Back to: Module: Helping with Instruction
“Metacognition” is a weird word. It refers to thinking about our own thinking.
Metacognitive strategies are the mental processes we use to think about and influence our own thinking. And that includes the ways we learn. Thinking about how we learn can help us make our own learning better.
Metacognition starts with efforts to become conscious of how we typically learn and think about things. Being conscious of these processes helps us track what’s happening whenever we are trying to learn something new.
A first step in becoming conscious of our learning is to recognize our learning preferences. I might ask myself, “Do I prefer to learn by listening, watching videos, doing things, or reading?”
We can also become conscious of other features of our learning, such as our attention span and the things that most readily distract us from learning. Thinking about these things helps us:
- figure out what helps us memorize facts,
- determine which writing strategies work best, and.
- identify which distractions to avoid,
The list goes on and on.
Once we know about our own learning, we can use that knowledge to guide how we learn new things. It can help us memorize facts faster. It can help us keep distractions at bay. It can help us increase our attention span. And it can also help us at work. As it turns out, the work of being a parapro involves a lot of learning. It involves learning new skills, getting to know new students, and figuring out how to work with unfamiliar people
There’s another angle, too. Thinking about our own learning can prepare us to help students think about their own learning. We can guide them through activities that help them reflect on the ways they learn best. We can teach them metacognitive strategies. We can help them get past (or work through) things that stand in the way of their learning.
Research shows that these strategies and techniques are useful to students. They help students with such issues as goal setting, controlling impulses, and thinking more flexibly. They help with emotional self-regulation and creativity. People who believe they can change how they think have more control over their lives than people who don’t! The benefits are potentially huge: academically, professionally, and even personally.