Metacognition occurs when a person is aware of or has control over their own thinking. The conscious use of metacognition is important when applying knowledge about how to learn. An implicit assumption in educational research is that this transfer requires conscious reflection. That is why a lot of emphasis is placed on teaching students to reflect. Many theories even assume that transfer is only possible when there is awareness before, during and after learning about what and how is being learned. This means that explicit attention must not only be paid to the what of learning, but also to the how. Oxford students' criticism of this educational vision is that this explicit attention to the how comes at the expense of attention to the material to be studied itself, i.e. the what. The question is also whether these metacognitive processes take place consciously or subconsciously. Research seems to indicate that metacognitive processes mainly take place subconsciously, implicitly. This has important consequences for the effectiveness of educational policy, which explicitly tries to strengthen metacognitive processes. There are very few adolescents (and also adults) who are constantly consciously using metacognitive strategies and skills. This also places far too much emphasis on rational thinking, while the emotional system plays a crucial role in this cognitive process.

Metacognitive skills
Metacognitive skills are important because they allow people to reflect on their own thinking. Moreover, they play an important role in dealing with the enormous amount of information that is poured out on them. Metacognition is important for learning. Metacognition can be divided into different components: a declarative and a procedural component. The declarative component (see also declarative and procedural memory) is about knowing what to do, while the procedural component is about how to do something. A third component concerns when something needs to be done.

Declarative knowledge includes information that an expert can access in his long-term memory or through an external source such as a book or the Internet. Learning involves study skills that are necessary to properly perform a study task: • making extracts • making and using mnemonics • making and (not) using cheat sheets • rehearsing to remember • forming new associations • rearranging material so that she can do it better are remembered (creating new knowledge patterns) Adolescents are very capable of using these skills.
Procedural knowledge has to do with knowledge about how to approach a problem. This component involves management and control: • overseeing a task • anticipating a possible end result • dividing the available time over the various assignments (planning) • choosing a different approach if the current approach does not appear to work • control and monitoring activities , such as focusing and sustaining attention, orienting, planning, adjusting, process monitoring, testing, adjusting, evaluating and reflecting. Adolescents are much less able to deal with these skills.