This presentation is compiled from the information presented in Sandra McGuire’s best-selling Metacognition book, “Teach Students How to Learn: Strategies You Can Incorporate Into Any Course To Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, and Motivation”. You can buy the book here.
Consider encouraging your students to read the Student’s Guide to Metacognition, so that they also understand the benefit of learning how to study and master material efficiently!
This presentation will explore Metacognition, or the awareness and understanding of one’s own thought process. In understanding the different approaches to learning, you will be able to both enhance your learning and cater to students in their personal learning processes.
Metacognition, literally “cognition about cognition”, or “thinking about thinking” is the process of understanding how you learn and includes knowledge about when and how to use particular strategies for learning or problem-solving. This understanding can manifest in being aware of oneself, and monitoring or judging one’s level of learning.
The purpose of this presentation is to explain some strategies and self-evaluation techniques to both enhance teaching for more in-depth student learning, and equip teachers with the knowledge to help students realize their learning patterns and objectives.
For highest efficiency, choose one or two techniques that you, or the student, can feasibly implement into a teaching or studying routine.
Short-term benefits include:
Increased metacognition awareness has been proven to massively improve test scores.
This is not a one-off phenomenon; building strong learning habits is a continuous process that will continue to benefit the student long-term.
The first metacognition strategy is linking concepts:
To illustrate this concept, follow this exercise, and have a pen or pencil and paper ready. There will be a timer set for 45 seconds. On the next slide, count all the vowels you see until time runs out.
Now, try to write down as many words as you can remember from the previous slide. If you’d like to calculate your score in percentage divide the number you remember by 15, and multiply by 100. The average is 3 phrases remembered, or 20%; did you beat the average?
Looking at the list again, try to find the underlying pattern that orders the group.
Now, repeat the exercise again- you will be given 45 seconds.
Did your average improve?
This exercise illustrated the strategy “linking concepts”, in particular focusing on the overall goal. When the goal is clearly set (memorize the list) to match the expected outcome (write as many words as you can recall), the outcome is much improved.
Secondly, and implementing a holistic, pattern-driven strategy helped to make the learning process familiar. By linking the words to numerical order, it was easier to recall the words in the exercise. In academia, the “linking concepts” approach remains relevant; connecting content to the overall goal, and making content relatable to things familiar to the student helps to format the learning experience to the student.
For example, you may ask the student to link the content or their readings to something they’ve encountered in everyday life, thus making the learning process tailored to their experiences.
The second strategy is Bloom’s Taxonomy:
Bloom’s taxonomy is a quantitative, measurable hierarchy. Each level of learning builds on the next, and to understand which level you are at versus which level you need to be at for the goals of the class is vital.
The first stage is remembering, essentially rote memorization. The second is understanding the terms, characterized by the ability to paraphrase the content.
The third is applying, where you can take the information you’ve understood and use it in new contexts that you have not seen before. Fourth is analyzing, where you can break the concept down into parts, and examine the constitution or structure of the concept.
Fifth is evaluating, where you can take the concept you’ve learned and compare, contrast, and judge influences and competing ideals based on your knowledge of the concept. Lastly, sixth creating: in this stage, you are able to solve problems originally, building off of the knowledge of the concept.
Differing from the buy-in to metacognition, which many view as simply raising grades, bloom’s taxonomy challenges the student to truly understand the material, identify how they interact with material, assess what they know, and shift study habits to engage in deeper learning.
After evaluating where the student is on the taxonomy, how do they move higher, out of levels of memorization and into levels of deep comprehension? Use the study cycle! This is a cycle an instructor can introduce to students for their use.
The cycle consists of 5 steps: Preview, attend class, review, intense study sessions, and assessment.
The preview stage happens before class, where the student skims over notes or completed homework to ascertain the learning objectives for class that day, and any questions they may have.
The second stage is attendance; stress the importance of going to class, no matter what, and taking meaningful notes.
Directly after class, the student should review main concepts learned that day and review by reading over notes and answering questions.
The fourth step is engaging in short study increments where you implement metacognition techniques.
Periodically, the student should pause and make sure that they fully understand the material you have studied. A student may try assessing their stage in Bloom’s taxonomy; are they simply in the memorizing stage, or higher in the evaluating stage?
In college, the level of material retention necessary to succeed in a class is higher than in high school. Students should be aware of the Bloom’s stage they need to be at to succeed; typically, they should be at the analysis or synthesis stage.
Next is a model of the study cycle when applied to reading.
The student should be able to identify the questions they are trying to answer by reading the text; encourage broad skim reading first to understand the topics that will be covered in the reading.
When reading the actual text itself, students should not go straight from beginning to end, instead they should read in chunks to fully digest the information in a feasible manner.
The student needs to be attending class and taking physical, hand-written notes, engaging completely with the material while in class.
Homework should be done first without notes or a guide, and used as an assessment to see how well the student understands the material covered in readings or class.
Group work is a fantastic way to implement Bloom’s taxonomy learning, as the students will need to master the material to be able to teach it to each other, fill in learning gaps, and produce a final project or assignment.
In summary, using metacognitive strategies is deeply beneficial in helping students understand how they individually learn best, and how to format their study and class practices to master material.
It is also incredibly important for teachers, to be able to format their teaching styles to facilitate the most effective student learning.