Monday, October 27, 2014

Be The Lead Learner

by Guest Blogger Donna Wilson

In our study of metacognitive strategies, we have found that the best way to teach is to embrace the concept of metacognition as part of our own learning process. In the classroom, it is important not only to be the teacher but also to be the lead learner by modeling the use of metacognition and cognitive strategies. When students see their teachers putting these strategies into action, they can more effectively learn how to use the cognitive processes themselves.

For instance, when reading aloud a passage, it's often a good idea to think aloud about the author's perspective to underscore the importance of his or her point of view.  Or when undertaking a class project, the teacher can model planning and organization by developing a checklist of tasks that need to be completed and sharing this with students.

An important way we learn is by making mistakes. The phrase "Nothing ventured, nothing gained" can be adapted quite nicely into a neat little axiom: "Nothing ventured, nothing learned." When teachers make a mistake, they can analyze these mistakes out loud. Students may get a "kick" out of realizing that even adults make mistakes, but they can also see how the adult in charge of their classroom works through a mistake, making it a learning experience rather than a source of embarrassment or frustration.

At the forefront of research is a growing understanding of how important it is to explicitly teach, model, encourage, and celebrate the use of metacognition and cognitive strategies. As we point out in our book, Five Big Ideas for Effective Teaching: Connecting Mind, Brain, and Education Research to Classroom Practice, there is a common assumption that children come to school already equipped with the skills needed to learn. In reality, virtually all students benefit from explicit instruction in learning how to learn. Explicit teaching in the area of metacognitive and cognitive strategies will provide students with essential opportunities to discover and practice thinking strategies that will help them learn and keep them engaged in the learning process.

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