Teaching Metacognition: Preparing Students to Be Successful
by Kaatje Kraft, Physical Science Department, Mesa Community College
As a faculty member at a community college I encounter a wide diversity of students' life experiences, academic expectations, and personal goals of the students enrolled in my geoscience courses. I have had students in a single class who range in age from 17 to 65, and in academic preparation may be extremely competent and motivated to very underprepared and lacking an understanding as to how to be an effective learner. Over the last 10 years, I see more and more students arrive underprepared to be successful in post-secondary academics, a trend that is supported by recent studies (Kozeracki & Brooks, 2006; U.S. Department of Education, 2003). Knowing that fewer than 1% of these students will go on to become geology majors, it is important for me to help my students be successful, no matter their major or academic goals. Educational research supports that in order for students to learn most effectively, students must be able to compare their understanding to what they already know, fit the concepts they learn to a big picture and reflect on their learning (NRC (National Resource Council), 2005; Weinstein, Meyer, Husman, Van Mater, & McKeachie, 2006). Recent research indicates that many students lack the skills needed to be successful in the workforce, including critical thinking and self-monitoring skills (Partnership for the 21st Century Skills, 2006).
During the past 5 years, I have worked to integrate these components with the geoscience content I teach. Most recently, I have worked to integrate situated metacognition into my course content. Situated metacognition (integrated metacognition in the context of the content area) is a way to combine key learning skills within a specific course. This integration provided students with the opportunity for changes in their thinking that can lead to conceptual changes over time (Blank, 2000; Georghiades, 2004; White & Gunstone, 1989). Specifically, I have looked to see if I can increase student understanding of the nature of science, especially as it pertains to the process of geosciences, with the integration of situated metacognitive prompts throughout the course content. In order to do this effectively, I teach my class as a scientific classroom discourse community (Yerrick & Roth, 2005). This means that I teach my class from an inquiry approach and students are actively engaged in talking and writing in small and large group settings. Students are also asked periodically to reflect on their learning process both to help them gauge what they know, what they don't know, and what they can do to better understand the content they don't know. This also allows me to receive valuable formative feedback as I teach content and can better address my students' learning needs as I modify my instruction.
To help my students organize their ideas, writing, and course content, I have integrated student notebooks into my classroom. This allows students to learn to regulate their learning through an organizational system, in which support strategies are integrated into the process. Using notebooks as a learning tool provides opportunities for self- assessment, self-organization, and general self-monitoring; all of which are important for developing metacognitive skills (Klentschy & Molina-De La Torre, 2004; Moon, 2006). In the end, I hope to produce students who are more capable at being successful in any classroom and more confident that they can be successful. I'm not sure my class alone will do that (Weinstein, Husman, & Dierking, 2000), however, it's an important start.
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