21 February 2014 / by Radmila Gurkova

English language acquisition. Metacognitive approach: I think I think...

English language acquisition theories or understanding how learning process takes place can help us be better teachers.

Developed by TEFL trainer Ana Garza

 English language acquisition | www.oxbridgetefl.com


Metacognition enables understanding, analysis, and control of one’s cognitive processes. It is also known as active learning. This means that people take control of their own learning by predicting their performance on the task and monitoring their current levels of mastery and understanding.

In English language acquisition theories, metacognitive skills refer to ''knowing how''. For example, it's not only about practicing, but knowing how one is practicing and if it's being efficient; or it's not only about using a structure or vocabulary words, but knowing how and when to do so; or it's not only about learning, but knowing how one learns.

English language acquisition and teaching practices congruent with a metacognitive approach to learning focus on:

  • Sense-making

  • Self-assessment

  • And reflection on what worked and what needs improving

These practices have been shown to increase the degree to which students transfer their learning to new settings and events.

This is the process self-directed students follow, using metacognitive skills:

Metacognitive strategy



- Do you agree that, as teachers, the more we understand and know about how learning takes place we can make the teaching-learning process more effective?
- Would that be the same for students? That means: them analyzing and understanding their learning process would make them learn better and faster…
- And how can be achieve that?

If we decided to take a metacognitive approach in English language acquisition, how would our giving feedback change? We can use error management strategies that make learners aware and move them to self-correction, contextualize reactions, etc.

English language acquisition



How could we apply all this to improve our teaching practice? In the end, good teachers are also strategic teachers, that know how to adapt depending on circumstances. If our knowledge is contextualized and we constantly strive for self-awareness -on what works and what doesn't in which situations-, then we're self-assessing our proceedings and reflecting on better and worse teaching strategies. It could also imply us planning our time better, depending on what we know we need to do for classes and make that compatible with our personal lives. But of course there's a further dimension to it -and that's why the character explodes in that comic strip- because we could also be aware of our learning strategies as teachers, and assess not only our proceedings, but the proceedings of our proceedings… and that's the most difficult part; being aware of what we're aware about.


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