Metacognition and Learning
Psychologists interested in how individuals learn have devoted much attention to the cognitive processes involved in encoding, storing, and retrieving information of all types, as well as comprehending the complex information with which they are confronted daily. Investigators have examined a variety of cognitive processes, with particular attention to memory and language comprehension. Such investigations have led to an understanding of the factors that lead to enhanced comprehension and recall during learning.
During the past couple of decades, researchers have also gotten keenly interested in metacognition. The term metacognition refers to the knowledge of and monitoring of cognitive processes. Because there is more than one cognitive process involved in learning, it is not surprising that researchers use more specific terms to denote the knowledge of and monitoring of different cognitive processes. For example the terms metamemory and metacomprehension are used to refer to individuals’ knowledge of and monitoring of memory and comprehension, respectively. Most research on metacognition has been on metamemory or metacomprehension, although the metacognitive processes involved in performing other tasks, such as problem solving, have also been studied. Additionally, researchers have begun to explore metacognition outside of the laboratory, extending research paradigms to the classroom and other applied settings. There has also been an increase in attention paid to the role of social influences on metacognition.
Although the literatures on metamemory and metacomprehension are similar in many ways (e.g., the issues investigators are examining in the two literatures have much in common, and there are some similarities in the research paradigms employed), researchers examining metamemory have tended to use lists of isolated words as learning materials, whereas researchers examining metacomprehension have tended to use texts as learning materials. The present entry focuses on the role of metacomprehension in learning, as the text materials used in metacomprehension research are quite similar to the types of information typically encountered in learning in the classroom as well as other real-world settings.