Helping Students Using Metacognition
- January 13, 2021
- Posted by: Shannon Amaadar
- Category: teaching techniques
Metacognition is the act of thinking about thinking, and we can use this technique to gain better results from our students.
We all have students who struggle with learning language. You try all kinds of different techniques, but nothing seems to click with them. You want to help them, but You’ve run out of ideas and resources to improve their learning and increase their performance.
Before you give in, a recent study may offer some hope. It’s called “metacognition”, or thinking about thinking. By simply being conscious of our thinking process we can greatly improve our chance of success.
How can thinking about thinking help us and our students to improve their learning? We make so many resources available to our students, they should be able to find something that works for them.
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The problem could be, they aren’t sure how to use the resources they have access to in a way that’s effective. It’s easy to say to students practice your listening skills by watching movies or write something every day to improve your spelling and grammar, but without clear instruction on what they should focus on to get the most out of these activities, they could feel lost and overwhelmed.
implementing this technique
Let’s say a student has a business trip coming and wants to build their vocabulary before they go. They’ve made a commitment to attend a lesson, they practice a little every day but they still seem lost and confused. We can use metacognition techniques to help build that vocabulary fast.
Take 15 minutes with that student and ask them to think about their goal. First, think about what the goal is, in this case, learning and being comfortable using specific vocabulary in the target language. Make sure to focus on the vocabulary that will be most useful rather than a random list of words.
Then, think about what should be done to reach that goal of learning those words. Things like flashcards and repetition are great for remembering vocabulary, and watching tv programs in the target language is good for listening.
Now that you have the resources, imagine how you’re going to use them. Students could test themselves with the flashcards or get help from a friend, and they can listen carefully to the target vocabulary in the tv programs rather than watching passively for example.
Then ask them to imagine being in that country and using the target language effectively. Things like taking public transit or ordering in a restaurant. Practice these visualizations once a day for 10 to 15 minutes and see what happens.
Researchers think that by making a mental image of the goal, we make it real in our minds. Our brains then give it more importance and commit the new information to long term memory.
Although research is still ongoing, this is a quick, costless method to help your students achieve success. You can read more about this technique and how to implement it in this post by Big Think