Metacognition as Conscious Pedagogy: Enhancing Learning in the Classroom

As we delve into the changing landscape of education, new concepts have emerged as a shining beacon of hope—metacognition and mindful pedagogy, gaining significant attention. But what do these terms mean, how are they related to each other and is there a practical way to easily apply them in the classroom? In this article, we will examine (I) the relationship between metacognition and conscious pedagogy and (II) provide a number of practical strategies for actually applying these two new educational concepts.

Conscious pedagogy is an approach to teaching that is rooted in principles of awareness, social justice and equity. It aims to create a learning environment that respects the unique needs and experiences of each student and also encourages students to take an active role in their own learning. Metacognition, on the other hand, is a fundamental component of conscious pedagogy that involves the ability to think about one’s own learning and regulate one’s own learning processes. If we were to summarize we can say that by promoting metacognition in the classroom, educators can help students become more conscious of their own learning and develop the necessary skills to become autonomous.

I. Metacognition and Conscious Pedagogy

The origins of conscious pedagogy can be traced back to the early 20th century, when educators began to question traditional models of education that emphasized rote learning and discipline. The work of John Dewey and Maria Montessori, among others, laid the groundwork for a more child-centered approach to education that emphasized hands-on learning and individualized instruction. In the 1960s and 1970s, the civil rights and feminist movements brought attention to issues of equity and social justice in education, which led to the development of critical pedagogy. Conscious pedagogy is a natural outgrowth of these earlier movements and is grounded in the belief that education can be a tool for social transformation. Conscious pedagogy emphasizes the use of creative and experiential activities, such as art, music, movement, and storytelling, as well as hands-on learning experiences that allow students to explore and experiment with ideas. In addition to emphasizing the importance of the whole child, conscious pedagogy also seeks to create a learning environment that is inclusive and equitable. Teachers must be aware of the cultural and social backgrounds of their students and work to create a curriculum that is relevant and meaningful to each student’s experiences.

Metacognition – although it has its origins in ancient Greece and the philosophy of Socrates- concretized as an idea in the field of psychology in the 1970s, when researchers began to scientifically study the concept that individuals have the ability to reflect on their own thinking. It was thus demonstrated that people could be trained to monitor and regulate their own cognitive activities. This would improve thinking in general and learning in particular. Metacognitive strategies and interventions were thus developed, which aimed to increase individuals’ awareness of their own thinking and learning processes. Today, metacognition is considered an essential component of effective learning and is widely incorporated into educational practices.

Metacognition pertains to an individual’s capacity to observe and adjust their own thought processes and learning methods. It involves understanding how we learn and how to regulate our cognitive processes to achieve the desired learning outcomes. Metacognition can be subdivided into two fundamental components: metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive regulation. Metacognitive knowledge pertains to our recognition of our own cognitive capabilities and constraints, while metacognitive regulation involves the tactics we employ to observe, design, and assess our own learning. There is a strong connection between metacognition and conscious pedagogy.

Both focus on developing students’ self-awareness and self-regulation skills. When educators promote metacognition in the classroom, they are helping students develop the skills they need to become self-regulated learners. When they practice conscious pedagogy, they emphasize the importance of creating a learning environment that fosters critical thinking, self-awareness, and empathy(being conscious about others). Both are based on the idea that learning is not just about acquiring knowledge but also about developing the whole person.

Here are some parallel examples of how different educational systems incorporate metacognitive elements into their approaches:

  • Waldorf Schools (Germany): The Waldorf approach emphasizes the development of the whole child and fosters a love of learning by engaging students in a variety of creative and experiential activities. This approach encourages metacognitive development by encouraging students to reflect on their own learning processes and set goals for their own learning.
  • Montessori Schools (Italy): The Montessori approach is based on the principles of self-directed learning and hands-on exploration. This approach encourages metacognitive development by allowing students to choose their own learning activities, which helps them become more aware of their own interests and learning preferences.
  • Reggio Emilia Approach (Italy): The Reggio Emilia approach is a child-centered approach to education that emphasizes the importance of relationships, collaboration, and creativity. This approach encourages metacognitive development by providing students with open-ended materials and activities that allow for self-expression and exploration.
  • HighScope Approach (United States): The HighScope approach is based on the idea that children learn best through active engagement with their environment. This approach encourages metacognitive development by encouraging students to explore and experiment with materials and ideas and by providing opportunities for them to reflect on their own learning experiences.
  • Freinet Approach (France): The Freinet approach emphasizes the importance of experiential learning, cooperation, and social justice. This approach encourages metacognitive development by providing students with a wide range of hands-on activities and projects that allow them to explore their interests and passions and by promoting critical reflection and analysis of social issues.

These are just a few examples of the many educational approaches that incorporate conscious pedagogy principles into their teaching practices. By implementing these approaches or components of any, professors can create a learning environment that is engaging, supportive for all students and topmost  empowering.

