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Building a metacognition curriculum

August 31, 2010

For the past few years, I try to take a bit of time out of the curriculum to talk about important “metacognitive” ideas, how students should think about their own learning, and view their mind and intellectual progress. At first, this started as a meandering discussion about the origin of grades (to be discussed on a later post), but I’ve also discussed many of the fantastic ideas I’ve taken away from Study Hacks (see an Open Letter to Students on the Danger of Seeing School as a Trial to Survive to get a sense of how awesome this blog is), the importance of sleep, and perhaps most importantly, the work of Carol Dweck, and the very important role our mindset plays in learning and achiving our potential. My goal was always to present students with some of the seeds of the work scientists do to answer questions like “how does praise affect students’ ability to learn.” In the past, I’ve given out articles, and we’ve discussed the experiments in the articles and the implications of the finding. While all this got good reviews from the students, and I would often hear “fixed mindset” offered as a check to a student who seemed to be slipping to far into the “I can’t do this” attitude, this year, I really want to create more of a curriculum that pushes students to really reflect on some of this work, and its meaning in their own lives.

I’m starting this tomorrow with my intro physics students. We’re reading “How Not to Talk to Your Kids” , which summarizes Dweck’s fascinating research, and I’ve asked them to answer a few questions on Webassign (which I’m really starting to like):

  1. What was the question researchers were trying to answer in this article? Describe how the experiment was set up? What did the researchers conclude?
  2. Describe the meaning of a ‘fixed’ and ‘growth’ mindset in your own words.
  3. Which mindset do you think most of your friends have? Which mindset do you think you have? Give evidence.
  4. Share any other thoughts or insights you have after reading this article.

It’s my hope that this assignment will better seed our discussion and ensure that every student participates more fully.

If you have any ideas for good metacognitive resources, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Anna Moore permalink
    December 31, 2010 4:53 pm

    John, I love that you have your physics students thinking about thinking. I do not think the idea of metacognition is something I was exposed to until late college/ grad school. There is some interesting work trying to parse the neural subsrates of metacognition in addition to better understanding the developmental timeline of the emergence and refinement of metacognition. I’m not an expert on metacognition, but I’m willing to dig for some articles b/c it might be interesting to read more about these issues as you encourage your students to grow and reach and learn. I wonder if there are actually “brain-limits” (truly physiological things, not societal and cultural barriers) on the development of metacognition in the average 9th grader so that the metacognition work must still be very informed by the external environment (which is what you are doing, in many ways), or if the brain regions in these kids are developed enough so that the kids can fly with a lot of independence. I honestly have no idea how to answer that question, but I think it could be cool to look at b/c it might suggest additional routes and points of entry to get kids talking/ thinking/ questioning/ reflecting.

  2. December 31, 2010 6:02 pm

    I’d love to read any articles you can find. I also hadn’t, until now, thought about trying to measure the effectiveness/impact of these efforts, but I’d also be very interested in any thoughts you might have about how to go about measuring how effective these efforts are.


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