Metacognition - Thinking about Your Thinking
What does it mean?
Being aware of the thought processes you are using. Identifying and describing the strategies you use as you make sense of information, solve-problems, make-decisions. Being able to recognise bias in your thinking, managing your emotions, seeing patterns in your thoughts.
Why does it matter?
Metacognition allows you to influence and change your thought processes. As you become aware of the ways you approach thinking tasks you can change how your mind works to better suit the task.
When should you use it?
As part of a process of reflection and evaluation before, after and during any thinking task that is important.
Daniel Tammet is a High Functioning Autistic Savant, he is rare in that he is aware of the thought processes that occur in his mind. He is able to describe what these thought processes are like and his perception of his thoughts gives us a unique insight into the brain. In this video he describes how he sees numbers and language as a mixture of colour and shape. In the second of these two videos he demonstrates his skill to learn new languages by doing an interview in Icelandic after studying this language for one week.
5 Top Strategies:
- Ask questions about your thinking, look for patterns and identify the strategies you use
- Be aware of the Habits of Mind that you use most and those which challenge you
- Describe the steps you are taking to complete a task, use your minds voice, speak the process aloud, write the steps down
- Become aware of barriers to effective thinking and avoid key tasks at such times e.g. avoid distractions, don't make key decisions when you are tired
- Try alternative strategies to stimulate ideas. Draw a picture, type, speak your ideas, use a list or a mind map, use a different colour, go for a walk.
5 Questions to ask about your thinking:
- When you are making a decision, what internal conversations do you have?
- What is your preferred situation for thinking?
- What are your biases? What beliefs, values and perspectives influence your thinking?
- Where do your ideas come from? What inspires your best ideas? What were you doing when you had that great idea?
- What makes you think that?
Thinking Routines for Metacognition
- Documentation and Notes - Not a formal routine but by keeping a record of your thoughts you are able to look back over the process and focus on the thinking that has occurred. All of the Thinking Routines that document your thinking can be useful for this, pick a routine to suit the situation and use the documentation to reflect on your thinking.
- I used to think. . . Now I think . . . - Use this routine to make visible how your thinking has changed over the course of a learning experience. Then go beyond by describing 'What made you change your thinking?'. How did this change occur?
- What makes you say that? - A powerful question for encouraging deeper thinking and one that works best when students learn that this question is not an attack on their thinking but is aimed at revealing more detail. Here is a list of similar Questions that Encourage Deeper Thinking.
- What makes you say that?
- What makes you think that?
- How do you know that?
- What makes you value that?
- What has changed about your thinking?
- What changed you mind?
- What questions does that raise?
- What question would a sceptic ask?
- What evidence do you have?
- What is the weak point in your argument?
- Who would agree with you? - Who would disagree with you?
- What do you still need to know?
- What else?
- What is missing?
- Where do you go from here?
- What part of the problem is left?
- What are you certain about? Why?
- What do you understand least?
- Can you summarise what X said?
- Is Y’s summary accurate, if not, what is inaccurate?