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Habits of Mind: Metacognition (Thinking about thinking)

Posted on Nov. 8, 2017

“When the mind in thinking, it is talking to itself.” – Plato

illustration of the habit of mind Metacognition, thinking about your thinking What distinguishes humans from other forms of life is the ability to stand off and examine our own thoughts while we engage in them.

Metacognition is our ability to know what we know and what we don't know. It is our ability to plan a strategy for producing the information that is needed, to be conscious of our own steps and strategies during the act of problem solving, and to reflect on and evaluate the productiveness of our own thinking.

Here’s an example: While reading a passage, we sometimes find that our minds wander from the pages. We see the words, but no meaning is being produced. Suddenly, we realize that we are not concentrating and that we've lost contact with the meaning of the text. We recover by returning to the passage to find our place, matching it with the last thought we can remember, and reading on with connectedness.


Indicators of achieving this habit:

  • Can describe what goes on in their heads as they think (the aha moment)
  • Can list the steps to solve a problem
  • Recognize when the answer is not reasonable and start over
  • Can list the reasons that brought them to their conclusions
  • Use words to describe thinking (theory, strategy, experiment)
  • Can apply the process to a new problem


Common language for this habit includes: self-awareness, mindful, have a plan in mind, thinking aloud and alertness.