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Metacognition
Metacognition is defined as "cognition about cognition", or "knowing about knowing". It comes from
the root word "meta", meaning beyond. It can take many forms; it includes knowledge about when
and how to use particular strategies for learning or for problem solving. There are generally two
components of metacognition: knowledge about cognition, and regulation of cognition.
Metamemory, defined as knowing about memory and mnemonic strategies, is an especially important
form of metacognition. Differences in metacognitive processing across cultures have not been widely
studied, but could provide better outcomes in cross-cultural learning between teachers and students.
Some evolutionary psychologists hypothesize that metacognition is used as a survival tool, which
would make metacognition the same across cultures. Writings on metacognition can be traced back at
least as far as Per Pschs; and the Parva Naturalia of the Greek philosopher Aristotle.
Definitions
This higher-level cognition was given the label metacognition by American developmental psychologist
John Flavell (1979).
The term metacognition literally means cognition about cognition, or more informally, thinking about
thinking. Flavell defined metacognition as knowledge about cognition and control of cognition. For
example, I am engaging in metacognition if I notice that I am having more trouble learning A than B;
[or] if it strikes me that I should double check C before accepting it as fact.|J. H. Flavell (1976, p. 232).
A. Demetriou, in his theory, one of the neo-Piagetian theories of cognitive development, used the term
hypercognition to refer to self-monitoring, self-representation, and self-regulation processes, which
are regarded as integral components of the human mind. Moreover, with his colleagues, he showed
that these processes participate in general intelligence, together with processing efficiency and
reasoning, which have traditionally been considered to compose fluid intelligence.
Metacognition also thinks about one's own thinking process such as study skills, memory capabilities,
and the ability to monitor learning. This concept needs to be explicitly taught along with content
instruction. Metacognitive knowledge is about our own cognitive processes and our understanding of
how to regulate those processes to maximize learning. Some types of metacognitive knowledge would
include:
1. Person knowledge (declarative knowledge) which is understanding one's own capabilities.
2. Task knowledge (procedural knowledge) which is how one perceives the difficulty of a task which is
the content, length, and the type of assignment.
3. Strategic knowledge (conditional knowledge) which is one's own capability for using strategies to
learn information. Young children are not particularly good at this; it is not until upper elementary
where students start to develop the understanding of strategies that will be effective.
Different fields define metacognition very differently.

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Metacognition variously refers to the study of memory-monitoring and self-regulation, meta-
reasoning, consciousness/awareness and auto-consciousness/self-awareness. In practice these
capacities are used to regulate one's own cognition, to maximize one's potential to think, learn and to
the evaluation of proper ethical/moral rules.
In the domain of experimental psychology, an influential distinction in metacognition (proposed by T.
O. Nelson & L. Narens) is between Monitoringmaking judgments about the strength of one's
memoriesand Controlusing those judgments to guide behavior (in particular, to guide study
choices). Dunlosky, Serra, and Baker (2007) covered this distinction in a review of metamemory
research that focused on how findings from this domain can be applied to other areas of applied
research.
In the domain of cognitive neuroscience, metacognitive monitoring and control has been viewed as a
function of the prefrontal cortex, which receives (monitors) sensory signals from other cortical regions
and through feedback loops implements control (see chapters by Schwartz & Bacon and Shimamura,
in Dunlosky & Bjork, 2008).
Metacognition is studied in the domain of artificial intelligence and modelling.
Therefore, it is the domain of interest of emergent systemics. It has been used, albeit off the original
definition, to describe one's own knowledge that we will die. Writers in the 1990s involved with the
musical "grunge" scene often used the term to describe self-awareness of mortality.
Components
Metacognition is classified into three components:
Metacognitive knowledge (also called metacognitive awareness) is what individuals know about
themselves and others as cognitive processors.
Metacognitive regulation is the regulation of cognition and learning experiences through a set of
activities that help people control their learning.
Metacognitive experiences are those experiences that have something to do with the current, on-
going cognitive endeavor.
Metacognition refers to a level of thinking that involves active control over the process of thinking that
is used in learning situations. Planning the way to approach a learning task, monitoring comprehension,
and evaluating the progress towards the completion of a task: these are skills that are metacognitive
in their nature.
Metacognition includes at least three different types of metacognitive awareness when considering
metacognitive knowledge:
Declarative Knowledge: refers to knowledge about oneself as a learner and about what factors can
influence one's performance. Declarative knowledge can also be referred to as "world knowledge".
Procedural Knowledge: refers to knowledge about doing things. This type of knowledge is displayed
as heuristics and strategies. A high degree of procedural knowledge can allow individuals to perform

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tasks more automatically. This is achieved through a large variety of strategies that can be accessed
more efficiently.
Conditional knowledge: refers to knowing when and why to use declarative and procedural
knowledge. It allows students to allocate their resources when using strategies. This in turn allows the
strategies to become more effective.
Similar to metacognitive knowledge, metacognitive regulation or "regulation of cognition" contains
three skills that are essential.
Planning: refers to the appropriate selection of strategies and the correct allocation of resources that
affect task performance.
Monitoring: refers to one's awareness of comprehension and task performance
Evaluating: refers to appraising the final product of a task and the efficiency at which the task was
performed. This can include re-evaluating strategies that were used.
Similarly, maintaining motivation to see a task to completion is also a metacognitive skill. The ability to
become aware of distracting stimuli both internal and external and sustain effort over time also
involves metacognitive or executive functions. The theory that metacognition has a critical role to play
in successful learning means it is important that it be demonstrated by both students and teachers.
Students who demonstrate a wide range of metacognitive skills perform better on exams and complete
work more efficiently. They are self-regulated learners who utilize the "right tool for the job" and
modify learning strategies and skills based on their awareness of effectiveness. Individuals with a high
level of metacognitive knowledge and skill identify blocks to learning as early as possible and change
"tools" or strategies to ensure goal attainment. Swanson (1990) found that metacognitive knowledge
can compensate for IQ and lack of prior knowledge when comparing fifth and sixth grade students'
problem solving. Students with a high-metacognition were reported to have used fewer strategies, but
solved problems more effectively than low-metacognition students, regardless of IQ or prior
knowledge.
Metacognologists are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, the nature of the task at hand,
and available "tools" or skills. A broader repertoire of "tools" also assists in goal attainment. When
"tools" are general, generic, and context independent, they are more likely to be useful in different
types of learning situations.
Another distinction in metacognition is executive management and strategic knowledge. Executive
management processes involve planning, monitoring, evaluating and revising one's own thinking
processes and products. Strategic knowledge involves knowing what (factual or declarative
knowledge), knowing when and why (conditional or contextual knowledge) and knowing how
(procedural or methodological knowledge). Both executive management and strategic knowledge
metacognition are needed to self-regulate one's own thinking and learning.
Finally, there is no distinction between domain-general and domain-specific metacognitive skills. This
means that metacognitive skills are domain-general in nature and there are no specific skills for certain

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subject areas. The metacognitive skills that are used to review an essay are the same as those that are
used to verify an answer to a math question.
Metacognitive experience is responsible for creating an identity that matters to an individual. The
creation of the identity with meta-cognitive experience is linked to the identity-based motivation (IBM)
model. The identity-based motivation model implies that "identities matter because they provide a
basis for meaning making and for action." A person decides also if the identity matters in two ways
with meta-cognitive experience. First, a current or possible identity is either "part of the self and so
worth pursuing" or the individual thinks that the identity is part of their self, yet it is conflicting with
more important identities and the individual will decide if the identity is or is not worth pursuing.
Second, it also helps an individual decide if an identity should be pursued or abandoned.
Usually, abandoning identity has been linked to meta-cognitive difficulty. Based on the identity-based
motivation model there are naive theories describing difficulty as a way to continue to pursue an
identity. The incremental theory of ability states that if "effort matters then difficulty is likely to be
interpreted as meaning that more effort is needed." Here is an example: a woman who loves to play
clarinet has come upon a hard piece of music. She knows that how much effort she puts into learning
this piece is beneficial. The piece had difficulty so she knew the effort was needed. The identity the
woman wants to pursue is to be a good clarinet player; having a metacognitive experience difficulty
pushed her to learn the difficult piece to continue to identify with her identity. The entity theory of
ability represents the opposite. This theory states that if "effort does not matter then difficulty is likely
to be interpreted as meaning that ability is lacking so effort should be suspended." Based on the
example of the woman playing the clarinet, if she did not want to identify herself as a good clarinet
player, she would not have put in any effort to learn the difficult piece which is an example of using
metacognitive experience difficulty to abandon an identity.
