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Thinking about Thinking: Discovering the Mechanisms of Students’ Learning Process Explicatory Essay

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Updated: Jul 5th, 2019

Teaching is an intrinsically complicated process, since it is based on a complex process of cognition, perception, information digestion and interpretation, which leads to developing the ability of using the newly acquired skills on a regular basis.

Despite the explanation of learning cycle that Piaget provided, the process still remains quite obscure and, therefore, complicated, with a number of issues arising due to the individual specifics of each student and, thus, demanding that each issue should be considered on a case-by-case basis (Cameron, 2009).

However, by following the principles of metacognition, one can shape the students’ attitude towards the leaning process, therefore, showing them the path to becoming lifelong learners and being able to handle similar tasks on their own (Claxton, 2002).

Before going any further, one should consider the principles of metacognition to get the general idea of the given lesson and to realize what goals and objectives the given lesson strives to achieve. As the existing sources claim, metacognition is the process of exploring the nature of knowledge, i.e., taking a closer look at the mechanisms that knowledge acquisition process is being powered by.

To be more exact, metacognition is the “knowledge and beliefs that one has about one’s own cognitive resources, which is one’s knowledge about strategies and heuristics, knowledge about the nature of mathematics itself, and the knowledge one has about one’s self as a learner” (Magiera, 2008, p. 23).

Therefore, with the help of metacognition, it will be possible to help the students understand the mechanics of their cognitive processes.

In regard to the concept of meta-cognition, the three principles that the given paper is based by have to be mentioned. The principle of engaging with prior knowledge presupposes that the information acquired previously by the students, or the students’ background knowledge is used to introduce the topic of the lesson.

The principle of connecting knowledge to a conceptual framework involves the process of linking theory to practice. Finally, the idea of developing meta-cognitive thinking process means that the students should be able to track the chain of logical conclusions that they make when implementing the basics of a specific learning theory.

It is essential that the lesson plan developed for the on-coming reading class is going to be based on the students’ background knowledge in accordance with the principles introduced by Donovan and Bransford –as the researchers claim, the given approach allows for introducing the students to the idea of self-teaching and developing their ability to acquire and train new skills on their own:

The more challenging tasks of metacognition are difficult to reduce to an instructional recipe: to help students develop the habits of mind to reflect spontaneously on their own thinking and problem solving, to encourage them to activate relevant background knowledge and monitor their understanding, and to support them in trying the lens through which those in a particular discipline view the world. (Donovan & Bransford, 2005, p. 21)

Indeed, as long as students know what they are going to accomplish by learning a specific issue, they are able to control and coordinate the studying process in order to acquire the information that they need and learn to dispose of it efficiently.

In the current learning setting, adopting the strategy suggested by Donovan and Bransford means that the students could reflect on the lessons learned from the story based on their own life experiences and, therefore, learn to retell and interpret the information that they acquire (Hattie, 2002).

After the students read the text that has been provided as one of the lesson materials, they will be able to find the obvious moral – in fact, the moral of the story so simple that the readers must feel it being literally shoved in their faces – issues (Heyward, 2004) and recall the episodes in their life when they had to deal with the same or similar moral issues (Murphy, & Alexander, 2007) – or, at the very least, remember of someone in their family or neighborhood trying to handle similar moral issues.

It is quite remarkable that the lack of background knowledge is literally ruled out, since misjudgments occur since people’s very first contact with reality.

In regard to the given lesson, the principle that was also developed by Donovan and Bransford and that is known as the principle of connecting knowledge to the conceptual framework should; also be given a proper mentioning.

When considering the specifics of the given assignment, one can note that it consists of not only analyzing the peculiarities of the choices that people – or, to be more exact, fish, in the context of the given story – have to make in their lives and the mistakes that they make as they start applying their own system of values towards the people or phenomena that they have little to no idea about, one will see distinctly the connection to the framework of concepts introduced at the very beginning of the lesson (Rutherford, 2003).

Indeed, the pre-reading questions and activities provided for the students to be able to approach the story in question are clearly aimed at linking the theoretical issues learned by the students to the details of the story told by David Hill.

For example, it is important that the discussion of the meaning of words that occur in the book, as well as the knowledge of W.A.L.T. takes place before the students are assigned with reading the story in question. It is crucial that the We Are Learning To concept is explained to the students prior to the analysis of the story takes place, so that the students should know what the goals of their learning process are (Nuthall, 2007).

Thus, the metacognition process is launched; the students both deal with their assignment and simultaneously track the processes that take place while they read and analyze the text (Nuthall, & Alton-Lee, 1994).

The aforementioned process allows for transferring to the next stage of the process, which has also been brilliantly defined by Donovan and Bransford as the process of developing metacognitive thinking. Indeed, after the students start noticing the phases that they go through as they analyze the text, they will be able to discover the peculiarities of their thinking.

