The Interplay of Cognitive and Metacognitive Processes

The cyclical interplay of cognitive and metacognitive processes is considered important for self-regulated learning. On one hand, cognitive strategies (i.e., organizing and elaborating learning content) might support students’ metacognitive processes (i.e. monitoring understanding and planning remediation). Through organizing and elaborating learning content, students might come to realize areas that they are unsure of. In this way, cognitive processes provide a basis for subsequent metacognitive processes. On the other hand, metacognitive processes might enhance subsequent cognitive processes because the information of what needs to be learned and how to learn might help students to better carry out the cognitive strategies. Given that it is not clear how these cognitive and metacognitive processes influence one another, Roelle, Nowitzki, and Berthold (2017) conducted two experiments to examine whether prompting the execution of different processes first will influence the subsequent process. In other words, whether engaging students in organizing and elaborating learning content first enhances quality of monitoring of understanding and planning of remediation. Similarly, whether engaging students in monitoring of understanding and planning of remediation first enhances quality of organizing and elaborating of learning content.

In both experiments, one laboratory and one field, students were asked to use learning protocols as a follow-up of a lecture they had watched or a lesson they had attended. One group of students was provided with cognitive-first sequence while the other group of students was provided with metacognitive-first sequence. In the cognitive-first sequence, students were given organization prompts followed by elaboration prompts, monitoring prompts and finally remediation prompts. In the metacognitive-first sequence, students were prompted to engage in monitoring and remediation planning before organizing and elaborating learning content. Results of both experiments showed that the quality of metacognitive processing was higher in the metacognitive-first group. In addition, students in the metacognitive-first group also engaged in better quality of organization processes and achieved higher post-test scores. This suggested that engaging in metacognitive processes, especially the execution of remediation planning, enhanced cognitive process of organization. However, engaging in cognitive processes did not bring about better metacognitive processes.

A practical implication of the study is to prompt learners to engage in metacognitive processes (i.e., monitoring understanding and remediation planning) before prompting learning to engage in cognitive processes (i.e., organizing and elaborating learning content) when using learning protocols as a follow-up activity. Starting with metacognitive processes seemed to benefit the learners more than starting with cognitive processes. There is no doubt that metacognitive and cognitive processes influence each other. More studies are needed to examine how these processes influence each other in order to optimize these processes to enhance learning. 

Roelle, J., Nowitzki, C., & Berthold, K. (2017). Do cognitive and metacognitive processes set the stage for each other?. Learning and Instruction50, 54-64.

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