Growth Mindset & Metacognition: A Partnership to Building Self-Regulation Skills Amongst Learners

Metacognitive skills, when paired with a growth mindset, provide complementary skill sets and may be particularly beneficial for students in low socioeconomic school settings.

Key Takeaway: Across three studies, students’ belief in a growth mindset only predicted increased engagement in math learning for those students who also had sufficient metacognitive skills to monitor their own learning.  Thus, metacognitive skills, when paired with a growth mindset, provide complementary skill sets and may be particularly beneficial for students in low socioeconomic school settings. However, the impact of these interventions could vary depending on contextual factors, such as socioeconomic status and teacher-student relationships, and should be taken into consideration. —Kristin Simmers 

In their article, “More Than Growth Mindset: Individual and Interactive Links Among Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Adolescents’ Ability Mindsets, Metacognitive Skills, and Math Engagement,” Wang et. al (2021) (University of Pittsburgh) emphasize the following key ideas in relation to Self-Regulation: 

  • Self-Regulated Learning (SRL) shows motivation can help learners; however, metacognitive skills are likely needed for students to fully engage with learning and monitor their overall progress.
  • Recent research suggests the impact of growth mindset may be context specific. Students from low socio-economic status (SES) contexts are more likely to demonstrate fixed mindsets about academic ability and are more likely to benefit from developing growth mindsets. 
  • If students lack sufficient metacognitive skills, a growth mindset alone may not increase learner engagement. As Wang et. al states, “Metacognitive skills may be necessary for students to realize their growth mindset.”
  • Positive teacher-student relationships are likely a significant factor in supporting the development of metacognitive skills and a growth mindset, as well as promoting academic engagement. 
  • Teachers should create environments that support metacognition and growth mindset within their specific contexts. 

Self-Regulated Learning (SRL)

To help further understand the lens of SRL in the context of metacognition and growth mindset, Zimmerman and Moylan’s (2009)1 SRL model proposes three phases of the learning process: forethought (before learning), performance (during learning), and reflection (after learning). In this model, metacognition is present in each stage, and it is plausible that students who are metacognitively able to monitor their learning process may also be more motivated to persevere and demonstrate a growth mindset. Conversely, if a student does not have sufficient metacognitive skills, simply believing in a growth mindset may not significantly improve student learning engagement. 

Math Metacognitive Skills & Growth Mindset

Flavell (1987)2 defines metacognition as the awareness and regulation of one’s thoughts, and Zimmerman & Moylan (2009)1 identify planning, monitoring and evaluating as three skills generally involved in metacognitive regulation. Meanwhile, Dweck (2000)3 defines growth mindset as a belief that intelligence is malleable, rather than fixed. Thus, the study shared in the article suggests that motivation may be beneficial to students, but metacognitive skills are also likely needed in order for students to optimally engage with math learning.4

Ultimately, academically vulnerable students may particularly benefit from metacognition & mindset interventions.4,5 

Summarized Article

Wang, M. T., Zepeda, C. D., Qin, X., Del Toro, J., & Binning, K. R. (2021). More Than Growth Mindset: Individual and Interactive Links Among Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Adolescents’ Ability Mindsets, Metacognitive Skills, and Math Engagement. Child Development. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13560

Summary By: Kristin Simmers—Kristin supports the MARIO Framework's efforts to connect teachers and researchers to improve student learning.

Additional References:

  1. Zimmerman, B. J., & Moylan, A. R. (2009). Self-regulation: Where metacognition and motivation intersect. In D. J. Hacker, J. Dunlosky, & A. C. Graesser (Eds.), Handbook of metacognition in education (pp. 299–316). New York, NY: Routledge. 
  2. Flavell, J. H. (1987). Speculation about the nature and development of metacognition. En F. Weinert y R. Kluwe (Eds.), Metacognition, motivation, and understanding (pp. 21-29).
  3. Dweck, C. S. (2000). Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development. East Sussex, UK: Psychology Press.
  4. Rosenzweig, E. Q., & Wigfield, A. (2016). STEM motiva- tion interventions for adolescents: A promising start, but further to go. Educational Psychologist, 51, 146–163. https://doi.org/10.1080/00461520.2016.1154792 
  5. Schneider, W., & Artelt, C. (2010). Metacognition and mathematics education. ZDM-International Journal on Mathematics Education, 42 (2), 149–161.

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We are a dedicated group of learners that are constantly seeking to improve the lives of the children we care for. Whether you are a teacher, parent, assistant, or administrator, we give you free access to the most recent special education related research and practices available. Our twice monthly MARIO Memo summarizes and shares studies from peer-reviewed journals, while our learning letters provide insights from MARIO classrooms.

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