Q: How do I get my students to be meta-cognitive? It is difficult for my students to explain their thinking.
A: Nearly all of us have a difficult time describing how we perform natural activities. For example, describe how you swallow. Tell me how you walk. Tell me how you think. Yes, thinking is a natural activity.
The more natural an activity is, the more difficult it may be to talk about if, you have never been taught how to talk about it. In order to get students to be meta-cognitive, to be able to describe how they think about something, they need to be taught how describe their thinking.
Students need two things from their teacher to help them become meta-cognitive: Structure and modeling.
We think about things in a limited number of ways. For example:
We analyze things by breaking them down into component parts.
We think about things sequentially.
We compare and contrast things.
We determine cause and effects.
We group things based on characteristics.
All other manners of thinking about things are a combination of the above. For example, after analyzing a series of topics we may create groups based on component parts. For example after analyzing characteristics of wild animals we might find that all wild animals are predators, prey, or both.
In other words there are a limited number of structural ways that we think about things. We don’t necessarily need to teach how we think about things, but we need to be taught the language of how we think about how things. The most efficient, and effective way to teach the language of thinking is through the use of concept maps.
Concept maps allow students to see a graphic representation of how we think about things. But, in order for students to explain their thinking process they need models. The most efficient, and effective way to allow students to practice the language of thinking is through the use of language frames that accompany the concept maps.