Metacognitive Strategies to Improve Comprehension in Adolescents

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This research paper shows that metacognition is a skill that can be learned by adolescent students. This is done with practice and the use of strategies implemented in the classroom. Using metacognition helps student’s performance in school as it relates to comprehension and self-regulation. This skill, when implemented appropriately, can help students with all subjects. Students benefit from research-based strategies that educators use in the classroom such as self-regulating, think aloud, and modeling. These strategies, along with others, help students to develop critical thinking skills that can be used for a lifetime.

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“Does one think about thinking? “(Beswick, Luszcz, Mann, and Ormond, 1991). As educators, this is something one ponders when teaching metacognition. Researchers feel that understanding the students’ power to direct their own learning comes from self-regulation. In order for students to self-regulate, they need to understand what metacognition is.  Metacognition refers to knowledge, awareness, and control of one’s own learning. Students, who have metacognitive knowledge and skills, have effective cognitive performance (Sekar, 2016). Educators should use metacognition strategies for adolescents across the curriculum to improve all student’s comprehension and learning skills. Before educators can use strategies to improve metacognition in adolescents, they must first understand what it is.

As an educator, it is important to understand what metacognition is and the history behind it. There are many definitions related to metacognition, but through research it has been narrowed down to ,“Metacognition is a concept of cognitive psychology that focuses on the active participation of the individual in his or her thinking process”, (Bond, Denton, &Ellis, 2013). Young children are not aware of their thinking processes, but as they get older they retain more knowledge. With this, their memory grows. Adolescents are able to remember strategies and make more predictions from their prior knowledge. Students learn from the knowledge of task and the knowledge of self. Being able to achieve task performance is a result in students metacognition. Early to middle adolescents is a crucial time for students to develop thinking skills. Research shows that by the time a student reaches fifteen years old, they make decisions in ways that are similar to adults (Beswick et al., 1991). Students who can self-regulate are able to make decisions, problem solve and think critically. There is history behind this process. According to the research, metacognition is one’s knowledge concerning one’s own cognitive processes and products, or anything related to them (Cubukcu, 2009).

It has been the pedagogical goal of theorist to show how to understand learning. John Flavell built on Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. The consensus soon arrived that children who develop effective metacognitive skills were more likely to become successful learners (Golder, Lundie, Perry, 2018). Flavell proved that when metacognition was used correctly students can become independent thinkers, creative thinkers, and reflective learners. He encouraged students and teachers to engage with academic work using creative classroom strategies that promoted higher order thinking skills. He measured students’ knowledge that included knowledge of decision making and the motivation and beliefs of that students’ ability. He examined what made decisions and problems hard and then associated it with how the students learned. Once educators understand the background of metacognition, they can begin to understand the strategies used to teach thinking skills in the classroom.

Educators can help students acquire metacognitive knowledge with strategies to improve their learning skills. Students learn to set goals, plan, organize, self-monitor , and self-evaluate during strategies being used. Students who can self-regulate are able to perform better under pressure and are motivated when it comes to academic success. When using strategies that promote higher order thinking, students retain skills over time and those skills transfer to a variety of contexts. Flavell looked at metacognition as a bridge from childhood to adulthood (Sekar, 2016). The role of metacognition with teaching strategies is not to just reflect their thinking but to improve their thinking processes. Teaching is as an “evidence-informed profession”, (Golder et al., 2018). Due to this, educators want to understand what works best in their classroom to offer vigorous strategies to help their students achieve to the highest of their ability.

There are many strategies that can be used for metacognition skills to develop. For research purposes this paper discusses the most popular strategies used in the schools by educators. Metacognition includes reading skills such as skimming, utilizing prior knowledge, predicting, self-questioning, and comprehension monitoring. Students who are aware of their thinking as they read have an advantage over other students. They are able to clarify difficult passages and explain what they have read with a great understanding.  There are many strategies for educators to look at when teaching students how to apply thinking. “Wherever metacognitive skills are taught in lessons, there appears to be improvements in pupil outcomes, irrespective of which subjects are being taught”, (Golder et al., 2018). Strategies have proven that there is a relationship between metacognition and intelligence. One of the most popular strategies in the classroom today is modeling.