Relation to sapience
Metacognologists believe that the ability to consciously think about thinking is unique to sapient
species and indeed is one of the definitions of sapience. There is evidence that rhesus monkeys and
apes can make accurate judgments about the strengths of their memories of fact and monitor their
own uncertainty, while attempts to demonstrate metacognition in birds have been inconclusive. A
2007 study has provided some evidence for metacognition in rats, but further analysis suggested that
they may have been following simple operant conditioning principles, or a behavioral economic model.
Metacognitive strategies
Metacognitive-like processes are especially ubiquitous when it comes to the discussion of self-
regulated learning. Being engaged in metacognition is a salient feature of good self-regulated learners.
Groups reinforcing collective discussion of metacognition is a salient feature of self-critical and self-
regulating social groups. The activities of strategy selection and application include those concerned
with an ongoing attempt to plan, check, monitor, select, revise, evaluate, etc.
Metacognition is 'stable' in that learners' initial decisions derive from the pertinent fact about their
cognition through years of learning experience. Simultaneously, it is also 'situated' in the sense that it
depends on learners' familiarity with the task, motivation, emotion, and so forth. Individuals need to

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regulate their thoughts about the strategy they are using and adjust it based on the situation to which
the strategy is being applied. At a professional level, this has led to emphasis on the development of
reflective practice, particularly in the education and health-care professions.
Recently, the notion has been applied to the study of second language learners in the field of TESOL
and applied linguistics in general (e.g., Wenden, 1987; Zhang, 2001, 2010). This new development has
been much related to Flavell (1979), where the notion of metacognition is elaborated within a tripartite
theoretical framework. Learner metacognition is defined and investigated by examining their person
knowledge, task knowledge and strategy knowledge.
Wenden (1991) has proposed and used this framework and Zhang (2001) has adopted this approach
and investigated second language learners' metacognition or metacognitive knowledge. In addition to
exploring the relationships between learner metacognition and performance, researchers are also
interested in the effects of metacognitively-oriented strategic instruction on reading comprehension
(e.g., Garner, 1994, in first language contexts, and Chamot, 2005; Zhang, 2010). The efforts are aimed
at developing learner autonomy, interdependence and self-regulation.
Metacognition helps people to perform many cognitive tasks more effectively.[1] Strategies for
promoting metacognition include self-questioning (e.g. "What do I already know about this topic? How
have I solved problems like this before?"), thinking aloud while performing a task, and making graphic
representations (e.g. concept maps, flow charts, semantic webs) of one's thoughts and knowledge.
Carr, 2002, argues that the physical act of writing plays a large part in the development of
metacognitive skills.
Strategy Evaluation matrices (SEM) can help to improve the knowledge of cognition component of
metacogntion. The SEM works by identifying the declarative (Column 1), procedural (Column 2) and
conditional (Column 3 and 4) knowledge about specific strategies. The SEM can help individuals
identify the strength and weaknesses about certain strategies as well as introduce them to new
strategies that they can add to their repertoire.
A regulation checklist (RC) is a useful strategy for improving the regulation of cognition aspect of ones
metacognition. RCs help individuals to implement a sequence of thoughts that allow them to go over
their own metacogntion. King (1991) found that fifth-grade students who used a regulation checklist
outperformed control students when looking at a variety of questions including written problem
solving, asking strategic questions, and elaborating information.
Metacognitive strategies training can consist of coaching the students in thinking skills that will allow
them to monitor their own learning. Examples of strategies that can be taught to students are word
analysis skills, active reading strategies, listening skills, organizational skills and creating mnemonic
devices.
Meta-Strategic Knowledge
Meta-Strategic Knowledge (MSK) is a sub-component of metacognition that is defined as general
knowledge about higher order thinking strategies. MSK had been defined as general knowledge about
the cognitive procedures that are being manipulated. The knowledge involved in MSK consists of

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making generalizations and drawing rules regarding a thinking strategy and of naming the thinking
strategy.
