The importance of metacognition in the process of learning is an old idea that can be traced from Socrates’ questioning methods to Dewey’s twentieth-century stance that we learn more from reflecting on our experiences than from the actual experiences themselves. What is more recent is the coining of the term “metacognition” and the emergence of a metacognition research field in the last four decades. Credited to developmental psychologist John Flavell in a publication from the 1970s, metacognition is used in different disciplines in different ways, and a common, succinct definition appears to be elusive in the literature. Metacognition refers to one’s knowledge concerning one’s own cognitive processes or anything related to them, e.g., the learning-relevant properties of information or data. Promoting student metacognition—teaching students to think about how they are thinking about biology and how they approach learning about biology—would seem to be a useful strategy in striving to reach these kinds of goals for students. Below, I describe potential approaches to increasing attention to metacognition in undergraduate biology classrooms, including 1) explicitly teaching students metacognitive strategies, and 2) more generally building a classroom culture grounded in metacognitive strategies by modifying what we are already doing.
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