Direct student attention inward and improve student learning by cultivating metacognition in your classroom.
In the past, it was believed that children enter the school system with natural abilities and innate inclinations toward performing well in certain subjects. Education professionals have determined that this is no longer a legitimate preconception regarding students, as metacognition development becomes a more popular practice.
What is Metacognition?
Stanford University psychology professor John Flavell introduced the concept in his 1979 American Psychologist piece “Metacognition and Cognitive Monitoring: A New Area of Cognitive-developmental Inquiry,” in which he explained, “Metacognitive knowledge is one’s stored knowledge or beliefs about oneself and others as cognitive agents, about tasks, about actions or strategies, and about how all these interact to affect the outcomes of any sort of intellectual enterprise.” Through this understanding and remaining aware of their own thoughts, students are able to use metacognition to harness greater power over how they are educated.
How Can You Bring Metacognition to Your Classroom?
1. Begin Self-Assessment Study
The benefits of positive peer assessment can open a student’s perspective to include views from his or her peers. Why not try implementing self-assessment within the classroom? Prior to beginning a lesson, students should take a few moments to write down questions they have about the concept or subject you’re about to explore. The National Center for Biotechnology Information suggests using questions, such as “What are the goals of the class session going to be?” or “What do I already know about this topic?” This organization also lists questions students can pose to themselves during the lesson, while completing homework, and studying for exams.
2. Create a Fine Pairing
Promoting teamwork within the classroom is beneficial to prepare students for higher education and entering the workforce. Metacognition, while a self-centered approach to learning, provides room for students to work with a partner. DePaul University suggests its “Think-Pair-Share” exercise to encourage concept mastery through self-reflection, while also learning from a classmate. Allow students to ponder a question or problem and develop a rebuttal during a period lasting no longer than five minutes. Students should then discuss ideas with a classmate (think study-buddy building) and end the exercise through a conversation with the entire class.
3. Survey Students
There are times when students don’t want to speak up during class, or in front of peers. To increase metacognition development, the University of Oregon suggests a few different activities, including the distribution of an anonymous Critical Incidence Questionnaire. Develop a form with at least one metacognitive question, such as “In what environment do you feel most engaged?” Repeat this practice with similar questions during consistent intervals throughout the year. By reviewing the anonymous responses from students, teachers are able to shape the classroom dynamic according to the needs of pupils.
4. Apply Metacognition Liberally
Assign a project to students through which they will incorporate metacognition practices in extra-curricular activities. Whether they play on the school’s lacrosse team, practice the violin, or study dance, students will be able to look inward regarding their relationships with the activities in which they engage. By applying metacognition to areas of life other than the classroom, students will benefit from a new perspective, but also easily incorporate these principles within their schoolwork.
5. Explore Metacognition on Your Own
Prior to introducing metacognition to students, read up on the subject and start with John Flavell’s work. Begin with the aforementioned “Metacognition and Cognitive Monitoring: A New Area of Cognitive-developmental Inquiry,” then work toward contemporary perspectives, such as those found in “Teaching Students to Drive Their Brains: Metacognitive Strategies, Activities, and Lesson Ideas” by Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers. Through fully understanding metacognition, teachers can properly prepare to implement the approach in the classroom.
As with any teaching concept, student engagement is the key to success. Be sure to check in with students for honest feedback regarding metacognition practices and adjust the approach to ensure everyone benefits.