Thoughts on Metacognition

William Rose, Michigan Technical University

I am a participant who has very little education training, but I have tried to teach anyway. What I know, I have learned on the hoof, and I don't know any of the jargon, and have not formalized many of the concepts. I didn't really know what metacognition meant, although after it is explained, I think I know quite a bit about it. My experience in teaching has mostly been with graduate students, and I now realize that my ability to get a successful result from them very much relates to getting them to improve advanced levels of thinking (Wirth & Perkins, Table 1), whereas before I thought more carefully, I thought they were just poorly prepared in writing skills. I think the diagnosis of student learning difficulties is quite tricky, and I would like to improve this ability if I can.

It is clear to me that graduate school should be focused as much as possible on synthesis, evaluation and learning how to learn, whereas we often spend almost all our time with application and analysis. We spend a lot of time reading and dissecting scientific articles. One thing I would like to do is to have students do dissection of these articles by using and applying the concept of levels of thinking or significant learning. I think this would build some important comprehension and self knowledge, and maybe motivate them in a different way to see quality writing and communication. Maybe I can implement this idea.

When I do teach at the undergraduate level, I need help at communicating and developing advanced levels of thinking. It may be possible to do this by habit, but I tend to get distracted, and end up focused on the science details. I carry a strong feeling about my own learning that scares me in a way. I don't like to be told things and would much rather realize them myself somehow. This obsession embarrasses me, and I tend to try to hide it from students, but it is too strong to hide. It affects my teaching negatively, I am sure. I do not really know if all students are like me in this way. It would be good if a teacher could provide clues in a sly way that students could trip over and then apply, analyze, integrate and synthesize. Perhaps the best ones would resent this manipulation?

I feel a strange reversal happens with students when dealing with "mundane" computer skills. In these matters students are in some way at a higher level of thinking than I am. I would like to use this reversal to stimulate learning if I can, and feel intuitively that it could be powerful.

I hope to learn a lot from this workshop.