The past is just a story we tell ourselves.

—Her (Jonze, 2014)


Metacognition is the process of reflecting about and monitoring one’s own learning. Mastering metacognitive reflection pennits learners to become autonomous professionals and to be able make changes while learning. Metacognition, which is also part of the deep learning process, allows learners to recognize their own limitations of knowledge and to reflect about what they need to do in order to improve their professional practice. Learning how our brains interpret and process stories helps students develop metacognitive skills. It is also important for students to learn about the unconscious mechanisms that affect the understanding of stories, which includes priming, stereotyping, the mere exposure effect, and mental methods to deal with anomalies, contradictions, and gaps in the input story.


The deep learning process requires constant feedback. Formative feedback has a marginal role in North American law schools and occupies a somewhat marginal place in criminal justice university programs. Still, some law school and university teachers give students feedback in their courses. This feedback tells them what they are doing well and where they need to improve. In some cases, teachers also tell students what they need to do to improve. Teacher feedback and information are essential for student learning. But once students graduate, they do not have their teachers by their side to give them feedback. Thus, students need to leam how to reflect about their own learning endeavors and to obtain information about their progress in the learning process.

I will begin this chapter with a brief conceptualization of metacognition, which is the most useful tool to reflect about one’s learning process, and its connection to deep learning. Then, I will examine its mam elements: awareness, knowledge, control, and emotion. I will also analyze the tools to cany out metacognitive reflection and some examples of metacognitive resources to leam law and criminal justice. Because stories, including popular culture stories, play an essential role in teaching and learning law and criminal justice, I will also examine how we interpret and process stories in our brains. Knowledge of these processes helps students in their metacognitive reflection.


Metacognition consists of reflecting about and monitoring one’s own learning process. Metacognition also includes recognizing our limitations of knowledge and what we need to do in order to keep learning to progress in the professional legal and criminal justice fields. Metacognitive reflection pennits learners to make changes along the way. In practice, metacognition can be achieved through a series of tools, questions, elements, and other resources that facilitate the reflection on one’s learning processes. This reflective practice leads to self-evaluation, which enables a process of lifelong learning.


In Makers: Lisa Leslie (2014), we get a glimpse of Lisa Leslie’s basketball career. Lisa was a passionate and remarkable player who reflected constantly about the game and analyzed eveiy move inside and outside the court. Lisa also carefully analyzed all aspects of her career. She knew what she wanted to do. She even wrote down her career goals—and stuck to them—at a time when professional basketball for female players was not a possibility in the United States. Lisa always had a concrete plan to achieve her goals. When she got cut from the US Olympic team in 1990, she was disappointed. But instead of letting her disappointment stall her career, she went back to the drawing board, worked harder in the gym, and played as many games as she could to improve her skills. Two years later, she was cut from the Olympic team again. She kept improving her skills until finally she made the team and won the gold medal in four consecutive Olympic Games: Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, and Beijing 2008.

She reflected alone. And she also talked about basketball with her coaches and team members. She engaged in meaningful conversations with the coach and team players, which helped her improve the depth of her incessant reflections about the game. When Lisa was on the court, she knew how to find a few seconds to think of the best play to help her team. Furthermore, Lisa knew how to learn from her mistakes. She reflected about them on and off the court. Sometimes, she even made changes to her game while she was playing. And she also helped her team members corr ect then plays.

There are four key components of metacognition: awareness, knowledge, control, and emotion. Awareness refers to the process of learning about one’s cognitive structure. Lisa Leslie was aware of her basketball skills. She knew very well what she was capable of doing on the court. She knew what she needed to do to improve with practice. And she was also aware of her limitations. When Lisa realized that she was not young enough to go on playing professional basketball, she went back to school to pursue a master’s degree in business to reinvent herself as a team co-owner. Metacognitive awareness also entails learning how to set one’s own learning goals. In law school and university, teachers generally set those goals. Teachers tell students what aspects of the discipline they need to learn. For example, law schools have designed a curriculum that contains all of the skills, competences, concepts, principles, cases, and methods that stirdents will need to master in order to gr aduate and become lawyers. But in order to be prepared for life outside law school, students themselves need to learn how to set their own learning goals.

Knowledge implies knowing about the learning process and knowing about one’s own personal learning styles. Students need to learn about the process of knowledge construction and deep learning, which were discussed in previous chapters. They need to know that the deep learning process is produced when a learner faces a problem, question, or situation embedded in a story that creates a cognitive conflict when the learner interacts with peers. Students must be aware that they need to make higher order cognitive connections between the input story and their existing stories and that they need to reflect about the changes that occur’ as a result of this process. Students also need to know how human beings process and interpret stories and how some psychological and stereotyping phenomena affect the understanding of stories, which I will discuss in depth later in this chapter.

Control means monitoring one’s own learning progress. It helps stirdents correct themselves and make changes while they are engaged in their learning process. This aspect of metacognition is key to successfill professional practice. It takes place when a lawyer or criminal justice professional reflects in action and as a consequence changes his or her tasks to correct something that he or she perceives that is not going well. This reflection and changes occur while the legal or criminal justice professional is actually conducting these tasks. For example, if a police officer is interrogating a suspect and she senses that the interrogation is going nowhere, she can change her interrogation strategy to elicit valuable information from the suspect.

The emotional element of metacognition requires students to pay attention to the feelings and emotions that learning something new generates and to recognize how these feelings affect them. Understanding all these feelings and emotions and how they affect what you do is essential for the deep learning process.

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