Thinking – the key competency, thinking – it explicitly talks about the fact that we need to be creating critical, creative and metacognitive thinkers. So we need to make sure that that’s what we’re focusing on: that we’re developing metacognition in our students, because that’s really the way that we create lifelong learners – that’s the goal of The New Zealand Curriculum.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about metacognition, about strategies for students’ learning. Thinking strategies, comprehension strategies, things like that. I realised that what we need to do first is we need to be making sure that we are developing strategic readers and thinkers, so that they are aware of the strategies that they’re using.
And they can talk about, “I’ve made this inference, or you know, “When I was analysing this.” So they need to know what those strategies are, so we need to be explicitly teaching those through modelling.
Making sure that when we’re modelling, we’re really clear that we’re planning our modelling, making it really specific and focused. I think the powerful thing about modelling is that we’re using ‘think alouds’. So we’re talking aloud those processes in our heads because that’s how we making learning visible for students.
We need to be able to give students that language, so you need to explicitly give them that language and promote that in your classroom. That they’ve got the language to talk about strategies that they’re using.
We need to make sure that we’ve got a classroom environment that students feel safe taking risks in, and talking about the strategy that they used. Because it might be completely different to a strategy that another student used, and so it has to be safe so they can put their hand up and say, “Well actually, this is what I did, and it’s different to what everybody else did.” Because that’s how students are going to co-construct that learning and learn from each other.
So once we’ve developed strategic readers and thinkers, we want to take them that next step, where they’re becoming reflective and metacognitive and that takes time.
We have to move through a stage where their reflection tends to be [a] more imitation type thing: where they’re regurgitating or echoing the language that we’re giving them. Then gradually that moves into becoming more genuine.
So we do that through making sure that within our classroom programme, we’ve got lots of reflecting. So we’re getting children to reflect and ask questions. We’re giving them time to stand back, and the skills and strategies to stand back and think, “Well, what did I do really well there?”
“What did I find tricky?”
“What helped my learning?”
Because if we know what helped our learning, then they can use that thing again and again and again.
“What didn’t help my learning?” So they need to know themselves as a learner, and all the things that are going to help them get there.
We need to give them opportunities to represent their thinking in their learning, so children that need to process things by drawing pictures, or by constructing things, and then making sure that we give students opportunities to report their learning.
So talking to each other: it might be informal, it might be formal reporting. Because often when we talk through our learning, is when we really refine and revise that learning; really make it stick in our heads.