Recently, we had the opportunity to participate in a focus group with fifth-and sixth-grade teachers from a school in our local area. One of the goals of the meeting was to discuss their perceptions concerning the learning needs of their students. The teachers were confident that their students had the potential to become excellent learners, but they were dismayed that so many of them entered the fifth and sixth grades unprepared to learn effectively. Following are excerpts of the comments made by teachers:
Most of the needs identified by the teachers in our focus group were metacognitive in nature. Some 20 years ago, Brown (1975,1978) and Flavell (1976, 1985) defined metacognition as “the active monitoring and conse quent regulation and orchestration of [cognitive] processes” (Flavell, 1976, p. 232). Later, Brown (1978) distinguished between two clusters of meta cognitive activities: knowledge about cognition (e.g., that one’s memory for a new phone number may only be short-term), and activities used to regulate and oversee cognition (e.g., that one needs to actively rehearse information to maintain it in working memory). Both of these areas were mentioned by the teachers, although they focused primarily on issues of monitoring and regulation. They were concerned that their students had difficulties execut ing research and comprehension strategies on their own, did not know what it means to understand something deeply, were not effective at monitoring when they did not understand something, and so forth. From this perspec tive, a major challenge facing educators and researchers alike continues to be to help students learn important metacognitive habits and skills.