Metacognition is “thinking about thinking.” I may have first heard the term when I was studying reading education for my Masters degree in 2000. I soon came to know it was important to teach children to think about their thinking as they read. It is only then that they can grow as readers and proficient users of comprehension strategies. It changed my reading instruction, but it didn’t radically change all of my teaching.
Now, during the past few years, I have begun to realize that it had to radically change ALL of my teaching.
Oh, that teachers can help children to know and love the process of thinking and learning.
I’ve been reading several blog posts this past week that remind me even more of the power of knowing about learning.
The first one reminded me of Meera, one of my kindergarten students. When I asked her this spring, “What do you want to learn?” she responded with, “I want to learn about my brain.” What a lead in! It was awesome. I actually explained to the whole class a bit about brains.
But not as much as I will teach the whole class next year, thanks to Carol Dweck’s work on Mindsets and this post I read recently: What Kids Should Know About Their Own Brains by Annie Murphy Paul on Mind/Shift. Kids are interested in brain research, especially when it “makes a big difference in how constructively kids deal with mistakes and setbacks, and how motivated they are to persist until they achieve mastery.”
The second article gave questions students should be able to answer. like:
- “What do you want to learn about?”
- “What’s worth understanding deeply?”
- “How do you respond to complex texts or digital media?”
- “If I get out of your way this year, what will you be able to do?”
And 22 more in the article 26 questions every student should be able to answer (by Terry Heick on Te@chThought). It wouldn’t be easy to interview all the students, so this article also gives ways shared by teachers to get students answering these questions, like jigsawing and team building games. Students should not only be able to personally answer these questions, but they should be asked to answer these questions by teachers who care about their learning.
In another article, Helping Students See Themselves as Thinkers also on Te@chThought, and also by Terry Heick, he ties learning and thinking into citizenship, “In lieu of outward content knowledge, perhaps the goal of all learning should be self-knowledge–themes of identity and purpose, then connectivism and interdependence–ultimately leading to self-directed thinkers who care for their connections with others, and the consequences of their ‘cognitive behavior.’”
This self-knowledge goes along with his lovely and brilliant definition of 21st century learning: intimate, self-directed learning experiences that serve authentic physical and digital communities, ultimately leading to personal and social change. In his article, Terry gives 12 questions to help students see themselves as thinkers, and as thinkers they can also become problem solvers, conflict resolvers, makers of masterpieces, and self-knowledgeable citizens of the world.
That’s certainly what I want for all my students, so I’ll be helping my little ones see themselves as thinkers!
What have you been reading and viewing lately about learning, brains, and metacognition?
Knight, Jim. “Instructional Coaching.” Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2011. 94. Print.