Sunday, November 7, 2010

What is Metacognition and Why Does it Matter?

 Metacognition is "thinking about thinking."  As parents or educators, one of our responsibilities is to teach our children how to think.  So many times I meet college students for the first time, and when I ask them a question, they immediately turn to the parents for the answer.  Many times they do not even know why they are in my office.  These are the students who have not learned to think things through for themselves.  They follow blindly and wait to be told.  Unfortunately, when these kids get to college, there is a very good chance they are going to be lost and confused in their classes.  This transition time, when they are going to be treated as an adult and on their own, is a perfect time for a little "what if..." conversation.  When you are helping your children transition to college, let them know that they are there to lead the discussion with the Disability Advisor.  Ask your children what they can tell you about how they learn.  Help them develop a plan that includes becoming a self advocate.  Talk to them about the kinds of accommodations that they feel are important.  Some kids do not want to take a test away from the rest of the class, but if they are to have extended time on tests, then they need to discuss that issue with the advisor.  These young adults need to realize that testing arrangements will be a conversation they will have with the teacher, not you.  How will they handle it?  Perhaps testing accommodations would be a good question to take to the meeting.  Help your children come into the meetings with a plan and list of questions.  This is the first step in beginning to "think about thinking." 

I once had a student who did extremely well on a very difficult test, and when I asked him how he managed to do so well, he responded that he just pretended that he had a "little Mickie" in his pocket who was whispering information into his ear.  He was using his inner voice to talk himself through some very difficult details of the test.  He gave me the perfect definition of metacognition, and I knew he was going to be fine for the rest of his classes.  He figured out how to "think about thinking!"

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