Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Thinking about how we learn

Jennifer Livingston’s overview of metacognition is an interesting and insightful read if you have been wondering what the word means: http://gse.buffalo.edu/fas/shuell/CEP564/Metacog.htm. She points out that metacognitive activities are what enable us to be successful as learners. Metacognition is frequently defined as “thinking about thinking”, but according to her it refers to knowledge that can be used to control our thinking and learning. Here are three examples of how we might use metacognition:
  1. Knowledge of personal variables (ex: I know that I will be able to get more work done at the library than I will if I study at home)
  2. Knowledge of task variables (ex: I know that it will be harder for me to study a Math textbook than it will be for me to read a Psychology textbook)
  3. Knowledge of strategy variables (ex: I have a sense of when I should be using a particular study strategy for a particular task)
The key is to actually utilize metacognitive information in order to oversee and manage your own learning. If you aren’t currently thinking about your own learning, and you find that you aren’t getting the marks that you would like, it could be time to get some help. Livingston emphasizes that self-questioning, self-regulation, and self-monitoring are all important ways to use metacognitive strategies. Learners who use these techniques tend to be more successful at comprehending new information. Try asking yourself some basic questions. Is your study location full of distractions? Are you spending enough time on your courses? Would making note cards be a useful way to learn the information? Is it time to start using a highlighter? You can always visit a study skills specialist if you aren’t sure where to start.

Tim

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