Metacognition Strategies to Use Now

When we learn about metacognition, gain learning strategies, and become active learners, it empowers us tremendously because we begin to understand that thinking and learning are processes WE can control, according to Saundra Yancy McGuire, who researches the topic.

"Metacognition lies at the root of all learning" - James Zull (2011)

When we have not learned about metacognition — thinking about the way we think — we tend to cite the following reasons for performing poorly on a test:
  • I blanked out; the material made perfect sense to me before that.
  • I’ve never seen these types of problems before in class.
  • The instructor went through the material too fast. I can’t follow.

When we learn about metacognition, we feel empowered to implement certain strategies and processes for mastering material. Implementing metacognitive strategies is not something that happens immediately or easily, but it assists as we form a lifelong approach to learning.

Here are metacognitive strategies Yancy McGuire recommends that you can begin to use right now if you feel you do not have control over your learning.

  • Preview (Scan material to prepare for reviewing material or listening to a lecture — 10 minutes max.)
  • Read Actively (Read in chunks or review notes or slides in chunks; stop; put the information in your own words.)
  • Go to Class/Take Notes by Hand (Don’t worry about the slides. You will have access to those to review. Engage with the instructor, the content itself, and your stylus or pen.)
  • Review (Do this as soon as possible after the lecture, preferably that evening.)
  • Teach the Material (Use an imagined or real audience. This is the best way to retain content.)
  • Work in Pairs or Groups (Select your colleagues carefully. You all need to commit to the goal of mastering the material and moving at an agreed upon pace.)
  • Create Practice Exams (If you write 5 questions per lecture the evening of a lecture and share them with others agreeing to do the same, you will have another highly effective method of material review.)

The key is to think about self-testing or studying intensely (“studying on steroids,” Yancy McGuire says).

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