"Critical thinkers are willing to question the justifiability of their own ideas, brave enough to risk being wrong, and wise enough to realize that much can be learned from errors and failed solutions" (Nelson, 2005, p. xiv).

Simply put, "metacognition" is thinking about our thinking. Metacognition is essential to critical thinking because of its role in evaluating the success of current approaches and the extent to which they can be improved. In research literature, this process is called "self-regulated learning."

Metacognition is often described in terms of both (A) Metacognitive Knowledge and (B) Metacognitive Regulation, making it one of the principle constructs in the literature on self-regulated learning.

A) Metacognitive Knowledge describes anything one knows about thinking, especially one's own. Can be described in terms of:

  • Declarative knowledge - Knowledge about one's self as a learner and what can influence one's performance.
  • Procedural knowledge - Skills, heuristics, and strategies. Knowledge about how to do things.
  • Conditional knowledge - Knowledge about when and in what conditions certain knowledge is useful.

  • B) Metacognitive Regulation is the process of managing one's own learning, and includes planning, monitoring, and evaluating.

    This section's thinking skill modules

    Reflection - Assessing one's own thoughts, actions or work.
    As the doorway to deep learning, reflection in any form is crucial for students to continually improve their own critical thinking habits.

    Feedback - Eliciting and evaluating responses from others to what we say or do.
    Verbal and written feedback can enrich the thinking of all involved, whether the feedback is teacher-to-student, student-to-teacher, and student-to-student.

    This section's featured instructional method

    Learning Portfolios - Using a purposeful collection of student work and student reflection upon that work to stimulate critical thinking.
    Learning portfolios create a unique opportunity for individualized learning and teacher-student dialogue, and this module outlines how that process can unfold.


    Nelson, J. (2005). Cultivating judgment: A sourcebook for teaching critical thinking. Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press.

    Schraw, G. (2001). Promoting general metacognitive awareness. In Hartman, H.J. (Ed.) Metacognition in Learning and Instruction. The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

    Serra, M.J. & Mecalfe, J. (2009). Effective implementation of metacognition. In Hacker, D.J., Dunlosky, J., & Graesser, A.C. (Eds.) Handbook of Metacognition in Education. New York: Routledge.