Learning How to Learn

Something that often strikes me is how most of my students don’t know how to learn. For this reason this topic is very important for me. As a student, metacognition is something I am very familiar with; probably because I have been studying for many years and I have spent only few years without studying (although I cannot even say that because part of the work I used to do and part of the work I still do requires to learn new concepts, new approaches, new techniques, new tools, etc.)

I dedicated my digital project in this course to in-class portfolio which is basically a technique to help students improve their skills to take notes. The reason I chose this topic is because I think that it is where everything starts: taking notes and listening, or taking notes and reading, or watching a video. It doesn’t matter whether we are taking a course online or F2F, whether we read what another student says or the teacher, or any subject matter expert; it is important to know what to do with this new knowledge that is been conveyed to us, how much and what we want to keep from that (if we do).

Another thing is to plan how we are going to organize our learning. For that purpose, i like the list of five main components for metacognition that I found in this article METACOGNITION AND LANGUAGE LEARNING. Here is this list:

1) preparing and planning for learning

2) selecting and using learning strategies

3) monitoring strategy use

4) orchestrating various strategies

5) evaluating strategy use and learning.

I believe that it would be very useful to work with each learner on these five steps. The problem is to find the time to teach metacognitive skills in addition of the topic we have to teach. I guess it is important to think about it as an extremely important thing to do, a thing  that can change all the way students approach their learning, and not a waste of time. I do give some recommendations to my students already but I don’t believe that this is enough. Reflecting on this topic will help me clarify what I want to do with my students.

In this long video Gamification, Assessment, and the Joy of Learning, Buckland spent some time talking about what he does the first day of the course. Although it is more about who the students want to become and what they want to do with their life. It is the first step to metacognition. Knowing where we want to go and planning how to get there is something that a lot of students don’t think enough about. At least, I observe that with learners who are still young enough to plan a career but who need to come to the Literacy Center to fill the gaps they have in Essential Skills. I am planning to spend this time of reflection with some of my learners there.

CATs can be a very good way to help our learners learn by reflecting on their learning. In fact any assessment does, as long as it is not a final assessment, and as long as we take the time to reflect on it and we make sure that our students understand each of their mistakes and what they have to do in order to avoid making these mistakes again. Because my French course is informal, I make it very clear that any assessment is for the students to understand what they need to study more (and for me to see what I need to explain better). This is the same for CATs and I give them a CAT at the beginning of each course. Of course, using CATs or any assessment technique to help students learn implies having defined very clear goals otherwise how could “we measure our progress and […] determine whether we are headed in the right direction.” (Angelo and Cross, 1993, p. 13)

In other words, if we want classroom assessment to help students to be involved in their learning process, it is not sufficient to assess them. Students need to understand why this ongoing assessment process is taking place and what they can get out of it. => that requires an explanation of the benefit of this process to the students (at least the first time the Classroom Assessment Technique is introduced).

Once they have this understanding, they have to process the result of each assessment in order to make it beneficial to their learning => that requires a conversation between the student and the instructor in order to determine whether to plan any changes in the learning approach, may be even some targetted learning activities that will help fill the gap, if necessary.

T.A. Angelo & K.P. Cross (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques_ A Handbook for College Teachers


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