How can metacognitive activities be fostered through the use of instructional media tools?

Diana Dell, Ed.S.

Metacognition is the ability of the student to analyze, reflect on, and understand his/her own cognitive and learning processes” (Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, page 1).   When learners can reflect and explain what they have learned, they will be more able to apply their learning to new situations.


It is therefore imperative that instructional designers incorporate activities that engage student is the process of metacognition.  Instructional media tools can be used in ways that assist the designer in creating metacognitive activities.  Clark (2003) suggests that a designer’s plans should be “shaped by the learner’s metacognitive skills” (page 183).


At the elementary level, many learners are lacking in metacognitive skills. These learners benefit from instruction that is designed to support them with integrated metacognitive activities. The directive architecture is best suited to these learners as it “provides the learner with learning objectives to make the learning goal explicit” (Clark, page 189).  Clark (2003) identifies other components of the directive architecture that promote metacognitive activities. The table below details these components and offers suggestions for ways that instructional media tools can be used to incorporate these components into instruction


Component to encourage metacognitive activity within directive architecture

Suggested use of instructional media tools

Advance organizers

Advanced organizers could be created using such tools as Flash and Inspiration. 

Cues to direct attention to important points and information

The learner’s attention could be directed to key points using integrated animations or graphics.

Organizational structures such as text heading, bolding of key words, etc.

Dreamweaver could be used to format text and maximize organizational structure.

Practice exercises that encourage rehearsal

ToolBook, WebEx, Quia, Hot Potatoes, and other tools allow for the creation of practice exercise.

Assessments that inform the learners of the level of understanding

Quia, Hot Potatoes, CourseBuilder and other tools allow for the creation of assessments with customized feedback.


Each of these tools gives students the opportunity to think about what they are learning and guides them through the processes involved in metacognition.  Using instructional media tools in these ways will encourage learners to reflect on their learning and thus improve student achievement.



(December, 2004). Developing self-directed learners. Retrieved June 21, 2006, from Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory Web site:


Clark, R. C. (2003). Building expertise: Cognitive methods for training and performance improvement (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: International Society for Performance Improvement.