Metacognition is an essential part of writing instruction: with a metacognitive focus, we help students activate their prior knowledge; practice and apply new strategies for the writing and research process; reflect on their strengths and challenges during major assignments; and articulate the differences between genres, disciplines, and courses.
Inclusive Benefits of Metacognition
Metalinguistic awareness and an explicit reflective focus in the classroom on language use and the choices inherent in our language are also key aspects of Critical Language Awareness, an approach to teaching that emphasizes the relationships among privilege, identity, and language. These resources may be helpful to instructors looking to include a more explicit metalinguistic focus and some language-centered reflective assignments in their courses. Further reading into linguistic justice may also give instructors ideas for reflective writing related to identity, inclusion, and language.
Strategies for Making Metacognition a Full and Integral Component of the Course
- Include metacognitive activities from beginning of the semester to end, rather than just at the end of major assignments and for the final portfolio.
- Teach, and scaffold, the process of metacognition effectively.
- Offer creative ways for learners to reflect on their own learning and writing.
- Clarify for learners and instructors the goals of metacognitive self-assessments and the basis (if any) for further assessment by instructors.
Examples of Reflective Writing Prompts
All of our CAS WR courses ask for self-assessments, and WR 112 and higher levels include portfolios, which are by nature reflective assignments. Many instructors also assign “writers’ memos” to accompany drafts and/or revisions. Including small reflective writing about writing throughout the course normalizes the process and helps prepare students for a final portfolio. The list of possible prompts for such written reflections is endless—below is a small sample:
- After reading: Why did we do this reading? What was the purpose of it? How would I have experienced it differently if it preceded this other author we read? How might I respond to this reading if I were writing a paper on it?
- Before writing: What am I imagining for the upcoming paper assignment? What feeling do I want my reader to take away from my paper, and why? Which of our class readings do I really want to include in my paper? Which do I definitely not want to include?
- While drafting: What is the best thing about my draft at this point? What strategy or tip did I use in the process of working on this draft that has been helpful? Where am I stuck right now? What would I like feedback on at this point, and why?
- After revising: If I had an extra two days, with no other commitments, to work on this paper, how would I change it and why? What is different about this paper than my other papers? What is one style or technique I borrowed from the writers we read?
Instructors might ask students to share some of these reflections with a partner, before peer review, say, or with the instructor before a conference, or instructors might facilitate a full-class discussion of some of the questions below after students have had a chance to write and reflect. In addition, these resources on reflective writing, though aimed at English language learners, may also be helpful for all students.
Resources for Teaching
- Class Participation Rubric
- Creating a Writing Portfolio
- Decoding a Public Genre
- Effective Collaboration with Writing Centers
- Expectations for Academic Writing in the American Classroom
- Inner Critic
- Leveling the Playing Field for Class Participation
- Planning Peer-to-Peer Work: Groups, Peer Review, & Workshops
- Portfolio Analysis and Peer Review
- Providing Feedback
- Self-Assessment Remediation
- The Writing Process
- Video Presentation and Reflections
- Visual Representation of Texts
- WR 111 Grammar Presentations
- WR 111 Mid-Semester Self-Evaluation
- WR 112 Portfolio Assignment and Rubric
- WR 120 or WR 15x Portfolio Assignment and Rubric
- Chaterdon, Kate. “Writing Into Awareness: How Metacognitive Awareness Can Be Encouraged Through Contemplative Teaching Practices.” Across the Disciplines: A Journal of Language, Learning and Academic Writing, vol. 16, no. 1, 2019, pp. 50-65.
- “Metacognition.” Columbia University Center for Teaching and Learning, 2018-2019.
- Taczak, Karen, and Liane Robertson. “Chapter 11: Metacognition and the Reflective Writing Practitioner: An Integrated Knowledge Approach.” Contemporary Perspectives on Cognition and Writing, edited by Patricia Portanova, et al., WAC Clearinghouse and University Press of Colorado, 2017, pp. 211-229.
- Winslow, Dianna, and Phil Shaw. “Teaching Metacognition to Reinforce Agency and Transfer in Course-Linked First-Year Courses.” Contemporary Perspectives on Cognition and Writing, edited by Patricia Portanova, et al., WAC Clearinghouse and University Press of Colorado, 2017, pp. 191-209.