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Thinking and metacognition Click on this link please

Extract from transcript

“There is another kind of thinking that has been increasingly recognised as being important in this effort to teach thinking. And it’s a thing we call metacognition or thinking about the thinking, because as well as doing the thinking all of those good things that I have outlined – we also have to recognise that we are doing it. And we are back to trying to be able to use those ways of thinking in new contexts. And unless those ways of thinking are made fairly visible and explicit to us – either just after we have done it or while we are doing it, we may not even know we have done it. So, therefore, we are not equipped to use it again in a new context, and that is really what this thinking about thinking is for.”

One of these videos is the product of a professor of psychology, the other an English actress, comedian and writer. It may be difficult to differentiate. Read the sources below to understand the nonsense behind metacognition.



In 1983 Carl.R. Rogers wrote in “Freedom to Learn for the 80’s” that

“learning how to learn should replace mere learning”. 

Let us examine that instruction to teachers.

Howard Gardner on page 86 of “Unity in Psychology, Possibilty or Pipedream,” edited by Robert J Sternberg wrote:

On his better days William James was a determined optimist, but he harbored doubts about psychology.  He once declared, “There is no such thing as a science of psychology,” and added “the whole present generation (of psychologists) is predestined to become unreadable old medieval lumber, as soon as the first genuine tracks of insight are made.”

  I have indicated my belief that, a century later, James’s less optimistic vision has materialised and that it may be time to bury scientific psychology, at least as a single coherent undertaking.




Michael Oakeshott on page 10 of “The Voice of Liberal Learning”:

In [school] learning is a declared engagement to learn something in particular.  Those who occupy it are not merely “growing up,” and they are not there merely to “improve their minds” or to “learn to think;” such unspecified activities are as impossible as an orchestra that plays no music in particular.




Peter Hacker on pp. 154-155 of “Wittgenstein: Meaning and Mind”:

But there are not, and could not be, special lessons at school in thinking, over and above the run-of-the-mill lessons in arithmetic, physics, history, and so on.  One learns to think, to use one’s wits more effectively, in the course of learning these subjects.  For, of course,

thinking is not a specific technique with teachable procedures one can learn. … rather, one improves one’s ability to think clearly by practising essay-writing or problem-solving in arithmetic or physics etc.



In 2009 Chris Winch published an alternative view in the Journal of Philosophy of Education  ” Learning How to Learn: A Critique (2008) in which he proposed that

learning how to learn was relabelled as “metacognition” in the hope that it may be permitted a stay of execution in education.


Now would be a good time to examine the guidance of William James.

William James

William James  was an American philosopher and psychologist who was also trained as a physician. The first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States, was one of the leading thinkers of the late nineteenth century and is believed by many to be one of the most influential philosophers the United States has ever produced, while others have labelled him the “Father of American psychology”


While Professor of Psychology in Harvard University, he authored in two volumes The Principles of Psychology (1890)

Principlesof Psych1




On page 188 James quotes Auguste Comte

Principlesof Psych2


James quotes a prescient warning in the chapter The methods and snares of psychology by Auguste Comte

Principlesof Psych3



It is clear in the second U-Tube video below that Professor C. McGuinness of Queen’s University School of Education is stuck in the eighties and still trying to sell Rogers’ ideas. Perhaps a review of the sources cited and watching the Philomena Cunk U-Tube will send Professor Carol back to reading William James.

Who would have thought or thought about thinking that fictional Philomena Cunk would deliver the obvious verdict while Professor Carol McGuinness of Queen’s University School of Education is left standing in the wings?