How metacognitive are you?

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“Metacognition is not something you plan into your schedule, but rather, something you do in your day-to-day teaching.”                                                                             Guylaine Melançon, 2005

There has been lots of talk about self efficacy, students learning to choose from all the information offered online, learning to see what is ‘out there’ that they need, and to be both independent and interdependent learners. How do we learn to do these things? What’s more,  how do we develop that sense of agency that will support us as we  take on new, and possibly, unknown learning environments?

Part of the answer lies in students’ abilities to be metacognitive. We usually refer to metacognition as thinking about your thinking, but what really does that mean?  Well, let’s think about being a student in ETMOOC.

How’s it going so far?

Some people feel overwhelmed with the volume of information, some are pressed for time, and others are scrambling to learn new tools like blogging. You are probably using a variety of strategies to help you cope, but what strategies are using to help you learn? And are you cognizant of them?

I am a mooc newbie. So much of what is happening is new to me that if I don’t rely on what I know about myself as a learner, I will be done, burned-out, or disengaged and gone before I ever got started.

I have a pretty good tool kit of personal strategies, but you can teach an old dog new tricks, so my first strategy in a new learning environment is to get used to the landscape. For this mooc, that meant setting up my Google calendar with the dates of all ETMOOC sessions, reading the etmooc.org site (a few times), preparing my blog, and then previewing some of the early bird submissions. Then, I run the old checklist:

Twitter, Tweetdeck, and Tweetchat  √

Blog with tags, profile, first what am I doing here post    √

Calendar set up    √

Google+ profile and join community    √

Blackboard Collaborate at the ready    √

Attend all scheduled sessions-especially the first one-live    √

These steps, or organizational strategies, help me stay calmish, and prepare me for the new learning environment, or at least for what I think I can see. Other strategies I have already used include reviewing sessions for which I needed more processing time, searching beyond the course materials and blogs to help clarify ideas, terms, and products, and importantly, trying strategies/tools others suggest that I have not used before (remember you can teach an old dog new tricks-that’s this part) like using Google Reader to manage blog reading (thanks Sue!).

None of us are new to strategy instruction. We teach self-regulatory strategies, we teach organization strategies, we teach collaboration and cooperation strategies, and we teach academic strategies. No problem. The connection between strategy instruction and metacognition is where the gap often exists. Once students have some strategy tools in their toolkit, we need to create opportunities for them to think about how and when they use them. This is the metacognitive process. Teaching to the strategies is not enough. We need to engage students in thinking about their thinking. What did I do? What helped me finish this task? What helped me be successful? What didn’t I do that I could have done to help me be successful?

We need to teach students how to do this process, give them lots and lots and lots of practice, and then release it to them.

This is hard work.
This is time-consuming work.
But if we are serious about preparing our kids for Dave Cormier’s or Alan Levine’s  university courses, then I think this is it. Our students need to begin to learn in kindergarten to be

  •   Independent
  •  Self-regulated
  • Interdependent

LEARNERS.

Here are some resources to support your work in this area:

Grades 7 -12 http://www.edugains.ca/newsite/literacy2/adolescent/metacognition.html

All grades     http://www.hent.org/world/rss/files/metacognition.htm

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