Metacognition and reflection are often used interchangeably in educational conversations. However, there is a definite distinction between these two terms. Metacognition is the one that is often misused and understood among educators, teachers and researchers. I always read and hear that it simply means “thinking about thinking.”
What does it mean?
As you see in the image above, It is a kind of looking inside ourselves to know more about how we learn, what we need to learn, identify our strengths and weaknesses, and then make use of all the information we collect about ourselves to improve our future performance. In addition, it includes our understanding of the strategies and skills we have and how to use them in a wide range of new situations. In short, metacognittion means to be aware of the processes that are going on in our head.
On the other hand, reflection is about something other than one’s own thinking. It is a little bit general term. It can be defined as a process of looking back at one’s experiences to analyze, and learn from. It is not just experiences, but any situation, event, topic, or person. When students think reflectively, they engage in a conscious, active consideration of ideas to seek a deeper understanding and get a broader point of view of the issue.
Thus, reflection is required for one to be metacognitive, but the reverse doesn’t apply. To make it easy, if teachers offer their students a variety of opportunities to think reflectively on a regular base, this will definitely encourage them to make use of their metacognitive skills (i.e., awareness, evaluation, and regulation).