II. Metacognition and Conscious Pedagogy in the Classroom

So, how can we implement conscious pedagogy in the classroom and promote metacognition in order to really develop the ability to think and learn? Here are a few strategies:

1. One way to implement conscious pedagogy is by creating a supportive and inclusive learning environment. This is achieved by building positive relationships with students, encouraging open communication, and promoting a growth mindset. Teachers can also use tools like (a) class agreements and (b) restorative justice practices to create a safe and welcoming classroom environment.

  • Building positive relationships with students through icebreaker activities or getting-to-know-you games at the beginning of the school year
  • Establishing class agreements or norms together with students that promote mutual respect and active listening
  • Using restorative justice practices to address conflicts or behavior issues in a positive and non-punitive way

2. Explicitly teaching metacognitive strategies is another effective way to promote conscious pedagogy. Educators can teach students specific strategies for monitoring and regulating their own learning, such as a.setting goals, b.reflecting on their progress, and c.self-evaluating. Some examples of tools that teachers can use to teach metacognition include graphic organizers, reflection journals, and self-assessment checklists.

  • Teaching students how to set goals and track progress using a graphic organizer or goal-setting worksheet
  • Encouraging students to reflect on their learning by assigning regular reflection journal entries or exit tickets
  • Using self-assessment checklists or rubrics to help students monitor their own progress and identify areas for improvement

3. Formative assessments are another useful tool for promoting metacognition in the classroom. By providing students with opportunities to reflect on their learning and receive feedback from their teachers, formative assessments can help students identify a.areas where they need to improve and b.make adjustments to their learning strategies accordingly. Examples of formative assessments include exit slips, one-minute papers, and think-pair-share activities.

  • Using exit slips or one-minute papers to gather quick feedback on student learning and identify areas that need further clarification
  • Assigning think-pair-share activities that encourage students to discuss their learning with peers and receive feedback
  • Providing students with opportunities to review their own work and make revisions based on feedback from the teacher or classmates

4. Peer-to-peer learning is yet another way to encourage metacognition in the classroom. When students engage in peer-to-peer learning activities, they are to discuss their own learning processes with their peers and b.learn from each other’s experiences. Teachers can encourage peer-to-peer learning by implementing cooperative learning strategies, assigning group projects, or organizing classroom discussions.

  • Assigning group projects that require students to work together and share responsibility
  • Organizing classroom discussions or debates that encourage students to share their ideas and learn from others
  • Using cooperative learning strategies such as jigsaws or group investigation activities In addition to these strategies, there are many online resources and tools available to support conscious pedagogy in the classroom.

For example, the website Edutopia provides a wealth of information and resources on metacognition and self-regulated learning, including articles, videos, and classroom activities. Another resource is the book „The Power of Metacognition” by Spencer Kagan and Miguel Kagan, which offers practical strategies for teaching metacognitive skills to students at all grade levels. Here are some examples of free resources and materials made explicitly to support conscious pedagogy and metacognition in the classroom:

  • Edutopia: This website offers a wide range of resources, articles, and videos on metacognition, self-regulated learning, and other related topics.
  • TeachThought: This website offers free teaching resources, lesson plans, and professional development materials for educators.
  • Teaching Channel: This website contains a variety of videos and resources about metacognition and other teaching strategies.
  • Learning Scientists: This website provides free resources and materials on evidence-based learning strategies, including metacognition.
  • Khan Academy: This platform offers free educational resources, including videos, quizzes, and interactive exercises, on a variety of topics.
  • OpenEd: This platform offers free educational resources, including lesson plans, assessments, and games, that are aligned with Common Core and other standards.
  • CommonLit: This platform offers free reading materials and resources for students in grades 3–12, including articles, short stories, and poems.
  • Coursera: This platform offers free online courses on a variety of topics, including education and learning strategies.

To conclude, conscious pedagogy and metacognition represent two relatively new and significant concepts in the field of education that have the potential to innovate the way we approach teaching and learning. Conscious pedagogy emphasizes the importance of creating a learning environment that is, as the name suggests, conscious first and then inclusive, fair and focused on the whole child. We are not wrong when we say that it is a consequence of previous movements for equity and social justice in education and tries to use education as a tool for social transformation. Metacognition, on the other hand, is a component of conscious pedagogy that involves the ability to reflect on one’s own activity or learning processes. When educators promote metacognition in the classroom, they help students develop the skills they need to become mindful learners. By combining these two concepts, teachers can create a learning environment that not only teaches academic content, but also develops critical thinking, self-awareness, and empathy in their students. As we have seen, not only do these concepts exist as an educational concern, but many different educational systems already incorporate metacognitive elements in their approaches, demonstrating the universality and importance of this concept in education. By implementing mindful pedagogy and metacognition, educators can foster genuine growth in their students and ultimately help build a better future for us all.


prof. Oana Onciu

Facultatea de Psihologie și Științe ale Educației, Universitatea Alexandru Ioan Cuza, Iași (Iaşi) , România
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