Personal Inquiry Blog

Friday, September 24, 2004

Metacognition or what I think about "thinking about thinking"

This is a slippery concept and one of those things that just makes me crazy. Everyone tells you it’s “thinking about thinking” but then they aren’t able to tell you much after that or what they tell you is so clouded by jargon that it makes no sense. I finally found a really good, clear article (by Julie Halter, a graduate student at South Dakota State University) that really helped me understand it.
Julie says that metacognition “…consists of two basic processes occurring simultaneously: monitoring your progress as you learn, and making changes and adapting your strategies if you perceive you are not doing so well. (Winn, W. & Snyder, D., 1998) It's about self-reflection, self-responsibility and initiative, as well as goal setting and time management.” OK! That I can understand.
Metacognition is one of those things intelligent people do unconsciously like reading and seeing pictures in your brain or that internal dialogue you have with yourself while your reading something that reminds you of your life or something else you read and then it gets incorporated into your cerebral film festival. When I read an article last year that said not all children see pictures in their minds when they read, I wanted to cry. That’s one of the most wonderful things about reading!
I love the choice of dynamic infinitives in the final observation. Julie believes that the “…task of educators is to acknowledge, cultivate, exploit and enhance the metacognitive capabilities of all learners.”
Recursion certainly makes sense in view of the process of making changes and adapting strategies. As Sandy Guild points out in her essay in Curriculum Connections Through the Library, recursion “…is invoked any time the researcher determines that the emerging complex of relationships has undeveloped areas, logical errors, or incongruities.”(141)
It’s getting easier now that I have a base knowledge to relate some of this reading to. I need to feel that I have a handle on things before I can talk or write about them. And I really do have to relate new information to something else that I know. I did really well in math until I got to middle school and then they introduced “new math” and I was totally confused. I always got geometry because there was lots of memorization and you could draw pictures. But Algebra II and Pre-Calculus—forget it. Then about 15 years ago I took Pre-Calculus at Wabash with a woman professor who said, “A function is like a machine. You put a number in one end, turn a crank and another number comes out.” Suddenly, the fog lifted. I not only got it, I was good at it! How amazing that one little phrase could totally alter my understanding.


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