This past week I hosted a community of practice group for teaching faculty members on the topic of metacognition. They were asked to skim/read over a variety of articles/videos/web summaries (see bit.ly/17fHXHD for the resources). We then made a list of the various ways we could incorporate metacognitive activities into our classrooms. Here is a list collated from both groups’ work. Additional books/website resource for teaching faculty are listed at the end. Enjoy!
Pre/Post Assessment of Knowledge
To help students think about they ‘think’ they know and what they have learned throughout a lesson – do a pre-test on core knowledge and skills for that less0n – and after the lesson do a post-test on same knowledge and skills. Ask students to think about how they learned and the processes they used. Ask students to think about what they didn’t learn and why? This gets students starting to think about their learning process and not just the content.
Reflective (Focused) Journalling
Ask students to journal about their experiences in a class but focus the reflections on themselves and how they have learned. Ensure you have some strong prompts/sentence starters for getting the best responses such as: Reflection IN Action: What did you do and why? and then Reflection ON Action: What would you do the next time? How would you change your strategies?
Test and Exam Wrappers
At the end of a test or exam, engage students in discussion and analysis of their learning and what they were thinking during the evaluation. Engage students in discussing reasons why they selected an answer, what they were thinking when consider possible responses, how they were processing the question and its components etc. Ask them how they could have done better and what strategies might they employ the next time. Ask them why they learned and what might help them learn better the next time.
Do a review of the learning from a previous class through a deliberate short activity. Ask students not just about the content, but how they learned best in that class, what helped them learn, what concepts relate to other concepts they’ve learned, what they are not getting yet etc. Doing a review at the end of class (in a similar fashion) also will help students process their thinking and reflect on how they managed their learning.
Step out of your shoes as the teacher and explain what you are doing and why. Let students know what you are thinking (out loud) as you are doing something and tell them you are doing this to help them learn how to learn – by listening to how you (as the teacher) are processing content and making decisions about learning. Doing a ‘think aloud’ about how you are solving a problem or processing a question – is an excellent way to share with students how you are learning and how they could think about learning.
Discipline Specific Tips for Learning
Share discipline-specific tips for learning that area of study. Most often there are frameworks, cultural norms or core concepts that are inherent to that specific discipline and by making students more aware of them can help them understand the thinking and learning that is required for success. For example, share how scientists think through a lab and process the results of an experiment.
Concept mapping is an excellent tool for students to form relationships between concepts in a lesson or a course. Ask students to create a concept map based on a few weeks’ worth of content and emphasize the linkages between the concepts and how is it that they are connected. This activity is a great way to start the conversation with students about how they see the learning and how they think about the connections. Students can create their own maps and share with each other and listen to someone else’s thoughts on their thinking process.
Pushing Beyond Critical Thinking
Instead of saying to students “okay, use some critical thinking here to solve this problem”…ask them to take it one step further and suggest “what works for you for how you learn?” or “how can I continue to make meaning and understanding of this problem beyond this class”….critical thinking is the process of taking information, analyzing it, evaluating it and then synthesizing all the information into a response. It is not the same as metacognition. When you thinking critically you do employ metacognitive processes – but you need to go beyond the content and ask students about the thinking processes they had while they were critically solving the problem.
Reflective Component to an Assignment
Add a small piece to any assignment by asking students to talk about how they learned and what they were thinking while they were doing the assignment. Ask them to reflect back on their prior experience and understandings and how this assignment changed or enhanced their learning. Just for a few percentage points, adding in a reflective paragraph to an assignment on a routine basis will force students to think about their thinking and what was going on in their heads while they were engaged in the assignment.
Construct Assignments to Assist in Metacognition
Carefully think about your assignments and see if you can give students more experiences to think about their thinking, reflect on their learning processes and explain their understandings in various ways. For example, allow students a variety of formats for doing an assignment (e.g., video, concept map, drama enactment, write a story, create a podcast etc) and ask them WHY they chose that format and how it helped with their learning. Students will enjoy having a variety of ways to choose from for expressing their understanding – but the metacognitive pieces will come into play when they are asked why and how the format assisted in their understanding.
Have Students Teach a Concept
When you have students design a mini-lesson on how to teach and concept and then ask them about how they went about their lesson design – you will often uncover a variety of metacognitive components to learning.
Transform Materials to Make Learning Work?
Ask students to reflect on resources they have been given to learn about a concept (e.g., a video, handout, textbook, class notes etc) and ask them to explain how they will take those resources and make them work for their learning? This involves students thinking about how they learn best and how they modify/enhance/edit/redesign learning resources to help them learn for their style of learning. This is reflective thinking in action using the resources given in the course – or other resources they may find.
Book: Encouraging Metacognition: Supporting Learners Through Metacognitive Teaching Strategies (Amazon.ca link)
Book: Using Reflection and Metacognition To Improve Student Learning: Across the Disciplines, Across the Academy (Amazon.ca link)
Website: Metacognition: Study Strategies, Monitoring and Motivation – What Instructors Can Do to Help Students
Website: Teaching Metacognition