The important conscious act of a meta-strategic strategy is the conscious awareness that one is
performing a form of higher order thinking. MSK is an awareness of the type of thinking strategies
being used in specific instances and it consists of the following abilities: making generalizations and
drawing rules regarding a thinking strategy, naming the thinking strategy, explaining when, why and
how such a thinking strategy should be used, when it should not be used, what are the disadvantages
of not using appropriate strategies, and what task characteristics call for the use of the strategy.
MSK deals with the broader picture of the conceptual problem. It creates rules to describe and
understand the physical world around the people who utilize these processes called Higher-order
thinking. This is the capability of the individual to take apart complex problems in order to understand
the components in problem. These are the building blocks to understanding the big picture (of the
main problem) through reflection and problem solving.
Characteristics of Theory of Mind: Understanding the mind and the "mental world":
False beliefs: understanding that a belief is only one of many and can be false.
Appearancereality distinctions: something may look one way but may be something else.
Visual perspective taking: the views of physical objects differ based on perspective.
Introspection: children's awareness and understanding of their own thoughts.
Mental Illness and Metacognition
Sparks of Interest
In the context of mental health, metacognition can be loosely defined as the process that "reinforces
one's subjective sense of being a self and allows for becoming aware that some of one's thoughts and
feelings are symptoms of an illness." The interest in metacognition emerged from a concern for an
individuals ability to understand their own mental status compared to others as well as the ability to
cope with the source of their distress. These insights into an individual's mental health status can have
a profound effect on the over-all prognosis and recovery. Metacognition brings many unique insights
into the normal daily functioning of a human being. It also demonstrates that a lack of these insights
compromises normal functioning. This leads to less healthy functioning. In the Autism spectrum,
there is a profound inability to feel empathy towards the minds of other human beings. In people who
identify as alcoholics, there is a belief that the need to control cognitions is an independent predictor
of alcohol use over anxiety. Alcohol may be used as a coping strategy for controlling unwanted
thoughts and emotions formed by negative perceptions. This is sometimes referred to as self-
medication.
Implications
Wells and Matthews theory proposes that when faced with an undesired choice, an individual can
operate in two distinct modes: object and Metacognitive. Object mode interprets perceived stimuli

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as truth, where Metacognitive mode understands thoughts as cues that have to be weighted and
evaluated. They are not as easily trusted. There are targeted interventions unique of each patient that
gives rise to the belief that assistance in increasing metacognition in people diagnosed with
schizophrenia is possible through tailored psychotherapy. With a customized therapy in place clients
then have the potential to develop greater ability to engage in complex self-reflection. This can
ultimately be pivotal in the patient's recovery process. In the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder spectrum,
cognitive formulations have greater attention to intrusive thoughts related to the disorder. "Cognitive
Self-Consciousness" are the tendencies to focus attention on thought. Patients with OCD exemplify
varying degrees of these intrusive thoughts. Patients also suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder
also show negative thought process in their cognition.
With any metacognition strategy, the general consensus is to believe that they are good. But in all
actuality some may be very harmful. Cognitive-Attentional Syndrome (CAS) characterizes a
Metacognitive model of emotion disorder. CAS is consistent with the constant with the attention
strategy of excessively focusing on the source of a threat. This ultimately develops through the clients
own beliefs. Metacognitive therapy attempts to correct this change in the CAS. One of the techniques
in this model is called Attention Training (ATT). It was designed to diminish the worry and anxiety by a
sense of control and cognitive awareness. Also ATT trains clients to detect threats, test how
controllable reality appears to be.
Works of art as metacognitive artifacts
The concept of metacognition has also been applied to reader-response criticism. Narrative works of
art, including novels, movies and musical compositions, can be characterized as metacognitive artifacts
which are designed by the artist to anticipate and regulate the beliefs and cognitive processes of the
recipient, for instance, how and in which order events and their causes and identities are revealed to
the reader of a detective story. As Menakhem Perry has pointed out, mere order has profound effects
on the aesthetical meaning of a text. Narrative works of art contain a representation of their own ideal
reception process. They are something of a tool with which the creators of the work wish to attain
certain aesthetical and even moral effects.
