Metacognition is thinking about thinking. Students don’t often think about thinking. But they need to learn how. One good way to get students to consider how they are thinking as well as what they are thinking about is to give them brief daily or weekly self-assessment assignments. Ask them to take a few minutes at the end of class, or at the end of the week, to answer questions such as these:
- What did I learn today (or this week)?
- What questions do I still have about what we did in class today (or this week)?
- How does the new information you have learned relate to other things I know?
- What helped me learn today (or this week)?
- What got in the way of my learning?
- When I start my homework for the next class, what should I take from today’s lesson?
- Are there ways to apply what I am learning in this class to other classes or situations?
Have students keep these metacognitive assessments in a notebook that they keep with them in class. From time to time, in the middle of class, ask them to take these notebooks out and scribble in them for five minutes. Use what they write to talk about how to think critically, what gets in the way of critical thinking, and how they can improve.
“All students can improve their ability to think effectively. How a student thinks is a skill that can be taught and learned. One of the important steps in getting students to improve their thinking is to regularly get students to evaluate their own thinking. Catherine Ross describes concrete, practical steps that all teachers can use to make metacognition a useful part of every class. When students turn their own minds toward understanding how they themselves learn, they can choose strategies for learning that work. Catherine also points out the importance of having students reflect on what features of their learning strategies get in the way of their success. If students adapt the practice of regularly reflecting on their own thinking and learning, they will have added a self-reinforcing feedback loop that can lead to their continuous improvement throughout their lives. What a great addition to their education.”