Modeling is an essential strategy used with metacognition. This is used by many educators to help students learn how to think about what they are reading. The teacher reads aloud to the student and models what to do.  Modeling includes having the student think about their own processes and the products of their thinking. The teacher may use questioning, predictions, and summarizing, for example, to discuss the text that is being read. This helps students become more engaged with the text and shows them how to analyze it as well. The research shows that modeling in consistent practice is one of the characteristics of effective metacognitive strategy instruction (Bond et al., 2013). When using modeling, it is critical to use strategies such as think aloud. This is used to verbalize the steps of what is being learned. It involved posing questions, identifying resources, and reciting affirmations (Bond et al., 2013). Students can be taught with concept maps, webs, and flow charts. Educators can use think aloud with speaking, writing, and reading as a critical element to the lesson taught.  Students learn how to plan, monitor, and evaluate when preforming task with reading. As students use this strategy, they are able to engage with other students about what was read. This strategy is proven sufficient for all student abilities as it forces the student to think about what is read and how to apply it when conversing with their peers (Joseph, 2006). Another important strategy used within the classroom by educators is self-questioning.

Educators also need to use self-questioning when teaching strategies are used towards learning metacognition. Students have to be taught what type of questions they should be asking. This can be done through modeling how to self-question. This improves attitudes in students and motivation as they perform in class. It takes explicit instruction for students to learn how to understand rationalizing of text. As students learn to use questions to answer what they are reading, they become more empowered to break down text as they comprehend it. As educators we need to plan, monitor, and evaluate. Teaching this skill is essential, but it is also important to take the role as a facilitator to allow the student to develop their own questions and learn. “Metacognitive skills develop when students practice questioning techniques because a wide range of thinking processes are being developed. As researchers note, all students should be able to think, reflect, and question in an effective manner”, (Joseph, 2006). Metacognitive strategies bring the average students ability to think to a higher level.

Students learn how to use text on the explicit level all the way to the creative level. This is done with self-questioning. Students need to understand what is said in the text, but it is also important for them to learn how to read between the lines and infer.  Educators are encouraging to generate questions that include evaluating and synthesizing the text. Once students do this, they will progress to learning how to look beyond the text, think critically, and then develop on thinking creatively as well. Students who use this become self-reflective learners. They succeed in exploring their understanding and knowing what they have learned.  Key terms to know as an educator as they are teaching this skill is to understand the different types of knowledge.

Declarative knowledge is the knowledge to take one’s own mistakes and learn from it. Using this teaches student how to self-correct. Conditional/contextual knowledge is used to help develop student’s metacognition skills. Students learn to look for patterns and errors. They learn that they are in control of their own outcomes in school. They learn self-concept with this. The last type of knowledge is procedural knowledge. Students learn how to identify what the correct information or approach is to learn. They are able to omit errors and formulate what they have learned in the material. This can used in both oral and written form. Students learning how to use this knowledge understand feedback better when given and perform better (Hartman, 2001). Good students who have learned how to use thinking skills engage in mental interactions with the text by visualizing, self-questioning, and inferring.

Students should be encouraged to interact with the text. Students can use post-it notes and a pen to develop skills ,for example, to an active reader. Learning to write while reading is a great way to teach reading comprehension. “Developing readers may acquire knowledge about various reading strategies, which can be used for the accomplishment of specific reading goals” (Comprehension Monitoring, 2006).  Students who are aware of their reading skills will take steps to clarify the comprehension process (Hartman, 2001). There is a correlation between metacognition and reading strategies to increase reading comprehension in upper elementary and higher grades. Students monitoring their comprehension is not enough. They must use strategies as predictors of reading comprehension (Comprehension monitoring, 2006). Research shows that comprehension is needed in order to be a competent reader. Without comprehension students will not be able to detect inconsistencies within the text they read.  There is a list of things that educators can do to help students become self-regulated learners.

First, it is important to explain the value of the metacognitive activity and emphasize the need for self-monitoring. It is also important to assist students in overcoming self-defeating behaviors by building their confidence with high interest activities and promote success. Students should be given the opportunity to talk about what they have learned and encourage each other as a community. Students should become aware of their own thinking strategies and ask questions rather than just answering questions. This promotes a deeper level of thinking. It is critical to remind students that effective reading is an active process. Students should be taught that reading requires effort and concentration. Workbook exercises should be replaced with creative problem solving that include checklist, reading logs, and self-assessment surveys.  Vocabulary growth is an important part of metacognition and comprehension. Students should connect prior knowledge to words they already know. Students use self- assessments to promote metacognitive growth as well. As students take charge of their own academic growth, they become more aware of what they are learning. It is also important to talk about how thinking skills will provide success in their future careers. This proves value to real life application (Joseph, 2006). Next, it is important to learn how using these strategies plays an active role in reading comprehension.

