Metacognition means that you are aware of your learning and thought processes. Through metacognitive reflection, you can explain what you learned, how you learned it, and why it is meaningful. This awareness is important because it helps you apply what you learned to future contexts. In writing, metacognition means that you know what you are doing when you write and why you are doing it. It involves being alert to your writing processes, concepts, and techniques so that you can figure out what to do when you face new writing situations, including those outside of your writing courses. Metacognition is key to developing confidence and fluency in your writing.
You have experience writing reflections on your drafts and assessing your writing for its strengths and addressing its weaknesses. For example, in How Writing Works, you probably wrote a reflective portfolio where you explained what you learned in the course and how your writing demonstrates this learning. The following chapters build on this prior experience to help you deepen your understanding of the metacognitive processes that occur throughout the writing process—ranging from reflecting on decisions that other writers make to anticipating how you will apply concepts to future, as yet unknown, contexts like other courses, jobs, internships, and occasions when you will be writing.
The chapters in this part of the book will help you better understand metacognition in new ways:
“Active Reading to Understand a Problem” explores what happens when you read and why it is so important for writers to pay attention to reading. It provides strategies for paying close attention to texts by taking notes, asking questions, thinking about what the author is saying, making connections to other texts, and a range of other important activities. These activities enrich our capacity to understand what we read, which allows us to develop vital, transferable skills that we can apply to other mental tasks and challenges—like writing—that we will inevitably face in other classes and at work. Reading helps you think about and make sense of writing. Skilled readers always participate in metacognition by thinking about what they are reading and how they can learn from it.
“Transfer” explains how important it is to connect what you learned in your writing courses to contexts outside of the writing classroom. It guides you on applying what you learned in these courses to diverse future projects. Metacognition is an integral part of transfer because you need to understand what you learned in order to apply it to a variety of situations. Since transfer does not happen automatically, you must be aware of what you learned, when you need to draw on that learning, and how you can apply it.