Mind wandering and metacognition
There is an intimate, dynamic interplay between mind wandering and metacognition. Metacognition
serves to correct the wandering mind, suppressing spontaneous thoughts and bringing attention back
to more "worthwhile" tasks.

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Metacognitive Skills
Metacognition refers to learners' automatic awareness of their own knowledge and their ability to
understand, control, and manipulate their own cognitive processes.2 Metacognitive skills are
important not only in school, but throughout life. For example, Mumford (1986) says that it is essential
that an effective manager be a person who has learned to learn. He describes this person as one who
knows the stages in the process of learning and understands his or her own preferred approaches to
it - a person who can identify and overcome blocks to learning and can bring learning from off-the-job
learning to on-the-job situations.
As you read this section, do not worry about distinguishing between metacognitive skills and some of
the other terms in this chapter. Metacognition overlaps heavily with some of these other terms. The
terminology simply supplies an additional useful way to look at thought processes.
Metacognition is a relatively new field, and theorists have not yet settled on conventional terminology.
However, most metacognitive research falls within the following categories:
Metamemory. This refers to the learners' awareness of and knowledge about their own memory
systems and strategies for using their memories effectively. Metamemory includes (a) awareness of
different memory strategies, (b) knowledge of which strategy to use for a particular memory task, and
(c) knowledge of how to use a given memory strategy most effectively.
Metacomprehension. This term refers to the learners' ability to monitor the degree to which they
understand information being communicated to them, to recognize failures to comprehend, and to
employ repair strategies when failures are identified.
Learners with poor metacomprehension skills often finish reading passages without even knowing that
they have not understood them. On the other hand, learners who are more adept at
metacomprehension will check for confusion or inconsistency, and undertake a corrective strategy,
such as rereading, relating different parts of the passage to one another, looking for topic sentences
or summary paragraphs, or relating the current information to prior knowledge. (See Harris et al.,
1988; - add more)
Self-Regulation. This term refers to the learners' ability to make adjustments in their own learning
processes in response to their perception of feedback regarding their current status of learning. The
concept of self-regulation overlaps heavily with the preceding two terms; its focus is on the ability of
the learners themselves to monitor their own learning (without external stimuli or persuasion) and to
maintain the attitudes necessary to invoke and employ these strategies on their own. To learn most
effectively, students should not only understand what strategies are available and the purposes these
strategies will serve, but also become capable of adequately selecting, employing, monitoring, and
evaluating their use of these strategies. (See Hallahan et al., 1979; Graham & Harris, 1992; Reid &
Harris, 1989, 1993.)



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In addition to its obvious cognitive components, metacognition often has important affective or
personality components. For example, an important part of comprehension is approaching a reading
task with the attitude that the topic is important and worth comprehending. Being aware of the
importance of a positive attitude and deliberately fostering such an attitude is an example of a
metacognitive skill.
In the preceding paragraph, metacognition has been described as a conscious awareness of one's own
knowledge and the conscious ability to understand, control, and manipulate one's own cognitive
processes. This is not quite accurate; but it's difficult to define metacognition more accurately. (It's
easier to point out examples of metacognitive activity than to define what it is.) It would be more
accurate to say that metacognitive strategies are almost always potentially conscious and potentially
controllable (Pressley, Borkowski, & Schneider, 1987). For example, good readers automatically
(unconsciously) employ metacognitive strategies to focus their attention, to derive meaning, and to
make adjustments when something goes wrong. They do not think about or label these skills while
performing them; but if we ask them what they were doing that was successful, they can usually
describe their metacognitive processes accurately. In addition, when serious problems arise - as when
there is a distraction, when they encounter extremely difficult or contradictory text, or when they have
to advise someone else regarding the same skill - they slow down and become consciously aware of
their metacognitive activity.
While it is occasionally useful to consciously reflect on one's metacognitive processes and while it
useful to make learners aware of these processes while they are trying to acquire them, these skills
become most effective when they become overlearned and automatic. If these skills were not
automatic and unconscious, they would occupy some of the effort of the working memory; and this
would have the result of making reading, listening, and other cognitive activities less efficient.
