Mindfulness, adapted from ancient Buddhist thought and practice, was introduced into the West in a secularized and Westernized form during the 1980s. In subsequent decades, it spread around the world, into clinics, workplaces, and schools. The practice involves cultivating the ability to focus attention, and to notice any distracting thoughts and feelings without judgment or elaboration, in order to reduce stress and improve mental health. As such, it is a psychological phenomenon involving metacognition, or thinking about thinking, though this can be placed within a holistic framework that sees the mind as intricately linked with the body and the external world. In the early years of the 21st century, concerns grew about children’s mental health, and schools became seen as places to address this through universal programs; that is, mental health promotion programs that reach all students and that therefore do not stigmatize those who already have psychological difficulties, or are at risk of developing them. Evidence was also accruing that, with samples of healthy (non-clinical) adults, mindfulness had moderate effects on measures such as anxiety, and strong effects in reducing stress. Although research designs were generally not very strong, the positive results and public enthusiasm for mindfulness encouraged the introduction of universal programs into schools, and even preschools. However, the dissemination of school-based mindfulness programs ran well ahead of the scientific evidence examining their efficacy (under tightly controlled conditions) or their effectiveness in real-world school contexts. While studies were suggestive that mindfulness could affect many aspects of children’s and adolescents’ wellbeing and development, the body of research as a whole fell short in terms of scientific rigor. There were few well-designed randomized controlled trials that would enable firm conclusions to be drawn that any identified effects were due to the mindfulness program rather than to unknown factors. Moreover, little attention was paid to the presumed mechanisms of change or to the developmental appropriateness of programs. As more, and better-designed, studies began to emerge, accumulating results suggested that effects were generally small, but stronger for older than younger adolescents, and longer lasting for adolescents than for children. Issues that remained for further systematic attention included many matters of program design and implementation, the safety of the practice, its basis in developmental theory and research, and its ethical and political implications.
Rosalyn H. Shute
Cognition refers to knowledge and associated inferential processes, ranging from elementary forms of perception to advanced forms of reasoning. Metacognition, a term used since the late 1970s, includes both knowledge of cognition and regulation of cognition. Knowledge of cognition includes both general knowledge of cognition and knowledge about one’s own cognition. Regulation of cognition includes planning, monitoring, and evaluation of one’s cognitive processes and products. Metacognition is crucial to and intertwined with many aspects of cognition even in the preschool years, when children are already developing theories of mind. Much of cognitive development is the development of metacognitive knowledge and self-regulation. Educational efforts abound to teach metacognitive skills, promote metacognitive development, and/or take student metacognition into account in designing instruction. Epistemic cognition is knowledge about the fundamental nature of knowledge, especially the justification and truth of beliefs. Research on epistemic development beyond childhood shows progress from objectivist to subjectivist to rationalist conceptions of knowledge. Objectivists appeal to foundational truths that can be observed, proved, or learned from the authorities. In cases of disagreement, someone must be wrong. Subjectivists recognize that knowledge is constructed, and conclude from this that truth is entirely relative to the constructor’s subjective point of view. “Truth” in any stronger sense is deemed a myth, because we all have our own equally valid perspectives. Rationalists acknowledge the subjective construction of knowledge and the perplexities of truth but maintain that some beliefs are better justified than others and that we can make progress in understanding. Research in child development shows that children proceed through a similar sequence in constructing intuitive theories of mind, suggesting that epistemic development may be a recursive process in which people reconstruct subjectivist and rationalist insights at multiple levels. Epistemic development is generally seen as the result of self-regulated processes of reflection and coordination. Research in educational psychology has highlighted individual differences in epistemic beliefs and has shown the value of active inquiry and peer argumentation in promoting epistemic progress within and across diverse fields of study.
