By Michael Piccirillo, Ed.D, CASDA Executive Director
The holiday season is upon us and I want to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a happy Thanksgiving! If you are traveling for the holiday, I hope you do so safely and when you are around the table with family, loved ones and friends enjoy the experience; these are precious moments to be remembered.
The September and October versions of The View from Here focused on the concept of empowerment related to students and parents. This month we continue with the theme of empowerment and expand on it with a section on metacognition from a larger Hanover Research brief titled “Best Practices to Support Rigorous Instruction.”
Simply put, metacognition is thinking about one's thinking. More precisely, it refers to the processes used to plan, monitor, and assess one's understanding and performance. Metacognition includes a critical awareness of a) one's thinking and learning and b) oneself as a thinker and learner. Another important aspect of metacognition is the ability to regulate one’s cognition.
As outlined in the Hanover Research brief, teachers can support the development of student metacognitive skills through what is called strategy instruction. Essentially, strategy instruction is the scaffolding of three increasingly sophisticated strategies starting with cognitive strategies, moving to problem-solving strategies and building to critical thinking strategies. According to the brief, other metacognitive strategies include inquiry-based learning, collaboration, think aloud, where the teacher models their thought process explicitly, and concept mapping.
Thinking back to 15 years ago, as a new Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education I recall how difficult it was for anyone to embrace the term metacognition, let alone consider its implications for teaching and learning. Whenever I inserted the term into curriculum presentations, I would have one member of the Board of Education who would joke about how it was my favorite word to use. As a result, when I became superintendent in the same district, I chose not to us metacognition in the development of the district’s vision, mission and goals, instead, opting for more palatable terms like problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity. Same end goal, different path. Fast forwarding, as is often the case, our views change over time and in reading the latest research related to metacognition, I see its application in and beyond the classroom to a broader impact related to student empowerment.
How does student metacognition relate to student empowerment? Cikrikci and Odaci (2015) studied 492 high school students to investigate whether an association existed between life satisfaction, metacognitive awareness, and perceived self-efficacy. The authors found that when a person overcomes a problem using metacognitive skills, especially as they relate to cognitive performance, their sense of hope, self-confidence and happiness improve their overall sense of life satisfaction. Hope, as C.R. Snyder (2003) noted is comprised of three components: goals, agency and pathways. Hopeful people set goals, determine a series of pathways to achieve the goals and establish connections to others to provide agency or support to help them through the inevitable challenges. In other words, hopeful students are empowered students. Self-confident students are also empowered students.
Another aspect of the study that speaks to empowerment is the finding of a significant relationship between life satisfaction and self-efficacy. Self-efficacy refers to the belief in one’s ability to take action to succeed. Sounds a lot like empowerment. Coming full circle, the study points out that self-efficacious, hopeful and happy students demonstrate the use of metacognitive skills successfully. Finally, the study recommends that teachers explicitly teach metacognitive skills to students. However, it also recommended that first, teachers receive professional learning on how to incorporate many of the skills noted in the Hanover Research brief into their daily lessons. CASDA is ready support educators, schools and districts in this critical step toward student empowerment.