Therefore, like any other skill that becomes automatic and requires minimal activity in the working
memory, metacognitive skills work best when they are overlearned and can operate unconsciously.
Learners with good metacognitive skills are able to monitor and direct their own learning processes.
Like many other processes, metacognitive skills are learned by applying principles from almost every
other chapter in this book. When learning a metacognitive skill, learners typically go through the
following steps (Pressley, Borkowski, & Schneider, 1987):
1. They establish a motivation to learn a metacognitive process. This occurs when either they
themselves or someone else points gives them reason to believe that there would be some benefit to
knowing how to apply the process.
2. They focus their attention on what it is that they or someone else does that is metacognitively useful.
This proper focusing of attention puts the necessary information into working memory. Sometimes
this focusing of attention can occur through modeling, and sometimes it occurs during personal
experience.
3. They talk to themselves about the metacognitive process. This talk can arise during their interactions
with others, but it is their talk to themselves that is essential. This self-talk serves several purposes:
It enables them to understand and encode the process.

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It enables them to practice the process.
It enables them to obtain feedback and to make adjustments regarding their effective use of
the process.
It enables them to transfer the process to new situations beyond those in which it has already
been used.
4. Eventually, they begin to use the process without even being aware that they are doing so.
This process usually represents a high-level implementation of the phases of learning and instruction
described by Gagne and discussed in Chapter 3 of this book. When teachers intervene to help students
develop a metacognitive process, they often use the scaffolded instruction strategies. In addition, the
techniques of cooperative learning and peer tutoring often provide opportunities for students to talk
to others about their thought processes; and it is often the process of formulating thoughts in order
to express them to others that leads to metacognitive development (Piaget, 1964).
Finally, it is interesting to note an important relationship between the higher order skills of
metacognition and the basic or factual skills that may be a part of a specific unit of instruction. Students
typically learn metacognitive skills while they are involved in learning something else. If they are to do
this successfully, it is extremely important that the learners have overlearned the prerequisite content
knowledge for the subject matter topic being studied. If that prerequisite knowledge has not been
mastered to a sufficient level of automaticity, then the working memory of the learner will be
overwhelmed by the subject matter; and the result will be no time for metacognitive reflection.
For example, when children who have largely mastered the prerequisite skills try to solve a word
problem in arithmetic, they can afford to talk to themselves about what they are doing, because their
working memory is not totally occupied with other demands. That is, well prepared children will have
time for metacognitive practice. On the other hand, when children who are missing some of these
prerequisite skills try to solve the same problem, their working memory is likely to be totally occupied
with a frantic need to find the basic skills and facts needed to solve the problem. If this is the case, they
not only have solved the problem less effectively; but they also have little or no time for practicing or
developing metacognitive skills.
When teachers and parents try to help students, it is important not to do too much thinking for them.
By doing their thinking for the children they wish to help, adults or knowledgeable peers may make
them experts at seeking help, rather than expert thinkers. On the other hand, by setting tasks at an
appropriate level and prompting children to think about what they are doing as they successfully
complete these tasks, adults can help children become independent and successful thinkers (Biemiller
& Meichenbaum, 1992). In other words, it is often better to say, What should you do next?" and then
to prompt the children as necessary, instead of simply telling them what to do.
The preceding paragraph describes how the intellectual rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
Knowledge of factual information and basic skills provides a foundation for developing metacognitive
skills; and metacognitive skills enable students to master information and solve problems more easily.
If teachers hope to help low-performing students break out of their intellectual imprisonment, they

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must find a way to help them develop both an automatic grasp of basic skills and effective
metacognitive skills to enable self-directed learning.
Misconceptions with regard to specific subject matter were discussed in Chapters 4 and 6. Wittrock
(1991) notes that learners' misconceptions about learning-to-learn skills and about metacognitive
strategies are also a critical source of learning problems. For example, a student who adheres to a
belief that the best way to learn scientific concepts is to repeat the definitions ten times each night
before going to bed is not as likely to come to an understanding of these concepts as a person who has
a more effective conception of how to master these concepts.
Source: http://education.purduecal.edu/Vockell/EdPsyBook/Edpsy7/edpsy7_meta.htm