Metacognition occurs when goals are set, tasks are analyzed, what has been learned is reflected on or strategies are implemented, and it is part of the learning process. It is something natural that we should all handle or at least know about, however, although it is a natural process, many children may need support to understand what the metacognitive thinking process really is and be able to control it. The role of teachers is fundamental in this process, since they can help to model said thinking verbally and by explaining a series of guidelines to follow.

Metacognition is essential to develop people with a critical sense capable of learning over time , as well as self-manage and self-direct everything learned. The more critical you have and the more you develop your metacognitive skills, the easier you will also have to, for example, overcome the vicissitudes of life.




Metacognition is, ultimately, a process through which children become aware of their own learning and thus actively participate in the construction of their knowledge. This knowledge leads the child to identify his virtues, his limitations, his previous knowledge and his new learning . It also helps you to prefer one type of tool over another or to discover the practical application of your knowledge.

And for metacognition to become present, it is important that children follow a conscious learning process that has been called the “metacognition ladder”, which presents four steps that we will talk about next.



Steps of the Metacognition Ladder


  • Be aware of the type of thinking you have

It is the passage from unconscious to conscious thinking that leads the student to reflect on their way of thinking. This process will allow you to obtain useful information from yourself and transform it whenever necessary . This rung of metacognition answers the question of, what has been learned?

When students have strong metacognition skills they can anticipate changes and better handle complications that arise, but for this to happen they will have to have previously learned other things, such as evaluating and solving tasks, their own knowledge and skills, planning study methods, design strategies or analyze progress … that is, know how to think and know what is being thought.


  • Classify the type of thinking you have

Once the student is aware of his predominant way of thinking , he will be able to answer the question of, how have I learned and / or acquired the knowledge that I have? It is a process of categorization and labeling of knowledge . It should be noted that most educational efforts have focused on this step, but often without advancing to the next, so the technique remains incomplete.


  • Direct thought strategically

This is the metacognition rung directly related to decision making, something very important for development and especially for the future. At this point, the student reflects on the question of, what use has everything learned been useful for? In addition there is a more detailed reflection in which the effectiveness of the learning strategy that has been applied is evaluated, consciously discarding what does not work in a concrete way for the child in question. It could be said that there is strategic thinking in which the student directs his own thinking for the first time.




  • Reinvent the way of thinking

Finally we reach the last point of the ladder. This last step of metacognition is where reflective thinking leads to reinventing the way the student thinks. That is to say, it is a step where the true protagonist is critical thinking, which manages to place knowledge in different contexts . It could be said that the student at this last point on the ladder becomes an architect of his own thoughts and constantly answers the question of, on what other occasions can I use what I have learned?

The challenge of the metacognition ladder for teachers is to take the student to the last step to make thoughtful use of their different ways of thinking.

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