Green Decorative Wheat

Cognition and Metacognition

The dictionary, Oxford Languages, defines cognition as, "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses." There are many pieces to that definition, so let's break them down:

  • Mental action or process: Cognition is something that happens inside an individual's brain
  • Acquiring knowledge: Cognition sometimes includes encoding new information
  • Acquiring understanding: Cognition involves making meaning and understanding
  • Thought: Cognition sometimes can be done without additional input
  • Experience: Cognition can use our experiences to encode new informtion
  • Senses: Cognition relies on sensory input such as information that comes in through the eyes, ears, mouth, skin, and nose

In short, "cognition" is how our brains interact with the world around them. Our brains take in information from a variety of sources, and our brains have the ability to make sense and meaning out of that information through a process of organizing that information.

"Metacognition" is a similar term. Oxford Languages defines metacognition as, "awareness and understanding of one's own thought processes." When we stop and think about the processes our own brains go through in order to make sense of the world ("cognition") we are performing a metacognitive act.

Cognition makes sense of the world. Metacognition makes sense of cognition itself. In this course we will work to encode new information into our brains, and we will think about the process at the same time. We will be focusing on both cognition and metacognition.

For more on metacognition and its relationship to student motivation, have a look at this excellent article from the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning.