Metacognition as a superordinate concept of metalinguistics: The role in developing reading skills in a foreign language


University of Prešov, Slovakia

ORCID ID: 0000-0002-7069-447X

DOI: 10.15290/cr.2019.24.1.06


Abstract. The paper provides a theoretical analysis of the relationship between metacognition and its subordinate con- cept metalinguistics. Understanding that language and cognition are inextricably linked, the aim of the paper is to highlight the holistic nature of learning. From this perspective, metalinguistic abilities, such as phonological awareness, word awareness, form awareness, and pragmatic awareness are introduced and suggestions for activities and every- day interactions to facilitate their development are outlined. Furthermore, the paper focuses on explaining the role of metacognition and metalinguistics in particular towards the development of reading skills. Based on the three kinds of metacognitive knowledge, i.e., declarative knowledge, procedural knowledge and conditional knowledge, the paper provides a five-step instruction of a reading comprehension strategy, applicable for both L1 and FL reading development.

Keywords: metacognition, metalinguistic knowledge, metalinguistic awareness, reading comprehension, bilingualism, reading in a foreign/second language.

1. Introduction

The importance of attaining developed reading skills is indisputable. Through reading, learners are able to access new information, new ways to achieve their goals, and new ways to solve their problems. Difficulties in reading result in ensuing struggles with general academic performance. Indeed, it is believed that many learning problems that students exhibit are related to the inability to use metacognitive reading strategies appropriately. Poor readers in general do not possess the knowledge of effective reading strategies and are often unaware of when and how to apply the knowledge that they do possess (Horner & Shwery 2002). They often need specific training in metacognition in order to develop independent learning and deep engagement in reading. A large body of research has demonstrated that metacognitive processes – and metalinguistic ones in particular – lead to reading success at school (Woolley 2011). However, very few teachers adequately assist students in becoming independent learners by implementing training in metacognition.

The aim of the paper is to outline the relationship between metacognition and metalinguistics, understood as its subordinate concept. Subsequently, the paper discusses the role metacognition and metalinguistics seem to play in both the mother tongue (L1) and foreign/second language (FL/L2). This theoretical framework is further expanded to outline the possibilities for promot-  ing metacognitive and metalinguistic reading strategies in both L1 and FL/L2 classroom environ- ments by introducing the model of developing metacognitive awareness during reading, which takes into consideration the pre-reading, during reading and post-reading phases of a reading act.

2.  Metacognition as a means to monitor and reflect on thought processes

Generally, metacognition is understood as our ability to be aware of and regulate our own think- ing. This skill is an essential part of effective learning. As Neaum (2017) explains, when learning we need to be able to monitor and regulate our mental processes and draw on cognitive strategies to help us. For example, when reading a book we quickly become aware of whether or not  we  have understood the text. This shows that we are monitoring our thinking processes. According  to Pressley et al. (1987), metacognition helps learners to be consciously aware of what they have learned, recognize situations in which it would be useful and processes involved in using it.

The history of metacognition dates back to the late 1970s. The term metacognition was first coined by Flavell (1978), who refers to it as both an individual’s knowledge and cognition about cognitive phenomena. Thanks to this understanding an individual is able to exercise conscious control over the products of their cognitive processes (Tunmer et al. 1984).

There is a quite straightforward relationship between metacognition and cognition. As Garner (1987) points out, cognition and metacognition differ in that cognitive skills are necessary to per- form a task, while metacognition is necessary to understand how the task is performed. From this viewpoint it is vital to perceive metacognition as “cognition about cognition”, which Flavell (1981) explains as the ability to perform mental operations on the products of other mental operations. An individual with developed metacognition is aware of how they can control their own thought processes. In addition to this explanation, O’Malley et al. (1985) assert that metacognitive strate- gies involve thinking about the learning process, planning for learning, monitoring of compre- hension or production while it is taking place, and self-evaluation of learning after the language activity is completed. On the other hand, cognitive strategies are more directly related to indi- vidual learning tasks and entail direct manipulation or transformation of the learning materials.

Flavell’s hypothesis of metacognition has been developed by many researchers. As Schraw (2002) sees it, most of them differentiate between two components of metacognition, knowledge of cognition and regulation of cognition. The former refers to what a person knows about their own cogni- tion or about cognition in general. It includes three different kinds of metacognitive awareness: 1.) declarative knowledge, which refers to knowing “about” things, 2.) procedural knowledge, which refers to knowing “how” to do things, and 3.) conditional knowledge, which refers to knowing the “why” and “when” aspects of cognition (Brown 1987; Jacobs & Paris 1987; Schraw & Moshman 1995). The latter component of metacognition, i.e., regulation of cognition, refers to a set of activities that help students control their learning. It includes three essential skills: planning, monitoring, and evaluation. Planning involves the selection of appropriate strategies and the allocation of re- sources that affect performance (Jacobs & Paris 1987). Schraw (2002) provides examples such as making predictions before reading, strategy sequencing, and allocating time or attention selectively before beginning a task. Monitoring refers to an individual’s awareness of comprehension and task performance. The ability to engage in repeated self-testing while learning can serve as an example. Evaluating refers to the assessment of the product and efficiency of one’s learning.
Atypical example includes re-evaluating one’s goals and conclusions.

Schraw (2002) asserts that metacognitive regulation improves performance in a number of ways, such as a better use of attentional resources, a better use of existing strategies, and a greater awareness of comprehension breakdowns. Indeed, the impact of developed metacognitive regu- latory skills on learning is immense. As a number of studies (Cross & Paris 1988; Brown & Pal- incsar 1989) report, there is a significant improvement in learning when regulatory skills and an understanding of how to use these skills are included as part of classroom instruction. Studies  also suggest that regulatory skills improve with training and practice (Delclos & Harrington 1991). Moreover, Schraw (2002) points out that improving one aspect of regulation (e.g., planning) via instruction may improve others (e.g., monitoring).

As Tunmer et al. (1984) state, an approach similar to that of Flavell can be found in the propos- als of Brown (1978) and Brown and DeLoache (1978). In accordance with Vygotsky’s view, they refer to metacognition as the ability to reflect upon one’s cognitive functioning, which plays an important role in a child’s problem-solving abilities. Also like Flavell, Brown and DeLoache (1978) claim that in different contexts, different types of awareness are appropriate, though they also af- firm that there are certain metacognitive skills which are useful in practically any situation.

Flavell (1978) as well as Brown and DeLoache (1978) agree that the development of metacogni- tion during childhood has a major impact on children’s thinking. As Tunmer et al. (1984) explain, they consider metacognition as the ability to reflect upon and monitor the products of the individ- ual’s thought processes as a result of an increased awareness of the nature of cognitive functions. Therefore, the development of such awareness is perceived as providing the child with much more control over their thinking. Donaldson (1978) suggests that it is this development that enables children to succeed on many formal tasks used to assess their thinking, such as Piagetian tasks of conservation or classification.

The paper further expands on the issue of metacognition within the narrowed context of meta- linguistics. This perspective highlights the holistic nature of learning: that language and cognition are inextricably linked. Yet, as Bialystok (2001) implies, the terms used in the field of metalinguis- tics are often unclear. Many authors use different terms to describe the same concept of metalin- guistics, such as metalinguistic abilities, metalinguistic knowledge, metalinguistic awareness, etc.

However, there is a semantic difference between metalinguistic awareness and metalinguistic knowledge. The former refers to the early stages of children becoming aware of language, while the latter refers to the later stages when children have developed explicit representations of aspects of linguistic structures (Bialystok 2001). Nevertheless, for the sake of this presented paper, the original terminology provided by the authors is meant to refer to metalinguistics as a broad umbrella term.

3. Metalinguistics and its position within metacognitive abilities

Brown and DeLoache (1978), like Flavell (1981), distinguish between several metacognitive abili- ties, all of which develop  gradually during childhood in familiar contexts. They represent a set   of specific functions, such as metamemory, meta-attention, metalearning, metasocial cognition, and metalanguage or metalinguistics, which encompass an individual’s knowledge or awareness of memory, of attention, of learning, of social cognition, and of language. All these meta-abili-  ties equally contribute to the development of metacognition. Besides the theoretical works of De- Loache and Flavell, empirical research (e.g., Whyatt 2007) also confirms a close relationship be- tween metacognition and metalinguistics.

With regard to metalinguistic abilities, Tunmer and Herriman (Tunmer et al. 1984) affirm that metacognitive control  is a more fundamental ability than metalinguistic awareness, one  which   is reflected in a wide range of situations and tasks, including those that require reflecting upon and manipulating the structural features of the spoken language. Broadly speaking, this aspect of metacognition promotes the ability to think and talk about language (Neaum 2017). As Nagy and Anderson (1995) see it, metalinguistics refers to the ability to reflect on and manipulate the struc- tural features of language independent of meaning.

Tunmer and Bowey (1984) explain that the psychological processes involved in metalinguistic abilities are both logically and psychologically distinct from those involved in language compre- hension  and production. Similarly, the type of processing required in metalinguistic operations  is also unlike that of normal sentence comprehension and production. As Cazden (1975) further clarifies, language is normally treated as transparent, something to be “looked through” rather than focused upon. Processing of this sort is generally referred to as “automatic”, which can be placed in contrast with “control” or “executive” processes. These entail an element of choice in whether or not the operations are performed, as well as relative slowness and deliberateness in  the application of such operations. According to Tunmer and Bowey (1984), control processing characterizes the kind of linguistic functioning associated with metalinguistic abilities, since the latter involve deliberately reflecting on the structural features of language per se by means of a conscious analytic ability. A person does not normally notice elements such as the individual pho- nemes and words comprising a given utterance, or the grouping relationships among constituent words unless they deliberately think about it; that is, unless they invoke control processing to reflect upon the structural features of the utterance.

In accordance with the above stated assertion, Tunmer and Herriman (Tunmer et al. 1984) de- fine metalinguistic awareness as the ability to invoke control processing to perform mental opera- tions on the products of mental mechanisms involved in sentence comprehension and production. Similarly, Pratt and Grieve (1984) explain metalinguistic awareness as the ability to think about and reflect upon the nature and functions of language.

Metalinguistic awareness is manifested in a child’s growing ability to “see” the language be- yond its functional use (i.e., language used in an implicit, unanalyzed way to communicate with others),  to switch attention from the functional use of language and focus on the language itself.  It requires that children learn to think about and manipulate the structural features of language (Lightsey & Frye 2004). In other words, children develop the ability to think about and play with language apart from its meaning. Neaum (2017) elaborates this premise and sees metacognitive knowledge as the ability to treat language as an object composed of words and meanings. It is the ability to recognize that language has a structure, that it consists of words, that words have meaning, and that the structure of language – the words and meanings – can be examined, discussed and manipulated.

Tunmer and Bowey (1984) offer a psychological model of sentence comprehension to express  the relationship between language processing and metalinguistic operations. The model is use-  ful in providing the basis for classifying the various manifestations of metalinguistic awareness. Within it, four broad categories emerge: phonological awareness, word awareness, form awareness, and pragmatic awareness. The first two categories refer to the awareness of the subunits of spoken language (the phonemes and words). Form awareness covers the structural representation of the literal, or linguistic, meaning associated with an utterance. The last category, pragmatic awareness, refers to the relationships that are obtained from a set of propositions, among which literal and intended meanings can be counted.

Furthermore, Tunmer and Bowey (1984) talk about metalinguistic development during the pe- riod from 4 to 8 years of age as the ability to reflect upon and manipulate the structural features  of spoken language. They refer to treating language itself as an object of thought, as opposed to using the language system to comprehend and produce sentences. Examples of such emerging metalinguistic abilities include discovering structural and lexical ambiguities, the understanding of linguistic jokes, segmentation of sentences into words and words into phonemes, separation of words from their referents, assessing the semantic and grammatical well-formedness rules, and detection of inconsistencies and communication failures.

Gombert (1992) provides a four-phase model for  the development of children’s  metalinguis-  tic knowledge. Phase one comprises the acquisition of a first set of linguistic skills. Children ac- quire and consolidate early language, whereby language use is implicit and unanalyzed. Phase two comes at the end of a child’s fifth year with the acquisition of epi-linguistic control. Children orga- nize the implicit language ability acquired in the initial phase, which results in greater functional control  of the language. Language rules are applied, e.g., ungrammatical utterances are shaped   to become grammatically correct. Phase three is characterized by the acquisition of metalinguistic knowledge. During this phase, children become consciously aware of aspects of language, i.e., knowledge about the language (declarative knowledge) and knowledge about how to use the lan- guage (procedural knowledge). Phase four covers the automation of the above mentioned pro- cesses. At the age of six or seven years, meta-processes become automated, as opposed to being consciously controlled. However, meta-processes are readily available to the conscious mind when necessary. For instance, the use of grammatically correct language becomes automated until a child misuses or does not know a word, then they need to consciously draw on meta-processes to think about the language in use.

As Neaum (2017) points out, children develop metalinguistic awareness in their play and every- day interactions. More precisely, to trigger and develop metalinguistic awareness or metalinguistic knowledge, the interaction with children needs to have particular features to enable children to become consciously aware of language. It is vital to use the language for learning language, to draw their attention to language in concrete and meaningful ways. Children’s attention should be drawn to the details of language in our interactions, i.e., to the particular words we use, the ways in which we use them, the rules that govern them, the constituent parts of words (phonemes and graphemes), and how we build up and break down words to read (segment and blend).

4. The role of metacognition and metalinguistics in developing reading skills

Metacognition and metalinguistic knowledge are perceived as skills that are developed and used in many facets of life. Besides others, these important internal mechanisms control other aspects during the process of reading comprehension (Kusiak 2013). As Neaum (2017) explains, both met- alinguistic knowledge and metacognitive knowledge are necessary for  building a mental model  of the text that is an overall representation of the meaning. This leads to language comprehension during reading. Successful comprehension involves the construction of a clear, complete and inte- grated mental representation of the meaning of a text: a mental model (Oakhill et al. 2015). Build- ing this mental model requires that children have metalinguistic knowledge: knowledge about the structure and properties of the language (Brooks & Kempe 2012). Zipke’s (2008) study confirms this theory and highlights the importance of metalinguistics in language comprehension.

Tunmer and Bowey (1984) describe the role of metalinguistic ability in learning to read. As they put it, to learn to read, children must bring their knowledge of the spoken language to bear upon the written language. This requires the ability to deal explicitly with the structural features of the spoken language. The metalinguistic ability to reflect upon language seems to be an important pre- requisite for being able to learn to read, since the child needs this ability to discover the properties of spoken language that are central to the correspondences between its written and spoken forms.

Moreover, Tunmer and Bowey (1984) state that the development of metalinguistic abilities in children is central to learning to read. From a metacognitive perspective, skilled reading involves four metalinguistic abilities: phonological awareness, word awareness, form awareness, and prag- matic awareness. The division is based on the understanding of reading as a set of independent processes, and reading development as the acquisition of several component skills (Calfee 1977). These metalinguistic abilities play a crucial role in the reading acquisition process. As Tunmer et al. (1984) explain, the relative importance of the different types of metalinguistic ability varies according to the stage of development the child has reached and the particular subskills he has acquired in progressing from a beginner to a skilled reader.

More specifically, Tunmer and Bowey (1984) provide the sequential order of relative importance as the child traverses this scale. Their order is word awareness, phonological awareness, form awareness and pragmatic awareness. As the authors further clarify, the children’s first task as they enter the reading acquisition process is to realize that one specific spoken word corresponds to one written word, which requires the metalinguistic ability to treat spoken words as objects of thought. Hence the first metalinguistic ability is word awareness. To facilitate the development of the child’s word concept, word segmentation games may be helpful.

Word awareness is followed by phonological awareness. According to Tunmer and Bowey (1984), beginner readers also discover the systematic correspondences between the subunits of written and spoken words, i.e., the graphemes and phonemes, in order to decode words that they have not seen before. To break the orthographic code, the beginner reader must discover which phonemes correspond with which graphemes. This requires the ability to recognize the units of the written and spoken language. These correspondence rules must be discovered through the child’s own self-monitoring metacognitive strategies.

Regarding form awareness, discovering the systematic correspondences between the subunits of written and spoken words necessitates the metalinguistic ability to segment spoken words into their constituent phonemic elements. At the same time, the child needs the metacognitive ability to detect the correspondences between these phonemic elements and the graphemic elements of written language.

Pragmatic ability is required to organize words into larger structural units. Children notice rela- tionships among groups of sentences and the context in which they are embedded to fully under- stand what they read. Moreover, they need to integrate the sentences into larger structural repre- sentations, which also involves combining new information with old information.

However, as Tunmer and Bowey (1984) stress, the transition from one stage to another does not occur at once, instantly. Quite the opposite, there is a considerable overlap  among the stages. As the child enters a new stage, they use their emerging metacognitive abilities to generate the strat- egies necessary to perform mental operations on the relevant structural features of spoken lan- guage. As soon as the particular subskill becomes automatized, the child moves on to the next stage. From a reading perspective, not only metalinguistic abilities but also metacognition as a su- perordinate concept is important for developing reading skills. The first dimension of metacogni- tive ability, knowledge of cognition (Flavell 1978), involves the reader’s knowledge about their own cognitive resources and the compatibility between the reader and the reading situation. Carrell et al. (2002) explain that if a reader understands what is needed to perform efficiently, then the steps can be taken to meet the demands of a reading situation more effectively. On the other hand, if the reader is not aware of their own limitations as a reader or of the complexity of the task, then they cannot take preventative or corrective actions to anticipate or recover from problems. Conditional knowledge is a component of knowledge of cognition that refers to “knowing why”, and also in- cludes the reader’s knowledge of whether a certain strategy is appropriate.

As Kusiak (2013) further asserts, metacognitive knowledge seems to be a ubiquitous factor of reading comprehension, related to phonological and syntactic aspects of language processing. Metacognitive knowledge about the structure and properties of language enables children to de- velop and use explicit strategies to shape, monitor and reflect on their reading (Brooks & Kempe 2012). It is dependent on the level of language proficiency (Butler 2002), i.e., lower-proficiency learn- ers demonstrate different metacognitive knowledge when compared to higher-proficiency learners. The second dimension of metacognitive ability, regulation of cognition, refers to planning, moni- toring, testing, revising, and evaluating of the strategies employed during reading (Baker & Brown 1984). According to Carell (1987), these self-regulatory metacognitive skills are present in reading in the following aspects: (a) clarifying the purposes of reading, that is, understanding both the explicit and implicit task demands; (b) identifying the important aspects of a message; (c) focusing attention on the major content rather than trivia; (d) monitoring ongoing activities to determine whether comprehension is occurring; (e) engaging in self-questioning to determine whether goals are being achieved, and (f) taking corrective action when failures in comprehension are detected. As Carrell et al. (2002) see it, the key metacognitive factors, i.e., knowledge and regulation, are re- lated to what readers know about their cognitive resources and their regulation. Furthermore, reg- ulation in reading involves the awareness of and ability to detect contradictions in a text, knowl- edge of different strategies to use with different text types, and the ability to separate important information from unimportant information.

Tunmer and Bowey (1984) claim that out of cognitive skills, the one most directly involved in reading acquisition is metacognitive control. Skilled readers take an active role in the learning pro- cess, since the orthographic cipher of language needs to be learned, or rather discovered through monitoring the products of their own cognitive processes, as Gough and Hillinger (1979) assert.

5. Metacognition and metalinguistics as predictors of reading in a foreign language

Metacognition and metalinguistics in particular share a significant relationship with foreign lan- guage acquisition or bilingualism. Historically, it has been argued that the acquisition of more  than one language in childhood promotes metalinguistic awareness (Vygotsky 1962). De Avila  and Duncan (1979) were among the first to propose a possible link between fully fluent bilingual- ism and metacognitive development. They suggested that children growing up with more than  one language acquire either simultaneously or sequentially two linguistic codes for symbolic ma- nipulation within their environment. Consequently, their metacognitive awareness is increased more so than in monolingual children. This increase in metacognition, understood as the awareness that languages have internally consistent systems, is further explained by Ben-Zeev (1977) as a kind of understanding which provides a way of separating two languages from each other. According to Neaum (2017), the awareness that language has a structure, that it consists of words that have meaning, and that these words and meanings are chosen and can be discussed is an essential characteristic of the linguistic perspective of children who are multilingual. Chil- dren who move between languages are required to understand and use different words for the same thing, and different language structures to communicate and express meaning. As Bialystok (1988) implies, this code-switching between languages improves the awareness of aspects of the structure and properties of a language.

Ben-Zeev (1977) explains that as bilingual children develop a more analytic orientation to lin- guistic structures in order to separate two languages into functionally independent systems, they automatically acquire higher levels of metacognitive functioning, since cognitive control is neces- sary to perform metalinguistic operations.

These views are consistent with the research of Kirsner et al. (1980), which indicates that the two language systems of bilinguals are functionally independent. Similarly, Lambert (1981) reports that metalinguistic skills, such as flexibility in manipulating linguistic codes, auditory reorganiza- tion of language items and separations of words from their physical referents, are more evident in bilinguals than in monolinguals. Recent studies also affirm that bilingual children show improved metalinguistic awareness in contrast to their monolingual peers (Brooks and Kempe 2012). What is interesting is that metalinguistic knowledge was found to be a better predictor of EFL students’ academic success than linguistic knowledge (Kusiak 2013). This finding stresses the role of meta- linguistic knowledge in foreign language learning at the academic level.

Regarding reading, Kusiak (2013) implies that metacognition seems to play a similar role in both mother tongue and foreign/second language. In accordance, van Gelderen et al. (2004) con- sider metacognition a powerful predictor of both mother tongue and foreign/second language reading comprehension. As Koda (2005) further explains, metacognition functions as a control mechanism that regulates cognitive resources during comprehension and is present in a reader’s dual-language development. As Tunmer et al. (1984) put it, fully fluent bilingualism results in in- creased metacognitive/metalinguistic abilities which, in turn, facilitate reading acquisition which, in turn, leads to higher levels of academic achievement.

Based on the three kinds of metacognitive knowledge, i.e., declarative knowledge, procedural knowledge and conditional knowledge, Carrell et al. (2002) provide a five-step instruction of a reading comprehension strategy. The first step is to explain what the strategy is, as a teacher de- scribes critical features of the strategy or provides a description of the strategy. In the second step the teacher explains why a strategy should be learned. Explaining the purpose of the lesson and  its potential benefits is seen here as a necessary step for moving from teacher control to student self-control of learning. The third step is to show how to use the strategy. The teacher breaks down the strategy, explains each component of the strategy, and shows the logical relationship among the components. The fourth step covers when and where the strategy should be used, e.g., different strategies apply in a story or informational reading. The fifth step explains how to evaluate use of the strategy. The teacher shows how to evaluate the strategy used, including suggestions for fix-up strategies to resolve remaining problems.

