Teaching Students At All Grade Levels About Their Brains To Empower Their Learning
Teachers should always be looking for more and better ways to help empower their student’s learning not only regarding the content specific to their class but in general as well. Creating a solid foundation that allows the students to do this as they progress forward in their academic careers is easier said than done. One of the best ways to help instill this perspective is the teaching of metacognition.
What is Metacognition?
Metacognition is defined as thinking about one’s thinking, or cognition, with the goal of enhancing learning. It is no surprise that metacognition plays an important role in psychology, but it is gaining traction in the world of education as well. John Flavell, a developmental psychologist who specializes in child cognitive development, is regarded as one of the pioneers as metacognition began being introduced in education.
One of the benefits of metacognition is that it is not necessarily age or grade dependent. This allows it to be taught to any student at any time. Though the sooner it is taught, and strategies utilized then the bigger role it can play for students in helping empower their learning as they can build upon the different approaches being used. It can fit seamlessly into any of the four cognitive stages of childhood development:
- Sensorimotor Stage: Birth through about 2 years
- Preoperational Stage: Ages 2 through 7
- Concrete Operational Stage: Ages 7 through 11
- Formal Operational Stage: Ages 11 and older
Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers in their book Teaching Students to Drive Their Brains share various tips about how to introduce metacognition into the classroom:
- Introduce the terminology, define it, and use it often.
- Begin with an explicit lesson on metacognition
- Use metaphors to explain and explore how metacognition works
- Catch students being metacognitive
- Lead discussions encouraging students to share examples of how metacognition can be employed inside and outside the classrooms
Other common strategies are the use of self-reflection, planning a project and focusing on what the individual thinks they will have trouble with and modeling through thinking out loud through a problem. These strategies align perfectly with normative educational strategies, but the added benefit is that making them a regular part of the classroom instills these practices in the students.
Benefits of Teaching Metacognition
Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching succinctly describes how teaching metacognition can be helpful by “helping students become aware of their strengths and weaknesses as learners, writers, readers, test-takers, group members, etc. A key element is recognizing the limitations of one’s knowledge or ability and then figuring out how to expand that knowledge or extend the ability.”
With an increase in the inundation of dubious sources (“Fake News”), it is becoming more vital that students to be taught not what to think but how to think. The ability to understand one’s limits or knowledge in a certain area and be able to use metacognition strategies to find the correct answer or facts is a skill that transcends the classroom and empowers an individual.