Monday, September 29, 2014

Becoming the Boss of Your Brain: Modeling Metacognition

In Diane Dahl’s classroom, second graders discovering how the Chinese invention of paper changed the world spontaneously connect their new knowledge to a previous lesson on Sequoyah’s creation of a writing system for the Cherokee people. The students are making the most of another lesson on how their brains learn by connecting new information to what they already know. They model this aspect of metacognition, or “thinking about your thinking and what you know,” with an intricate, ever-growing sculpture of pipe cleaners that represents how the brain makes learning connections. The second graders and their teacher Diane Dahl regularly label and link new topics to previous lessons woven into the sculpture.

In our work in teacher education, we use the metaphor of teaching students to be the boss of their brains. We owe that phrase to a third-grader who used those very words after a lesson on how metacognition supports learning. Decades of educational research have established that learning gains result from explicitly teaching cognitive strategies children can use to explore, understand, and apply new concepts. To help children develop metacognition, teachers and parents can model these strategies and reinforce their use by children.

A teacher might begin a lesson by saying, “Today we are going to learn about how another group of people recorded information a long time ago. It says here that the ancient Egyptians used hero-grams. Wait, that doesn’t sound right.” As the children laugh at the thought of their teacher making a mistake, one child volunteers, “I think they’re called hieroglyphs.” The child tells of watching a program with her parents about how archeologists decoded the symbols carved in stone.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Becoming the Boss of Their Brains

Metacognition may be defined as “thinking about our thinking” and “knowing about our knowing.” Metacognition is key to independent learning. The students of teachers we have taught say that they are becoming the boss of their brains! When students are taught how to be independent learners at school, they are then able to use this critical ability on their college and career paths after graduation. Teachers call metacognition the gift that keeps on giving!

Research has amassed on the importance of metacognition for learning across contexts, as well as the fact that it can be taught. In fact, in a meta-analysis of 91 studies, Wang, Haertel, and Walberg (1993) determined that metacognition is the #1 student characteristic of high achievers at school. More recently, on a list of 150 overall factors that influence student achievement, metacognitive strategies were ranked #15 whereas, student socio-economic status was ranked #45 (Hattie, 2012). We support teachers in graduate study at NSU and professional development by sharing practical strategies for implementation of this key cognitive strategy in their classrooms. In our ASCD article you will read some of their stories.

For more on how to teach students to become independent learners, see our open-access online article in ASCD's October issue of Educational Leadership.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

University of Cambridge Conference Focused on Practical Implementation

As we head into the fall, I wanted to tell you about one of the great experiences that Marcus and I had this summer—traveling to Cambridge, England, to make a presentation at the 2014 Conference on Implementation Science, which took place July 28 at the University of Cambridge. We were pleased to have the opportunity to present a paper discussing the practical implementation of our graduate degree program and how it supports the emerging science of learning.

Those who are familiar with our program, which is offered through Nova Southeastern University's Abraham S. Fischler School of Education in Florida, know that it was designed with real-world implementation in mind. Thus, it fit in very well with the theme of the Cambridge conference: "Implementing Implementation Science: The Science of Making Interventions Effective in Real-World Contexts."

Our paper was entitled: Program Designed With Implementation in Mind: Investigating the Impact of Graduate Studies Focused on Applications of the Emerging Science of Learning. In our presentation, we described how the graduate degree program for teachers translates implications from mind, brain, and education research and theories into practical frameworks and strategies so that teachers may better align instruction with research on how students learn.

Monday, September 8, 2014

ASCD Interview Covers the Topic of 'Teaching to the Teenage Brain'

I was  pleased to be interviewed for the article, "Teaching to the Teenage Brain" which is featured in the September 2014 issue of ASCD's "Education Update."

In the article, I was able to share with author Laura Varlas my thoughts on how important it is to teach teens the concepts of neuroplasticity, malleable intelligence, and practical optimism in order to help them develop their problem-solving skills, decision-making, and creative skills. I pointed out that teaching teens shouldn't just center on content but rather on the development of their cognitive assets, which will allow them to become better thinkers and learners as they move toward adulthood.

Others interviewed in the article include teacher, neurologist, and author Judy Willis; author and former teacher Eric Jensen; and author and educator Pat Wolfe. The entire article is available at the link (subscription required).