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Help Students Develop Self-Awareness (Metacognition)

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Social-Emotional Learning All Ages Strategy

Help Students Develop Self-Awareness (Metacognition)

All students

Teach It!

  1. Objective: Students will develop self-awareness, objectively know their own strengths and needs, as a key to learning and life success. Self-awareness helps students know when and how long they need to study, which strategies work best for them, and when they can feel comfortable that they know what you need to know.
  2. Teacher Takeaways: a) Self-awareness develops with age. While elementary students will not have the same level of self-awareness as a middle schooler, nurture self-awareness through positive reinforcement and ongoing feedback at all ages so students progressively develop. b) Reinforce that every student is capable, but we are all different in what comes easily and what is more challenging. Recognizing and valuing our strengths helps us learn how to work efficiently and successfully. Recognizing what is a challenge helps us plan appropriately, expect to put in more effort, and feel comfortable asking questions.
  3. Model and Practice: a) Teach the concept of metacognition or the importance of "thinking about your thinking". Metacognition enables students to choose the right approaches for the learning situation and context and not just "dive-in" without considering what will work best. b) Model metacognition for students. Think aloud and talk through problems. If a student hears an adult talk through their thought processes, the student implicitly begins to understand how to think through challenges. c) Discuss the Learner Profile and other objective feedback such as grades. Combining objective data along with observation enables productive conversation about what is working and opportunities for improvement. d) Recognize successful strategy use. If a student drew pictures to solve a math problem (without being required) and it worked, reinforce good use of a strategy. e) Encourage new strategy use. If a student asks for help, suggest strategies to try rather than focusing on solving the specific problem. For example, answering a reading comprehension question, instead of telling the student to look in the first paragraph, ask the student to visualize, annotate or paraphrase. The former might get them the right answer but the latter options will help them answer the question independently in the future.

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

Giving students responsibility for their own learning can be key to building motivation and a growth mindset. Students with strong self-awareness are better able to figure out appropriate study strategies, how long they need to study, and when they need to ask for help. Students with weaker self-awareness may not study long enough or in the right way, believing they have mastered the material when they have not. Research from Dunning-Kruger shows how students are poor at self-assessing their own knowledge, both strong students as well as struggling students. Helping students use feedback and objective data can help them learn from past experiences and become more self-aware.