Much problem solving and learning occurs in social situations, and social relations afford and facilitate these processes in many ways. However, previous research has mostly neglected to consider metacognition from the social point of view. On the basis of the findings of the present study, we propose that socially shared metacognition is a useful and justified concept which should be added to the conceptual tools of learning research.
The evidence provided here opens the way for the investigation of the relations between socially shared metacognition and quality of problem solving; such a line of research is compatible with the literature on the features of productive and successful collaboration. In the episodes of socially shared metacognition the dyad was able to correct an erroneous strategy or to create a needed situation model. This study investigated how metacognition appears as a socially shared phenomenon within collaborative mathematical word-problem solving processes of dyads of high-achieving pupils. Four dyads solved problems of different difficulty levels. The pupils were 10 years old. The problem-solving activities were videotaped and transcribed in terms of verbal and nonverbal behaviours as well as of turns taken in communication. Episodes of socially shared metacognition were identified and their function and focus analysed. There were significantly more and longer episodes of socially shared metacognition in difficult as compared to moderately difficult and easy problems. Their function was to facilitate or inhibit activities and their focus was on the situation model of the problem or on mathematical operations. Metacognitive experiences were found to trigger socially shared metacognition.