Anastasia Efklides and Panayiota Metallidou
Self-regulated learning (SRL) refers to students being responsible for their learning. It involves goal setting as well as regulation of cognition, emotions (affect), motivation, and behavior (e.g., through management of the learning environment). A critical component of SRL is metacognition, whose function is to monitor and control cognitive processing. Metacognition has three facets, namely metacognitive experiences, metacognitive knowledge, and metacognitive control. Each of them contributes in different ways to the regulation of learning. Specifically, metacognitive experiences and metacognitive knowledge serve the monitoring of cognition and provide information necessary for control decisions such as allocation of study time or strategy use. Metacognitive control comprises metacognitive strategies (or skills) such as orientation, planning, checking, and evaluation. It is worth noting, however, that there are interactions between metacognition and affect, so that metacognitive control decisions are based not only on task demands and features of cognitive processing but also on students’ affective experiences and motivation during task processing. Interventions using metacognitive constructs show how metacognition can be applied in the classroom to increase the efficiency of learning. However, it is possible to develop alternative interventions that take advantage of the interactions between metacognition and affect. This gives new directions in the way SRL is promoted in the classroom. Research on metacognition and SRL provides a rich theoretical ground upon which to build classroom interventions. Meta-analytic evidence suggests that SRL can be cultivated in educational contexts already from preschool and primary education. Most of interventions aimed at fostering metacognitive knowledge, strategies, and skills in school settings resulted in significant overall effects on academic performance. The magnitude, though, of the effect sizes in these interventions is moderated by various student, training, and context-related factors. A new direction in the way SRL is promoted in the classroom is to develop interventions that take advantage of the interactions between metacognition and affect. Specifically, applying metacognitive skills on learning-related subjective experiences and emotions to increase self-awareness can facilitate learning. Given that students substantially benefit from direct instruction of SRL skills, future studies should focus on training teachers how to teach them.
H. Carl Haywood
Cognitive early education, for children between ages 3 and 6 years, is designed to help learners develop and apply logic tools of systematic thinking, perceiving, learning, and problem-solving, usually as supplements to the content-oriented preschool and kindergarten curricula. Key concepts in cognitive early education include metacognition, executive functions, motivation, cognition, and learning. Most programs of cognitive early education are based on conceptions of cognitive development attributed to Jean Piaget, Lev S. Vygotsky, A. R. Luria, and Reuven Feuerstein. Piagetians and neoPiagetians hold that children must construct their personal repertoire of basic thinking processes on the basis of their early experience at gathering, assimilating, and reconciling knowledge. Vygotskians and neoVygotskians believe that cognitive development comes about through adults’ mediation of basic learning tools, which children internalize and apply. Adherents to Feuerstein’s concepts likewise accord a prominent role to mediated learning experiences. Followers of Luria believe that important styles of information processing underlie learning processes. Most programs emphasize, to varying degrees, habits of metacognition, that is, thinking about one’s own thinking as well as selecting and applying learning and problem-solving strategies. An important subset of metacognition is development and application of executive functions: self-regulation, management of one’s intellectual resources. Helping children to develop the motivation to learn and to derive satisfaction from information processing and learning is an important aspect of cognitive early education. Widely used programs of cognitive early education include Tools of the Mind, Bright Start, FIE-Basic, Des Procedures aux Concepts (DPC), PREP/COGENT, and Systematic Concept Teaching.
Information processing is a cognitive learning theory that helps explain how individuals acquire, process, store, and retrieve information from memory. The cognitive architecture that facilitates the processing of information consists of three components: memory stores, cognitive processes, and metacognition. The memory stores are sensory memory, a virtually unlimited store that briefly holds stimuli from the environment in an unprocessed form until processing begins; working memory, the conscious component of our information processing system, limited in both capacity and duration, where knowledge is organized and constructed in a form that makes sense to the individual; and long-term memory, a vast and durable store that holds an individual’s lifetime of acquired information. Information is moved from sensory memory to working memory using the cognitive processes attention, selectively focusing on a single stimulus, and perception, the process of attaching meaning to stimuli. After information is organized in working memory so it makes sense to the individual, it is represented in long-term memory through the process of encoding, where it can later be retrieved and connected to new information from the environment. Metacognition is a regulatory mechanism that facilitates the use of strategies, such as chunking, automaticity, and distributed processing, that help accommodate the limitations of working memory, and schema activation, organization, elaboration, and imagery that promote the efficient encoding of information into long-term memory. Information processing theory has implications for our daily living ranging from tasks as simple as shopping at a supermarket to those as sophisticated as solving complex problems.