Metacognition: How much do you know about your own knowledge?

Metacognition in relation to learning is knowledge about one’s own knowledge, thinking about one’s own thinking, and learning about one’s own learning. The more you monitor and evaluate your own learning, the better position you’re in to set goals, plan your approach, or adjust your strategies as needed to keep improving.

The easiest way to monitor how you are going in a subject is to do your tutorial preparation properly every week! Can you identify the issue and the relevant law in the tutorial problem? How good are you at applying a particular legal concept or principle? If you got this sort of a question in the exam, how do you think you would go?

Subject audit

Another great technique to inform yourself about your own levels of knowledge that you can do alongside your tutorial preparation (your ability to apply that knowledge to legal problems) is a subject audit. You should try to do these 3-4 times per semester for each subject.

Do a “subject audit” by making a list of the main concepts/legal principles in the subject so far:

  1. Which ones do you find confusing at the moment?
  2. Which ones do you understand?
  3. Which ones do you know well enough to be able to explain to someone else (without having to refer to your notes)? If you don’t have anyone at home to test this out on, try doing it to yourself in the mirror, or just talk to VoiceMemo on your phone and play it back to yourself.
  4. Which ones do you know well enough to write about? Have a go at writing a short elaboration of the concept/legal principle without referring to your notes. Writing is a step up from being able to talk about it, because when writing, you need to express the concept accurately and concisely.

Based on your audit, write out and schedule some specific goals that are aimed at filling in the gaps you have identified.

There is one difficulty with metacognition – how do you know if your understanding and/or application of a legal concept or legal principle is correct? Sometimes you can tell from the textbook, case readings or lecture notes. But if you can’t, one of the things you should schedule is to ask.

  • Take a specific question to your lecturer’s consultation time.
  • Ask in tutorials.
  • Post a question to the Learn.UQ (Blackboard) Discussion Board.
  • Ask a UQLS PALS tutor.
  • Ask someone else in your course.
  • Set a specific question for your study group to answer.

There are three great things about metacognition:

  1. You get better at it the more you practise it.
  2. Through monitoring where your learning is at, you develop the ability to orchestrate your own learning, which will serve you for the rest of your life.
  3. Through asking questions such as “What am I doing now?”, “Is it getting me anywhere?”, “What else could I be doing instead?” you can avoid persevering in unproductive approaches, be more effective and finish your study for the day faster, and then have more time to have fun or relax, which supports wellbeing.


Information that appears on the TCB Wellness website is general information only and is not intended to be medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or instruction. The TC Beirne School of Law encourages students who have health-related concerns or questions to seek professional healthcare assistance, either from the student services provided at UQ or from their general practitioner.

Last updated:
23 February 2018