Thus, through the careful reading of the text and the analysis of their experience (National Research Council, 2000), which is going to take place on the spot, the students will be capable of entering the metacognitive phase. The transgression to the given phase will be made considerably easier to the students as the teacher breaks the text into small paragraphs.

It is crucial, though, that the given text segments should have a single clear message in them; otherwise, if there is more than one message or if there are no messages whatsoever, the students will be confused and may lose the track of the metacognition process. The results anticipated at the end of the classes are:

  • Students learning the nature of metacognitive process;
  • Students learning about the stages of information processing;
  • Students realizing their specifics of information processing;
  • Students being able to adopt the approach similar to the one shown by the teacher to any text on their own.

The aforementioned lesson plan not only shapes the teacher’s perception of learning process (Bransford, Derry, Berliner, & Hammerness, 2005), but also defines the nature of safe, high-quality teaching environment.

Obviously, once the students have the background knowledge on the issue, they are able to handle the teacher’s assignment, which the given lesson plan shows in a graphic way. In addition, it is important that the teacher creates the environment, in which the students feel free to ask questions and get the answers that they need to understand the task and the major concepts (Snook, 2003).

The given experience is crucial for a teacher, since it helps shape students’ concept of learning. Since at some point, students will leave school, they will have to learn educate themselves and be their own teachers, which the given activity trains. Therefore, for a teacher, the given lesson is both professionally significant and ethically rewarding (Clark, 2005).

With that being said, it is clear that the given reading lesson is going to enhance the students’ understanding of not only how the process of reading, interpreting and discussing works, but also how their own cognitive processes are run by their brain.

Thus, the students will be capable of learning even more efficiently by controlling their cognition processes and giving full account of what is going on in their mind as they absorb new information (Richardson, 2001).

As it has been stated above, major problems arise once students sop understanding the subject matter of the lesson at a certain stage and then are unable to recall the given stage; with a complete control over the learning process, however, the students will not only handle the current lesson in reading, but also be able to apply the given model of knowledge cognition to other issues that they will have to deal in future, and not necessarily educational ones.

Reference List

Bransford, J. D, Derry, S., Berliner, D., & Hammerness, K. (2005). Theories of learning and their roles in teaching. In Preparing teachers for a changing world: What teachers should learn and be able to do (pp. 40-87). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Cameron, M. (2009). Making the induction year work for beginning teachers. In Lessons from beginning teachers: Challenges for school leaders (pp. 95-107). Wellington, New Zealand: New Zealand Council for Research.

Clark, J. (2005). The ethics of teaching. In P. Adams, K. Vossler., & C. Scrivens (Eds.). Teachers work in Aotearoa New Zealand (pp. 90-110). Southbank, Australia: Thomson/Dunmore Press.

Claxton, G. (2002). Powerful learners and their learning minds: Developing the mind to learn. In Building learning power: Helping young people become better learners (pp. 13-43). Bristol, England: TLO.

Donovan, M.S., & Bransford, J.D. (2005). Introduction. In M.S. Donovan and J.D. Bransford (Eds.). How students learn: History, mathematics and science in the classroom (1-28). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Hattie, J. (2002). What are the attributes of excellent teachers? Paper presented at the New Zealand Association for Research in Education Conference, Palmerston North, New Zealand. Palmerston North, New Zealand: New Zealand Association for Research in Education Conference.

Heyward, P. (2004). Why the moral is political and the political is moral. Unpublished paper, The Faculty of Education. Auckland, NZ: University of Auckland.

Magiera, M. T. (2008). Metacognition in solving complex problems: A case study of situations and circumstances that prompt metacognitive behaviors. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest.

Murphy, P. K., & Alexander, P. A., (2007). Cherishing students’ meanings while seeking change: Walking an ethical tightrope. In S. E. Israel., & C. A. Lassonde. The ethical educator: Integrating ethics within the context of teaching and teacher research (pp.9-18). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

National Research Council (2000). Learning: From speculation to science. In How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school (pp.3-27). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Nuthall, G. (2007). Understanding how students learn and remember what they learn. In The hidden lives of learners (pp. 55-79). Wellington, New Zealand: New Zealand Council of Educational Research.

Nuthall, G., & Alton-Lee, A. (1994). How pupils learn. Set: Research Information for Teachers, 2, 1-8.

Richardson, E. S. (2001). The Beginning. In In the early world (pp. 15-32). Wellington, New Zealand: New Zealand Council for Educational Research.

Rutherford, J. (2003). Teaching as a moral activity. Unpublished paper. Auckland, NZ: Auckland College of Education.

Snook, I. (2003). The personal in education. In The ethical teacher (pp. 78-96). Palmerston North, New Zealand: Dunmore Press.

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