Metacognition: A Tool for Teaching Information Literacy

“A metacognitive approach to information literacy prepares learners to gain new insights about their own learning and shifts the focus from skills development to knowledge acquisition through deep reflection on the learning process itself.” – Mackey and Jacobson, 9-10

The most common forms of information literacy education in recent decades have focused on developing our students’ ability to find sources and use them effectively and ethically in support of a thesis. While these skills are undoubtedly important, the revised ACRL Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education, Trudi Jacobson and Thomas Mackey’s work on metaliteracy and numerous studies conducted by Project Information Literacy have shown the need for an updated approach. Given the volume of information our students are exposed to on a daily basis, it is critical that they graduate with an enhanced awareness of how they generate, consume and act upon information, and metacognitive tools can help!


Metacognition involves reflecting on our cognitive processes and developing an awareness of how we think and learn so that we can adjust our behaviors on the basis of what was effective (Stanton, et al). Applying metacognitive strategies allows our students to take control of their educational process and make connections between prior knowledge and course content. The metacognitive process for learning involves an iterative cycle of planning, monitoring and evaluating one’s learning with focused self-questioning at each stage (Ambrose, et al, 192-200).

This same metacognitive process can be used to develop a reflective stance on the information our students are exposed to in their studies and everyday lives. In order to improve information literacy, students can ask themselves planning, monitoring and evaluating questions.

  • Planning - What sources have I selected to read/watch/listen to and why? Will I look at multiple sources on an event or topic? Why am I reading about/watching/listening to this?
  • Monitoring - What kind of information is more likely to appear at the top of my feed? How am I feeling as I read/watch/listen to this? Do I agree with the information being presented because it has been verified or because it aligns with what I already believe? Am I investigating claims before forwarding them to others?
  • Evaluating - Did I spend more time on certain types of sources than others? Whose information was I more likely to believe and share with others? Were my efforts to investigate sources and claims using other sources successful?

We can help our students become more critical and reflective consumers of information by encouraging them to apply the tools of the metacognitive process to their information consumption and dissemination habits.


  • Ambrose, Susan A. et al. How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, 2010.
  • Bravender, P. et al. Teaching Information Literacy Threshold Concepts: Lesson Plans for Librarians. Chicago, Illinois, Association of College and Research Libraries, A Division of the American Library Association, 2015.
  • LaGarde, Jennifer and Darren Hudgins. Fact vs. Fiction: Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in the Age of Fake News. Portlane, Oregon, International Society for Technology in Education, 2018.
  • Mackey, Thomas P. and Trudi E. Jacobson. Metaliteracy: Reinventing Information Literacy to Empower Learners. Chicago, Neal-Schuman, 2014.
  • Stanton, Julie Dangremond, et al. “Fostering Metacognition to Support Student Learning and Performance.” CBE - Life Sciences Education, vol. 20, no. 2, 2021.
  • Wineburg, Sam and Sarah McGrew. “Lateral Reading: Reading Less and Learning More When Evaluating Digital Information.” Stanford History Education Group Working, Paper No. 2017-A1, October 6, 2017,

Dana Dawson
Associate Director of Teaching and Learning
Center for the Advancement of Teaching
Temple University