Metacognition and Inquiry
Minshift often publishes excellent summaries of research studies and this one about metacognition is no exception. The author describes metacognition as thinking about thinking and traces its effectiveness, particularly by struggling learners as one major way to improve learning.
Years ago, when Carol Koeschlin and I were developing high level inquiry projects that we recommended to teacher librarians who were coteaching alongside classroom teachers, we recognized that many teacher librarians were struggling with the teaching of inquiry. We often heard complaints that every year, it seemed as though students involved in research projects had to be taught the same thing over and over. College librarians were complaining that students came to them unequipped to do research for term papers even though these same students had done multiple papers in high school.
Why were students forgetting inquiry and research skills? Taking the clues from the idea of metacognition, we developed eight different metacognitive strategies that could be used by classroom teachers and teacher librarians AFTER an inquiry project was over and after the grades were in. The idea was that the students would be more open and honest after the learning event than before the “final test or assessment.” we also took our clue from sports coaches who regularly tape sports events and then have their athletes watch and analyze what went right or wrong during the game, and while the outcome of that game could not be changed, the outcome of upcoming games could be affected.
One such strategy would be the bringing to the class an expert after a learning experience was over. The class could explore what they learned; how that compared with the expert’s ideas and then think forward. The next time we do research together what should be do differently than we did this time? What did we learn? How did we learn it? What could we do to become better?
During a typical school year, if a classroom teacher engaged in three inquiry projects with the teacher librarian, we might expect improvement over time. The first time, we would reflect on a number of problems and possible solutions. Before starting on the second project, we would reflect on what went right and wrong during the previous one and resolve to do better. And, the third time, we would do the same. The hope is that the sophistication level of inquiry would grow over the year just as a basketball team would improve after watching and analyzing every game they played.
Teachers often say they don’t have time for such activities because of the pressure of the next topic on their docket. We argued in our The Big Think book that if you don’t take the metacognitive thinking time, you will continue to have a losing season of inquiry projects…
Challenge: There is only one way, we think to test out this idea in your own school. First, sit through a number of critique sessions with an athletic coach, then try different strategies when you have inquiry projects. Then ask yourself the so what questions and then ask what’s next.
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