Metacognition is one’s thinking about their own thinking. It is broken down into two areas: metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive regulation (Darling-Hammond et al., n.d.). Metacognitive knowledge refers to the awareness of one’s knowledge. Metacognitive regulation refers to one’s ability to manage his own thinking process. Both areas can be developed through encouraging active reflective and strategic methods of instruction in our teachings. Teachers need to model and encourage “reflection, questioning, evaluating, and thinking about one’s thinking” in order to help learners internalize metacognitive strategies (Darling-Hammond et al., n.d.). This all sounds great, but what are different strategies that we can use to help our learners reflect on their own learning and regulate their thinking and work accordingly?
Various strategies of consideration in order to metacognition are presented below (Darling-Hammond et al., n.d.):
- Predicting outcomes— this is mostly seen in math and science classes where information is applied to problem solving. After making predictions, students are asked to problem solve and asses their original prediction. For example, what do you think the sum of 12+28+33+222 is? Once you add the numbers, you are asked to reflect on your original prediction? How close did you come? How could you improve on your prediction? What strategies can be used for future fact checking?
- Evaluating work— Upon reflection on own work, students determine their own strengths and weaknesses on their work, thinking and thinking process. In dentistry, we use this method on a regular basis. Once an initial attempt at a simulation procedure is completed, students are asked to compare their results to pre-determined critical criteria check list. They are then asked to reflect on their weaknesses and strengths. How can results be improved in the future? Where are areas of weakness and how can they be addressed in the future? Where are the areas of strength and how were these results achieved? Finally, how can you maintain the positive outcome and modify your approach to improve your weaknesses?
- Questioning by the teacher— As students work, they are asked questions by the instructor to reflect on their actions. They are asked “What are you doing now? Why are you doing it? How does it help you?”(Schoenfeld, 1987). This strategy allows students to constantly and consciously think about their work. They further link their work to a specific thinking process.
- Self-assessing—Self reflection on one’s work in order to identify learned concepts and skills. How well did you do? What skills have you developed? How does your learning compare to the learning outcomes of the session? How can you improve on your learning? Knowing what you know now, would you do anything differently?
- Self-questioning—Commonly taught for use in reading tasks, but also useful in writing and problem-solving of all kinds, students use questions to check their own knowledge as they are learning. When students learn to ask questions (of themselves or of others) while they work, they intentionally direct their thinking towards their learning concepts and clarify the areas where they need assistance.
- Selecting strategies—allow students to identify strategies that they feel are useful for a given task. This will help them understand their own learning needs, styles, weaknesses and strengths while examining the instructional task. In dentistry, I like to ask students which bur will allow them to produce a given set of critical criteria. Student evaluation of bur shapes, their own grip, their cutting style and material knowledge will have to be examined in order to determine “what works for them”.
- Using directed or selective thinking— Given a specific concept or approach, students are asked to devise answers to a problem. In a workshop, students are provided caries diagnosis concepts and ideas. They are then given a set of photos and radiographs and asked to identify caries that would need surgical intervention. This is direct application of concepts.
- Using discourse— Teachers identify a learning concept. Students are asked to research the concept and / or part of the concept. They are then asked to discuss their findings with their instructor and peers. Discussion among peers and colleagues allows students to identify gaps in their own thinking and formulate a new idea accordingly.
- Critiquing— Using constructive feedback, students are asked to provide feedback to other students. By providing feedback, the students use critical thinking and evaluation skills to revisit their learning concepts and applications. I really like this approach. Activities in simulation lab are subject to self evaluation as well as peer evaluation. Peer evaluation is a great method of revisiting learning concepts. Moreover, this method of teaching helps students develop their communication and professional peer development skills.
- Revising— Students are provided feedback and asked to use this feedback in order to improve their performance. For example, given feedback on a procedural outcome, students are provided new simulation teeth in order to apply their feedback and create a new result.
I hope these learning strategies will provide a way to help instructors develop teaching strategies that will encourage student self reflection, self evaluation and questioning skills.
Darling-Hammond, L., Austin, K., Cheung, M., With, D. M., From, C., Barron, B., … Shulman, L. Thinking about thinking: Metacognition. Retrieved from http://www.learner.org/courses/learningclassroom/support/09_metacog.pdf
Schoenfeld, A. H. (1987). What’s all the fuss about metacognition?. In A. H. Schoenfeld (Ed.), Cognitive science and mathematics education (pp. 189-215). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.