The indicator for this week states, “All teachers encourage students to check their own comprehension. (135).”  The supporting Wise Ways describes a Think/Know/Show sequence that supports student learning by integrating many proven teaching techniques including:

Building on this indicator and Wise Ways is a blog from entitled Metacognition: The Gift That Keeps Giving by Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers.

 First, a bit of context so we’re all coming at this topic from somewhat the same perspective. John Hattie defines metacognition in his book Visible Learning (2009), 

   “Meta-cognition relates to thinking about thinking.” (P.188).

Ah, but if it were that easy, we’d all be experts in metacognition.  It’s a bit more complicated than that. Hattie goes on to describe metacognition as,

   “… higher-order thinking which involves active control over the cognitive processes engaged in learning. Meta-cognition activities can include planning how to approach a given learning task, evaluating progress, and monitoring comprehension.” 1

Now that’s a bit more complicated, isn't it. Those behaviors sound like those employed by our successful students. Yet we all have struggled to help students who don’t plan what they will be doing, don’t have strategies to monitor their understanding along the way, and therefore can’t fix their errors or ineffective approaches to learning.

In their blog Wilson and Conyers offer some specific teaching guidelines to help students understand what metacognition is and to develop effective strategies. Among their suggestions are:

  • Be explicit in teaching what the term metacognition means.  With your younger students use metaphors that will help them understand what this word means.
  • Work with students to provide examples from their own experiences.
  • Allow students to choose what they want to read and what they want to learn about. (Although not stated, I assume allowing students to make these choices enhances the opportunities to apply metacognitive strategies because they are more engaged).
  • Require students to apply metacognitive strategies across curricular areas and in real-life situations.
  • Use the “think aloud” approach to make your thinking obvious to your students how you use metacognitive strategies.

There are two more upsides to checking out this blog. First are the links to their other blog and their article in Educational Leadership on metacognition. The other is the opportunity to engage in discussion by reading comments from other readers and sharing your ideas.  Sounds a lot like IndistarConnect, doesn’t it?  Please share you ideas, questions, and concerns at the end of this blog or start your own Discussion (just click on the + sign on the far right under the blue banner) so other Indistar users around the nation can see what you’re thinking and doing.  




[1] Hattie concludes that of 138 specific approaches, teaching metacognitive strategies is the 12th most effective approach for improving student achievement with an effect size of 0.69 (that’s really high).  Oh, and by the way, Reciprocal Teaching, which is specifically referenced in the Wise Ways has an effect size of .74 and is the 9th most effective approach in his listing.



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Paul Axtell

With more than thirty years of experience helping organizations and individuals be more effective, Paul Axtell has honed his insights in executive offices and training programs for everyone from office staff and line workers to managers and team leaders.

A large focus of his work is how to run effective and productive meetings—to turn them from something people dread into useful, productive sessions with trackable results.

Paul is the author of multiple books, including Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations, Being Remarkable, and Ten Powerful Things to Say to Your Kids. He can be reached at <a href=""></a> and via email at
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