Slide 1: Metacognition is a big word with a relatively simple, self-evident meaning. In this webinar, we’re going to talk about what metacognition is, how we can use it to improve our own learning, and how we can help students become more intentional in their use of metacognition.
Slide 2: My name is Kevin Daberkow. I am a teacher and teacher educator, working for WordFarmers Associates on behalf of the Ohio Partnership for Excellence in Paraprofessional Preparation at the University of Dayton School of Education and Health Sciences Grant Center.
Slide 3: Typical definitions of metacognition say it’s “thinking about thinking” or “learning about learning.” But what does that mean? In this unit we define metacognition as the set of mental processes we use when we reflect on and influence our own thinking, including the ways we learn. Let’s explore this idea in a little bit more depth.
Slide 4: Human beings are self-aware. We know all kinds of things about ourselves. For instance, we know what foods we like, we know what types of entertainment we prefer, and we know how we typically learn new things. Human beings are also capable of change. If we have a reason to change from eating certain foods to eating other foods, we do so. We can also improve our learning by modifying or adding strategies to the methods we typically use for learning. What might those strategies involve?
Slide 5: Learning strategies relate to how we receive information, how we process it, how we remember it, how we use it, and how we connect it to a wider network of meaningful ideas.
Slide 6: For example, we receive information through our senses—through seeing, hearing, reading, touching, moving around, and so on. Not everyone has access to all of these learning channels, however, and most of us prefer one or two learning channels over any of the others. Our attention span and ability to concentrate when there are distractions also impact our reception of information.
Slide 7: Just as we differ in how we like to receive information, we also differ in how we process information. Some people process information best by thinking it over for a while, while others prefer talking about it with friends, writing about it, or applying it. In truth, the more ways we process information, the better. We are most likely to remember what we think about, talk about, write about, and apply.
Slide 8: Processing information in several different ways also helps us remember it and connect it to a relevant web of ideas. In addition, it enables us to use new concepts or skills in inventive ways.
Slide 9: As we’ve been saying, metacognition allows us to learn about our own learning. Next, we’ll discuss what good it does us to know about our own learning.
Slide 10: First, knowing how we learn allows us to plan our learning intentionally. If I know that I learn best by reading about a concept, I will plan to read about a new idea even if my teacher does not require me to read about it. Or if I know that I understand ideas best by seeing a diagram of how they connect to other ideas, I’ll find a diagram online or try to draw one myself even if the teacher does not give me a diagram.
Slide 11: Second, knowing how we learn allows us to expand our collection of learning strategies. In general, using more strategies means more effective learning. Even if I prefer to learn by listening, my learning is still likely to be improved if I also can look at something that reinforces what I’m hearing. Sometimes we also find it useful to change our learning strategies in order to make them more effective or efficient. For example, if I don’t typically plan study sessions intentionally but intersperse studying with watching TV and texting friends, I can probably improve my concentration by changing my habits. If I concentrate on studying for 45 minutes and then watch TV or text friends for 15 minutes, I will learn more efficiently than I would if I tried to multi-task. In general, multi-tasking diminishes the quality of our work on all of the tasks we’re trying to combine.
Slide 12: Like other educators, the work of a paraprofessional always asks you to learn new skills and ideas. So learning about how you learn and adding learning strategies to your toolkit make learning easier and more interesting.
Slide 13: Just as important as developing your own metacognition are the ways you help students learn about their own learning. You can help them plan to learn in ways that make it more meaningful to them. You can help them concentrate on and monitor their learning in various ways. And you can help them reflect on and even evaluate their learning by testing themselves, linking new learning to a web of previously learned ideas, or applying what they recently learned to new situations.
Slide 14: By helping students become better at using metacognition, we also end up helping them improve their performance of high-level tasks known as “Executive Functions.” These tasks include goal-setting, controlling impulses, and using thought processes in flexible ways.
Slide 15: The Introductory Challenge in this unit provides an inventory of metacognitive strategies that you can use to help students think about their learning.
Slide 16: Many benefits result from giving students an understanding of the learning strategies they prefer, and by teaching them new learning strategies. First, students who increase their use of effective learning strategies tend to improve their academic performance. Second, more effective use of learning strategies helps students regulate their emotions, improving focus and making their social interactions more pleasant and productive. And third, the use of effective learning strategies typically contributes to students’ creative application of ideas they are learning. When students see relevant connections between ideas, their thinking becomes more flexible and original.
Slide 17: To recap—metacognition involves increased awareness of our own preferred approaches to learning and thinking. That awareness gives us a way to improve upon the learning strategies that we naturally use—expanding our toolkit and making our learning more effective and efficient. Paraprofessionals and other educators can help students learn better by encouraging them to think about their own learning and supporting their efforts to expand the set of learning strategies they routinely use.