These five steps provide a careful and complete teacher explanation of a reading comprehension strategy in both mother tongue and foreign/second language. Declarative knowledge is addressed through steps one and two, procedural knowledge is covered in step three, and conditional knowl- edge is addressed through steps four and five. To support this model of five-step instruction of reading strategies, the research in foreign language reading described by Carrell et al. (2002) re- veals significant positive effects of the metacognitive strategy training when compared with the traditional approaches to instruction.

Actually, the relationship between metacognition, metalinguistics and reading in a foreign lan- guage is reciprocal. Olsen (1988 in Neaum 2017) stresses the importance of reading in develop- ing children’s metalinguistic awareness and metalinguistic knowledge. For example, reading and discussing story and picture books support children’s metalinguistics, since these activities draw children’s attention to words and language. Similar results can be achieved with activities like playing with language in the form of poems, rhymes, nonsense words, stories, riddle, jokes, puns, and puzzles. They all present excellent opportunities to alert children to language.

6. Promoting metacognitive reading strategies in the classroom

Metacognition and metalinguistics, understood as prerequisites for developed reading skills, are believed to support reading by helping learners to take control  of their own process of learning   to read. Thanks to developed metacognition and metalinguistics, the learners are able to monitor their reading processes. When selecting a reading task that would involve and motivate the reader, Clay (1993) suggests choosing a task not too difficult or too easy for the reader, as well as one re- lated to the reader’s interests. Once a proper reading task is selected, in order to promote metacog- nitive strategies, teachers should intentionally and systematically encourage learners to actively engage in specific metacognitive behaviors. Zimmerman (2002) provides a three-phase model of developing metacognitive awareness, which can be implemented in both the L1 and FL classroom environments. The model consists of 1) the forethought phase, which takes place before learning engagement, i.e., reading, 2) the performance phase, which takes place during reading, and 3) the self-reflection phase, which takes place at the end of the reading process.

Forethought phase. This phase incorporates the processes and behaviors that are introduced before reading takes place. Through the exercise of forethought, learners become aware of their own capabilities and are able to make a realistic estimate of task requirements and demands.    The first phase includes the sub-processes of task analysis, goal-setting, and strategic planning. Teachers should lead learners to analyze a task and to set appropriate goals that provide a clear standard against which they can measure their own success (Guthrie et al. 2000). By analyzing     a task, learners base decisions concerning the appropriate strategy to use on their perception of the particular task demands. Moreover, based on the task analysis, learners use judgments of what may be required by a particular task to select, adapt, or even devise strategic approaches to achieve their reading goals.

Similarly, the types of goals that learners implement influence the selection of appropriate strat- egies employed while reading and, in turn, influence the type and quality of meanings developed from the text. Thus, teachers should assist learners with setting clear purposeful goals that would lead to selecting appropriate reading strategies. In addition to this, Horner and Shwery (2002) recommend setting short-term goals. By reaching them, learners experience a sense of self-efficacy and, subsequently, are more readily engaged in activities that they believe will help them attain future task goals.

Performance phase. During the performance phase teachers are expected to help learners main- tain self-control via promoting self-instruction, attention focusing, task strategies, self-observation, self-recording, and self-experimentation. Poor readers especially need help with developing skills to monitor their own comprehension strategies and understanding (Learner 1993 in Woolley 2011). For instance, when developing self-observation strategy, the teacher leads learners to self-record their personal events or self-experiment to discover the related causes and effects of these events. Zimmerman (2002) provides an example of such reading strategy training: imagine learners notice that they are experiencing problems in understanding a narrative text. Once they are aware of the problem, the teacher leads them to experiment by trying different strategies, e.g., by referring to an illustration, by looking at the chapter heading, by comparing similar events in their own experi- ence, or by rereading sections of the text to gain more information. Thus, learners can self-monitor by tracking the efficiency of each of the strategies for their relative effectiveness and future use. The teacher’s role during reading is to guide readers by the types of questions they ask and by focusing readers’ attention on relevant features so that an integrated understanding of the story can be constructed by the reader from the available text information (Alfassi 2004). Moreover, the teacher should provide readers with the repertoire of compensatory reading strategies when they experience difficulties while reading, such as rereading the significant details and sections of text, noting the initial letters and shape of a word (Walczyk & Griffith-Ross 2007), slowing reading rate, pausing, or reading aloud to enable them to recover meaning when it has been lost (Rapp & Kend- eou 2007). The teacher should also be able to explain to learners when, how and why to use com- pensations. As Walczyk and Griffith-Ross (2007) assert, without explicit metacognitive training, struggling readers are unlikely to use a wide repertoire of strategies to compensate on their own.