Research shows that students who were monitored used cloze reading showed comprehension monitoring to be significantly and consistently related to reading comprehension during upper elementary years (Comprehension monitoring, 2006). These students using the cloze reading strategy were able to able to fill in blanks from the reading they had been given.  Improvement was made for those students who applied metacognitive strategies that lead to effective comprehension monitoring. The development of metacognitive awareness requires a lot of experience with different strategies given by teachers. Strategies must be fine-tuned to work for students through effective instruction and reading efficiency. This can be done with decoding and bringing in different genes of materials to enrich lessons. In summary, the research provided shows how to implement metacognition strategies with teaching reading comprehension. Educators take an active role by explaining the importance of the metacognitive activity in class. Educators should remind students that reading is an active process that implies effort and concentration. As students understand this process it will help promote their self-reflective in their learning. Educators can use reciprocal reading and graphic organizers to emphasize metacognition in the classroom. This helps educators to scaffold instruction with students. Next, one can see how to apply these strategies in the classroom.

A typical day for an educator starts with lesson plans based on curricular requirements. As educators analyze material and prepare for the class, it is important to assess decisions that are made to see if students are learning to their fullest ability. Students who think self- reflectively and process material can master metacognition. As an educator one must plan, monitor, and evaluate the performance of students and their cognitive ability. Research shows that students who practice strategies during their upper elementary and middle school years develop effective strategies for learning. Students then are able to compensate for weakness in areas that they may struggle in. Modeling and discussions with students will promote self-reflective thinking. “Students need to understand that self-reflective thinking is a vital life skill, a strategic ability that extends beyond the classroom into their everyday lives”, (Joseph, 2006). Educators should teach so that learning goes beyond memorization and moves into the higher cognitive reams of analyzing and application.

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Students should think about their thinking. In order for them to achieve this they must be taught skills that give them the ability to direct their own learning. Students who can self-regulate understand what metacognition is. It is essential to use research-based strategies to teach students how to think about thinking. “When readers spend time processing the content, their comprehension improves”, (Joseph, 2006). This cuts down on students’ frustration when learning as well as the need to a teacher to give one student constant attention. “Studies of adolescent learning behavior describe metacognitive awareness can be taught, resulting in students’ learning practical skills to use throughout their lives”, (Joseph, 2006). While educators are encouraged to use metacognition strategies to improve learning skills and comprehension in adolescents, more research is needed to investigate the topic.


Beswick, G., Mann, L., Luszcz, M., Ormond, C. (1991). A metacognitive analysis of decision making in adolescence. Journal of Adolescence, 14(1), 275-291.

Blakemore, S., Dolan, R., Dumontheil, I., Fleming, S., Kilford, E., Weil, L., Weil, R., & Rees, G. (2013). The development of metacognitive ability in adolescence. Consciousness and Cognition, 22(24), 264-271.

Bond. J., Denton, D., & Ellis. A. (2013). An analysis of research on metacognitive teaching strategies. Science Direct, 116(14), 4015-4024.

Comprehension monitoring. (2006). Metacognitive strategies and reading comprehension in elementary-school students. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 21(1),1-23.

Cubukcu, F. (2009). Metacognition in the classroom. Science Direct, 1(1), 559-563.

Golder, G., Lundie, D. & Perry, J. (2018). Metacognition in schools: what does the literature suggest about the effectiveness of teaching metacognition in schools. Educational Review, 26(49), 1465-3397.

Hartman, H. (2001). Developing students’ metacognitive knowledge and skills. Research Gate, 33-68.

Joseph, N. (2006). Strategies for success: teaching metacognitive skills to adolescent learners. The NERA Journal,42(1),33-39.

Sekar, M. (2016). Social intelligence and metacognition of adolescents. North Asian International Research Journal of Social Science & Humanities, 2(9), 3-13.


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