonstrate independence
  • build strong content knowledge
  • comprehend as well as critique
  • value evidence
  • use technology and digital media strategically and capably
  • respond to the varying demands of audience, task, purpose, and discipline
  • come to understand other perspectives and cultures

To get our nation’s students to this point, both pedagogical approaches, curriculum, and student learning processes will have to change in order for students and teachers to experience success with the Common Core State Standards.


Aronson, J., Fried, C., & Good, C. (2002). Reducing the effects of stereotype threat on African American college students by shaping theories of intelligence. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 38, 113–125.

Azevedo, R., & Cromley, J. G. (2004). Does training on self-regulated learning facilitate students’ learning with hypermedia? Journal of Educational Psychology, 96(3), 523–535.

Azevedo, R., & Hadwin, A. F. (2005). Scaffolding self-regulated learning and metacognition – Implications for the design of computer-based scaffolds. Instructional Science, 33(5), 367-379.

Clark, R. (2003). Building expertise: Cognitive methods for training and performance improvement (2nd ed.). Silver Spring, MD: International Society for Performance Improvement.

Clark, R. C. & Mayer, R. E. (2003). e-Learning and the science of instruction. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Clark, R., & Mayer, R. E. (2008). E-Learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Common Core State Standards (2010).

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Kruger, J., & Dunning, D. (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incopetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(6), 1121-1134.

Ley, K., & Young, D. B. (2001). Instructional principles for self-regulation. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 49(2), 93-103.

Lovett, M. C. (2008, January 30). ELI Annual Video: Teaching Metacognition. Retrieved February 28, 2008, from EDUCAUSE Web Site:

Lovett, 2008. Teaching Metacognition: Presentation to the Educause Learning Initiative Annual Meeting, 29 January 2008.

Pintrich, P. R. (2002). The role of metacognitive knowledge in learning, teaching, and assessing. Theory into Practice, 41(4), 219-225.

About Anitra Butler

Ms. Butler received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Bowie State University, a Master’s degree in Reading Instruction from Bowie State University, and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Bilingual Special Education from The George Washington University. She has also finished her third Master's degree in Instructional Design for Online Learning at Capella University. Ms. Butler plans to pursue doctoral studies in Language, Literacy, and Culture. Her research interests include comparative education visual literacy, sociolinguistics, and participatory program evaluation.
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2 Responses to Common Core Brings Metacognition Back

  1. drsbrown says:

    Good stuff. Im going to tweet this. Thanks for all of your hard work!

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