Metacognitive thinking, a methodology for mastering intellectually challenging material, is revolutionizing legal education. Metacognition empowers people to increase their mental capabilities by discovering and correcting flaws in their thinking processes. For decades, legal educators have employed metacognitive strategies in specialized areas of the curriculum. Today, metacognition has the potential to transform legal education curriculum-wide.
Current scholarship is rich, generous, and creative in exploring how metacognition can be used to enrich specific sectors of the law curriculum. What is missing, however, is a holistic examination of how metacognitive theory and practice have developed across these different sectors, with the purpose of improving the theoretical framework and increasing its effectiveness. This Article comprehensively reviews the many facets of the metacognitive revolution, drawing parallels for the first time between experiential and non-experiential pedagogies and further relating them to recent accreditation mandates. It then addresses the likelihood that an important phase of the metacognitive revolution—the mandate to implement formative assessments with meaningful feedback—might be widely but poorly implemented, and thus cause more harm than benefit. To mitigate this problem, the Article suggests two new ways of conceptualizing what constitutes “meaningful feedback.” The first is that for feedback to be meaningful, it must be accompanied by metacognitive reflection. The second is that feedback takes on meaning when prefaced by the deconstruction and abstraction, or “naming,” of legal thinking processes. Both insights emerge only upon a holistic examination of metacognitive theory and practice as they have developed across disparate sectors of the legal curriculum.