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3 useful metacognitive strategies to try with your students

As you look around your classroom, you will begin to see that some students appear to be good learners. They adapt, they make positive learning choices, readily take on feedback and make necessary adjustments. These students hit deadlines and they can apply knowledge across different contexts easily. But what is it that sets these students apart from other learners who seem to struggle with classroom tasks? Charles Darwin said “those that can adapt, will survive” and it is our ability to adapt is what sets us apart from other species, and our ability to learn is what sets us apart from other people.

In an Australian Council for Educational Research press release, Hattie (2013) explains “We have become very good at transmitting knowledge to our students, but our young people need more than just knowledge; they also need to be able to assess and manipulate knowledge; to think critically and analytically.”  With this in mind, how as teachers can we enhance the facilitation of learning to promote positive learning behaviours? Below are three useful techniques to encourage students to ‘think about their own thinking’ which we commonly refer to as metacognition, so all students in your classroom can become good learners.

Strategy 1 – Concept Mapping  / Visual Representations of Knowledge

When to use this: Concept mapping is a great tool to visually represent the internal knowledge of a learner or group of learners. It identifies how a student is organising knowledge and information as well as illustrates the links being made between topics and subtopics.

How it’s done: Concept mapping often starts with a main idea/ topic, issue, or question. From there, arms come off the main topics, leading to further arms off the subtopics and new ideas being generated as well as main ideas reinforced. Concept maps are great for collaborative tasks as well as a great measuring tool for an educator to see what students understand (or don’t understand) about classroom topics.  Although this strategy can be used using a pen, paper, or post-it notes, https://conceptboard.com/ is worth exploring if your learners are digitally fluent.

Strategy 2 – Think Alouds

When to Use this: ‘Think alouds’ can be applied to any learning task. Verbalising internal thinking supports learners to identify thought processes, become more independent, and encourage problem-solving.

How it’s done: You could use a ‘think aloud’ while your students are reading a passage of text. The ‘think aloud’ can be used to promote comprehension and understanding. Prompts could be any of the following:

“I predict that….”

“I want to learn about…”

“What is the message of this information?”

“What new information have I gained?”

“What does this make me question?”

Strategy 3 – Wrappers

When to use this: Wrappers are easily integrated into lessons as they can be time efficient, learners can self-monitor and the feedback is immediate. Wrappers lend structure to learning tasks and strengthen metacognitive awareness.

How it’s done: Wrappers can be used pre, during and post learning tasks or lessons to make thinking visible. One way teachers use wrappers are for lessons. An example might be:

Task – Today you are tasked with writing a story about the impact of globalisation on New Zealand.

Planner wrapper – What keywords do you know from the last lesson that will help you?
What steps will you take to be successful? How will you know you will be successful?
Will you give yourself a reward when you finish?

Monitoring wrapper  – How has your interest changed for this topic?
Do you require any support to be successful? Think: am I distracted and do I need to make adjustments to how I am doing this learning task?

Evaluation wrapper – What was positive about this learning task?
Did you get the results you expected?
What would you do differently next time?

Hattie, J. Australian Council for educational research. (2013, May 8).Improving our understanding of learning [Press release]. Retrieved from http://www.acer.edu.au/media/improving-our-understanding-of-learning/.  

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