Tip #5: Help your learners take control of their own learning.
Bransford et al. (2000) highlight that active learning, that lets learners take control of their own learning, begins with metacognition. “A ‘metacognitive’ approach to instruction can help students learn to take control of their own learning by defining learning goals and monitoring their progress in achieving them.” (p. 18)
Anderson (2000) recommends improving memory for text by reading it in multiple passes, asking yourself questions as you go. “In research with experts who were asked to verbalize their thinking as they worked, it was revealed that they monitored their own understanding carefully, making note of when additional information was required for understanding, whether new information was consistent with what they already knew, and what analogies could be drawn that would advance their understanding. These meta-cognitive monitoring activities are an important component of what is called adaptive expertise (Hatano and Inagaki, 1986)” (Bransford et al., 2000, p. 18)
The case of Herbert A. Simon demonstrates adaptive expertise. Simon is credited for significant contributions to eight different fields of study. (Dasgupta, 2003)
Metacognition is what facilitates transfer. When you read, hear or see something, you have to analyze it, and ask questions about it. By monitoring their understanding, questioning and exploring the answers to their questions, students can achieve learning with understanding and become active learners.
- Add a question to each main point in your advanced organizer (you created in tip #1) for the student to ponder, before going into the details. Design your questions to spark learners to think about the main point and begin the internal conversation (metacognition) that leads to learning with understanding.
- As you get into the details of each section, present the main point, and the question upfront to engage the learner. Answer the question through the details as you expand on and explain the details of the main point. If possible, try to create questions whose answers can be implied throughout the details as opposed to explicitly stated. The answer to the question should lie in the details of the material for that section. This will insure the learner thinks about the answer. For example: Why do metacognitive techniques help you learn?
- In addition, try to relate new concepts to familiar ones (perhaps analogies) for students to build their understanding on for each core concept or main point. For example: When you are doing a math problem and you are talking to yourself saying things like: oh, I see, I carry the 5 and add it to the next column… when you are having these internal conversations with yourself you are engaging in metacognition. Note that this example is something most people can relate to. Be careful with analogies; try to use very simple ones to insure your learners can relate to them. The last thing you want is to confuse the material even further by introducing a confusing analogy. Try to come up with analogies for as many of the main points as you can.
Anderson, J. R. (2000). Cognitive Psychology and Its Implications: Fifth Edition. New York, N.Y.: Worth Publishers.
Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (2000). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
Dasgupta, S., (2003). Multidisciplinary creativity: the case of Herbert A. Simon. Cognitive Science 27, 683–707.