Metacognition and cognitive self-regulation – Developing student prompts

In working on my project ideas and study for my critical reflection subject, I have been exploring the idea of how to facilitate greater depths of critical reflection in my own students and I have been questioning what it takes to facilitate the development of this. What scaffolds and curriculum structures are required to increase metacognition and self-regulated cognition?

Metacognition is one of those terms that has had one theorist after another proceed to try and provide a succinct definition for it without success when it comes to the succinctness of such as definition.  Kitchener (1983) points out in her article ‘Cognition, Metacognition, and Epistemic Cognition: A Three-Level Model of Cognitive Processing’ that metacognition definitions can include any combination of and inclusion of such words as: “‘cognitive monitoring’, ‘executive processes’, ‘self-communication’, and ‘knowledge about knowledge'” (p. 222).  Kitchener (1983) included the word ‘monitoring’ in much of her article, which guides my direction somewhat in considering the kinds of prompts I might need to think about in terms of facilitating metacognition in my own students.

On the Tools of the Mind website, they define self-regulation like this:

“Self-regulation is a critical competency that underlies the mindful, intentional, and thoughtful behaviors of younger and older children alike. The term self-regulation (sometimes also called executive function) refers to the capacity to control one’s impulses, both to stop doing something, if needed (even if one wants to continue doing it) and to start doing something, if needed (even if one doesn’t want to do it).” (Tools of the Mind, 2014)


So more than being able to monitor one’s own cognitive processes, it is essential that students learn the skills to make adjustments when they are needed as well.  Just like in the book I recently finished, including a experience-based account of The Choice Map, I want students to be able to recognise when their learning processes and thoughts are not on track to goal and outcome success and be able to adjust it accordingly.  The question on how to do this is what I am pondering and reflecting on as I read further into metacognitive prompts and critical reflection.

Metacognitive knowledge is defined as:

“[…]one’s stored knowledge or beliefs about oneself and others as cognitive agents, about tasks, about actions or strategies, and about how all these interact to affect the outcomes of any sort of intellectual enterprise.” (Flavell, 1979, p. 906)

I’ll also consider what part metacognitive knowledge will play in the overall facilitation of critical reflection and metacognition.


Flavell, J. H. (1979). Metacognition and cognitive monitoring: A new area of cognitive–developmental inquiry. American psychologist34(10), 906.

Kitchner, K. S. (1983). Cognition, metacognition, and epistemic cognitionHuman development26(4), 222-232.

Tools of the Mind. (2014, ). Self-Regulation. Retrieved April 16, 2014, from Tools of the Mind:


4 thoughts on “Metacognition and cognitive self-regulation – Developing student prompts

  1. Do you have advice for teachers when working with students who do not appear to be situationally aware of their own behavior and its impact on others? I had a 4th grader yesterday who was insistent that he was not yelling or confronting classmates, when he definitely was in plain sight of everyone in the classroom. What advice would you offer for situations like this?

    • This is a hard situation because he genuinely may not have realised what he was doing at the time, however, I would start by perhaps getting a few other students in the classroom to role play an interaction very similar to one you had with the student and then as a class breakdown the event and discuss the reactions of those in the scenario. This will reveal any misconceptions the boy ha able appropriate behaviour perhaps and also help him understand a little better what he may have been doing. Then get him to be part of the role play of how it should have gone. Restorative justice activities are also very good but if he is not aware of his own behaviour and impact it will need to be modelled. Hope this helps.

  2. Thanks. I’m going to see if our school counselor can help too. The tole playing idea is a good one but I don’t think I would do this as a whole class activity. I think that could further stigmatize the student in front of his classmates. (Although unfortunately his level of stigmatization among peers is extreme already.)

    • Yeh its often a hard situation and fine line between giving him more negative attention and stigma and helping as well. The school counselor should be able to help in a way that is less open for sure.

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