Do babies think about their thinking?

This is an interesting article about studying metacognition in infants and toddlers. Student metacognition is the heart of Project CRISS. If you're trying to teach older students about thinking about their thinking, consider reading this article and comparing infant metacogntion with their own metacognition. What does metacognition mean about asking for help? Where can students go for help? What is the teacher's role in their learning? Depending on the age, there are some interesting concepts to explore.

One interesting activity some trainers do during the CRISS workshop involves taking time to think about the types of struggles students in their classes face. It can be simple (some of my biology students could get very, VERY distracted by the smell in the classroom following dissections in anatomy) or specific (readings from science journals or even popular science magazines like Discover meant dense vocabulary). The goal was/is to try to get teachers to think about the challenges of their particular discipline. But not to dwell... We then move on to what skills the students need to overcome those challenges.

We don't mean things like re-read, then ask a friend, then ask the teacher (though those are certainly skills/cures/problem solving techniques to use) but can we get more specific? If they didn't understand the first time, what should they do when re-reading? Perhaps step back and look at the words themselves - which words don't they understand? Can they determine if it's the type of word to look up in a dictionary or in the science textbook glossary? Or if they're working with another confused friend, are there specific strategies to try that will slow them down? Like brainstorming all the possible questions that come to mind instead of just saying, "I don't get it?". The goal is to have a long list of survival skills to teach the students explicitly. To encourage the use of those skills. To let the students know, "I expect you to have these challenges. It's ok. Here's a menu of options to consider when you hit them and I'll give you the time and freedom to struggle. Struggle=learning."

It's an interesting activity that, on it's surface, seems like it should take only a few minutes but can go on and on with really complex cause-effect relationships bubbling to the surface. Whether you're a CRISS trainer or just stumbled to the site (hi!), consider trying this at your next professional development session. Regardless of the initiatives you're implementing, pause to really consider the problems and the STUDENT focused solutions. (For a fun read on identifying the right problems, consider reading any of the Freakanomics books/articles/podcasts/resources. I particularly am enjoying Think Like a Freak; the way Levitt and Dubner break down big issues into sometimes surprising smaller issues is fascinating and may help you think more creatively for this exercise.)

Please note the links here - to the Ars Technica article and Freakonomics website - worked as of March 15, 2016. Want to discuss it in terms of CRISS? Contact us at or tweet your comment to us @ProjectCRISS. We'll add comments here!