Metacognition is one’s ability to “manage and monitor the input, storage, search and retrieval of the contents of his own memory”(Life Circles, n.d., p. 1). One might ask: Can expert learners be made?. Interestingly, when researchers first explored this question, their preliminary findings indicated that metacognitive performance among learners was a stable trait. We know today that early attempts at this research was flawed and the results erroneous. Indeed, expert learners can be made; in other words teaching metacognition improves learning. Once students have their own repertoire of metacognitive skills to assist them in self-regulating their learning, they will be much more successful in learning through the process of building those critical neural connections and using this knowledge to create new learning through through critical thinking. I had the pleasure of co-facilitating a forum these past few weeks on “learning to learn”, where together with 14 other adult learners we discussed metacognition, identified strategies that we could use to increase students’ learning success, and shared loads of information and ideas that answered our questions and generated many new ones to explore. I’d like to share a number of metacognitive strategies that we, as educators can use to help students more actively monitor and control their own learning processes and thus support student learning:
- Helping learners realize that they can improve their metacognitive skills and increase their success in learning. We can help them become self-regulated learners by teaching them how to plan and set goals, evaluate their plans as they go, self-monitor and adapt as needed in order to reach their learning goals.
- Monitoring students learning, suggesting strategies as challenges arise, modeling critical thinking and self-regulation, and providing feedback and authentic assessment teaching students to reflect on what they are learning through inquiry, journal writing, critical incident questionnaires, and more. These strategies can help students learn how to self-monitor their learning. There are a number of models that educators can use to assist them in facilitating reflection in their learning environments, Self-assessment is critical to learning and self-regulation, and helps individuals take control over their learning.
- Recognizing value in error. Making mistakes are important and powerful ways of learning. As educators, we need to use mistakes as an opportunity to promote learning and metacognition.
- The use of “wrappers” within students’ learning activities (lectures, homework, exams, etc.). A wrapper is a tool that that introduces the student to and encourages metacognition.
- Incorporating social learning opportunities as part of the learning experience. While at times challenging, social learning does provide rich opportunities for student engagement, peer support, learning through experience and doing, a sense of belonging in the learning community, shared responsibilities, increased self-esteem, confidence-builder, etc. A few examples of social learning activities include project or group work, small group discussions, dialogue, case studies, role play, group presentation, games, debates, etc.
Here are a few excellent resources if you’re interested in reading more on this subject:
Learning how to learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects: https://www.coursera.org/course/learning
Teaching metacognition improves learning: http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/metacognition/teaching_metacognition.html
Teaching metacognition PowerPoint: https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI08104.pdf
Until this forum and my intense reading on the subject, I haven’t ever deliberately planned a lesson that incorporated metacognitive skill development in any lecture or course I’ve taught. For sure, I’ve given them a few suggestions for preparing for a exam, reiterated key points after a lecture, and shared how I process information. Now I have much more knowledge on this subject and can’t wait to empower students to become super self-regulated meta-learners!