Improving mindset and metacognition at the same time


Improving mindset and metacognition at the same time

While they might have been new concepts a few years ago, “growth mindset” and “metacognition” are terminology you come across often as a teacher in today’s world. Both metacognitive thinking and growth mindset have plenty of benefits that have been reaffirmed by countless researchers, teachers, parents, and students. But is there a link between the two?

Essentially, can you use metacognition and mindset together to boost student learning, or are they better off tended to separately? We explored the research to answer these questions…

What is Metacognition?

Metacognition, sometimes described as “thinking about thinking”, is considered a crucial aspect of lifelong learning. It involves consistently assessing and regulating one’s thoughts and performance. Metacognitive skills include critical thinking, self-awareness, independent learning, and reflective thinking. Research shows that students who were taught metacognitive strategies gain on average seven months more progress in a year compared to their peers who did not receive the same teaching. This goes a long way to explaining why it’s so popular amongst educators.

The metacognitive process consists of three steps:

  • Planning – During this stage, students can reflect on their previous knowledge, their past experiences, and their approach for the task at hand.
  • Monitoring – This allows students to assess their strategies and progress during the task so they can adapt and evolve.
  • Evaluating – Evaluating their work after completing it is a great way to improve. By identifying strengths and weaknesses, strategies that did or did not work, and what to do in future tasks, students are able to make the changes necessary to help achieve their academic success.

What Is a Growth Mindset?

A growth mindset is the belief that one’s intelligence and abilities are malleable and can be enhanced with the right strategies and effort. The opposite of this is a fixed mindset, where someone believes that their skills are set in stone and they cannot improve.

Various studies have associated having a growth mindset with:

  • Seeking out better feedback
  • Persisting for longer
  • Coping better with transitions
  • Better self-regulation
  • Reduced stress and increased wellbeing
  • Enhanced self-esteem
  • Grit and prosocial behaviours

The Link Between Metacognition and Mindset

Mindset and metacognition are significantly linked – in fact, we believe that growth mindset is one of the pillars of metacognition. After all, looking for areas to improve requires thinking that improvement is possible.

Of course, it is often difficult to change a student’s mindset, because it can become very ingrained. For example, a student may claim that they are “just not a maths person” or that they “don’t have a creative brain”, restricting themselves and their ability to succeed in these areas. In order to overcome this negative mindset, teachers can introduce their students to metacognition. Reducing self-limiting beliefs by encouraging self-awareness and reflection are key metacognitive skills that can push students outside their comfort zones. This can help them develop new skills in areas they had never considered beforehand and can help them to become more well-rounded learners.

How to Improve Both Metacognition and Mindset

Metacognition and mindset are positively associated; bettering one will better the other. Encouraging students to develop a growth mindset will simultaneously allow them to enhance their metacognitive skills. There are many different ways that teachers can go about improving them both. Here are just a few suggestions that you can implement into your teaching:

  • Expose students to a range of strategies and techniques that can be used to solve a variety of different problems. This will create a try, try, and try again mentality that will further establish their growth mindset.
  • Make sure that you set a clear goal for each task that students can work towards. This allows students to monitor their progress from beginning to completion of the task. Monitoring is a key aspect of metacognition that will nurture a student’s self-reflection skills.
  • Give students wise feedback that is effective and constructive. Point out the areas they have succeeded in and also where there is room for improvement. This will continue to motivate them and build up their resilience.

Final Thoughts

In addition to metacognitive skills’ many benefits, they can help students develop a growth mindset, which they also profit from. Coupling the two will boost student learning and create independent learners that have a solid foundation to achieve at their highest potential.

There are many, easy ways for teachers to develop a growth mindset and metacognitive skills in their students, including giving wise feedback and setting clear goals. A growth mindset and metacognition are key properties that all students should possess, and all teachers should aim to provide.

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