Other metacognitive reading strategies learners should adapt are updating and revising what   is already known or understood. While reading a text, the revision of readers’ expectations they have constructed from earlier portions of the text help with successful comprehension of future story events. These revisions are most likely driven by automatic or conscious attentional effort. Teacher instructions can promote text comprehension by focusing readers’ attention on particular elements within the text or highlighting some elements as being more prominent.

Self-reflection phase. Self-reflection strategies represent the essential aspects of metacognition. Within the after reading phase, the teacher should encourage learners to monitor their own prog- ress and attribute their success to how much effort has been invested (Ames & Ames 1984). As Horner and Shwery (2002) add, in this phase, the teacher should provide learners with oppor- tunities to be actively engaged in self-monitoring and to be shown how to evaluate and monitor their own learning.

Self-reflection and self-evaluation are two important strategies incorporated into the structure of many effective metacognitive instructional programs. Once the readers are encouraged to pre- dict in the pre-reading phase, the teacher can model questions such as “What clues helped you predict?” and “What parts of your prediction were in the story?” in the self-reflection phase after reading. Thus, the readers are able to assess their own attempts at deriving meaning.

7. Conclusion

The aim of the paper was to outline the theoretical framework for the relationship of metacogni- tion and metalinguistics, as well as to define their role in developing reading skills in a foreign language. We discussed in detail the core metalinguistic abilities: phonological awareness, word awareness, form awareness, and pragmatic awareness, which play a crucial role in the reading acquisition process.

Based on the premises outlined in the theoretical part of the paper, we further provided a sug- gestion for practical application of metacognitive strategies training in both L1 and FL/L2 reading environments. The theory indicates and subsequent practice proves that an effective approach to teaching the children with reading difficulties is based on developing metacognitive principles. Within this viewpoint, developing metacognitive reading strategies is of such paramount impor- tance that teachers in both L1 and FL/L2 need to recognize it as a key focus in the goal of guiding their learners towards reading proficiency.

Specifically, we pointed out the necessity of teachers intentionally encouraging learners to ac- tively engage in metacognitive behaviors such as task analysis, goal-setting, planning, self-con-  trol, self-monitoring, or self-evaluation. Self-regulated readers use metacognitive strategies to fos- ter, monitor and regulate their own comprehension before, during and after reading. As Woolley (2011) asserts, when students are helped to self-regulate by using forethought, self-control, self- monitoring, and self-reflection, they develop positive self-beliefs. The use of an efficient metacog- nitive strategy thus contributes to success and, subsequently, this success increases efficacy and a positive self-concept.

[1] Address for correspondence: Faculty of Education (KKLV), University of Presov, Ul. 17. novembra 15, Presov 080 01, Slovakia. E-mail:


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This work was supported by the Slovak Research and Development Agency under grant number APVV-15-0273.


Marta Kopčíková is a lecturer at the Department of Communicative and Literary Education at the Faculty of Education, University of Prešov. She works with pre-service teachers, her main teaching areas being methodology of teaching English to young and very young learners and the develop- ment of communicative competences in the English language. She has participated in several re- search projects focused on the development of metacognitive, cognitive and executive functions of underperforming students. Her main fields of expertise are metacognitive reading strategies and reading competence in the English language