Metacognitive prompts = Metacognitive Awareness = Improved Student Goal Setting

I have been focusing my research efforts on structures for developing students’ metacognitive knowledge and skills but when I began it, and when I wrote my annotated bibliography, I wrote it addressing the proposal that my project would look at the role of critical reflection in developing students’ ability to effectively set goals and be aware of their own metacognition.  I was thinking of incorporating metacognitive prompts into students’ learning experiences to help them develop their metacognitive knowledge and be able to critically reflect on their goals and lessons learned.

What are metacognitive prompts?

From my research, I have deduced that a metacognitive prompt is similar to a scaffold.  It is a question most of the time, but prompts the student to ask themselves about what it is they are thinking and doing during the task they are completing.  For students familiar with metacognition, a metacognitive prompt could simply be an icon to which they identify a specific question, action or thought to which they cognitively turn to reflect on their metacognition.

Metacognitive awareness

When students are metacognitively aware, they are able to identify how they are learning and the connections they are making cognitively, that bring about that learning.  Once students are able to identify the cognitive processes they utilise in their own learning,  they can then learn to regulate them, making use of their own optimum cognitive strategies (Rayne et al., 2004). This is what it looks like when a student has metacognitive awareness.

Effective goal setting

It is my belief that effective goal settings involves students:

  • being aware of where they currently stand with their knowledge and understanding of topics and concepts they are experiencing in learning opportunities;
  • recognising and identifying the gaps in their knowledge and skills;
  • being able to identify where their knowledge and skills should be;
  • determining the pathway they need to take in order to acquire new knowledge and skills; and,
  • critically reflecting at regular intervals until such time as they can identify successful attainment of identified new knowledge and skills.

This will be my focus now but I would very much like to continue pursuing other ideas and strategies to help my students attain metacognitive confidence and skills.  I would love to develop a whole range of resources for this topic, however, I will focus on this topic as a way of seeing if the metacognitive knowledge they have now is sufficient for successful goal setting or if they require explicit instruction in metacognitive knowledge.  I will perhaps implement my project with an older year group or with a senior and a junior year group.


Rayne A. Sperling , Bruce C. Howard , Richard Staley & Nelson DuBois (2004.) Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning Constructs. Educational Research and Evaluation: An International Journal on Theory and Practice, 10(2), p. 117-139.


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