Teaching Students About Learning


“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Chinese Proverb

For me, school was always about the teacher serving as the deliverer of knowledge and content, and my responsibility was to memorize it for a test and sometimes maybe a project such as a written report. I don’t believe reflection was ever part of my school experience; the teachers performed all the reflection for me by leaving me out of the assessment process. Today I’m thinking about Hack #8 in Starr Sackstein’s book titled Hacking Assessment: 10 Ways to Go Gradeless and this one gets me pretty fired up!

I am very intrigued by the concept of metacognition (learning about learning) and the positive impact it could have for both students and teachers. The more a student can understand about how they are approaching their learning, the better insights they’ll have about how to get unstuck when they are having difficulties learning something new. Having students prepare reflections holds the potential to help teachers identify problematic areas where a new learning strategy may be in order, or even possible adjustments to instructional strategies.

I briefly researched metacognition, and there is a ton of research over many years that clearly indicates metacognitive practices allow students to apply their learning to new tasks, subjects and environments. I guess we should be weaving this stuff into all of our classrooms!

Starr again emphasizes that students need to understand the standards they are aiming to master so that they can reflect on their progress towards mastery. Clearly it is important to ensure standards for each assignment or project are crystal clear to students before employing this. One of the biggest takeaways from this book for me is transparency; we need to be very open and explicit with students about what they need to be accomplishing and why. If we can’t be clear about what it is they’re learning and why it matters, we have a major problem, making reflection difficult if not impossible.

Today a co-worker shared with me a course that’s available on Coursera called “Learning How To Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects.” I’ve only watched the intro video, and so far it seems like an excellent course, so I can’t wait to take it. Cheers to metacognition!

Author: chadmaxa


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