Modeling Metacognition

As you may recall, I’ve been reading Originals by Adam Grant. It’s one of those Malcolm Gladwell-esque, pop-business/psychology books that I devour at every chance and every time I flip the page I find something else I want to tuck away in my brain for use later. And of course, that’s a problem because I’m a sleep-deprived mother balancing home and work and health and don’t have nearly enough time to sit and process and own the information as I’d like. Kind of like our students…

At Project CRISS, we encourage teachers to talk about metacognition frequently; to share the strategies they use as they learn and why. When students hear that talk, they realize learning isn’t passive and even the “experts” they know can struggle. It turns our instinctual actions visibile. It’s hard – it’s REALLY hard – to explain our instincts. I mean, how many times have you told a student to use context clues to figure out a word and then struggled to actually explain the context clues beyond, “Well.. these words give me a hint… How do I know those are the right words from which to take the hint? Uh…”. Perhaps it’s just me that struggles but I doubt it. I’m sure we all have our failings.

One thing we can do to help model metacognitive reflection is examine our process against the CRISS Framework for Learning (FfL). We may think we’re not doing certain things but then discover that we actually are relying on it – just intuitively. For example, here’s how I’m using the FfL to look at Originals:

Prepare to Learn

  • Setting a Purpose: I’m motivated to read this book. Ever since I saw this article in the NY times I’ve wanted to read it to look for applications to my child. As I’ve gotten further in, I’m realizing how much of this book impacts my day to day job and my service as a trustee for my local school district. I’ve set my purpose: I want to come out with lessons I can apply to CRISS workshops, parenting, and things to share with the district leadership team.
  • Background Knowledge: Most of these chapters have information that is brand new to me but as I read the chapter titles and see company information, I think about what I know. For example, there was a chapter on Warby Parker, the eyeglass company. I know that they are very innovative for making cheap but trendy eyeglasses. I think I remember reading that they were called the Netflix of glasses? But that doesn’t really make sense with what I'm reading. I’ll have to read more. And what do I know personally about buying glasses? Trying on frame after frame. Paying for expensive lenses. Insurance. One chapter is titled, “Fools rush in: timing, strategic procrastination and maintaining coalitions.” Strategic procrastination? That sounds like something I’d do – as a matter of fact, shouldn’t I at least wipe down the kitchen counters before I finish this chapter?
  • Author’s Craft: I’m very familiar with the structure of these types of books. Most of the chapter titles are informative and there may be subheadings as I go through.. Each chapter often starts with an anecdote and then brings in 2 or 3 business or historical examples and then merges them all together with a scientific study. Some of these books have end of chapter points to consider and many of these books have either a complimentary website that helps summarize chapter information or something at the end of the book that does so. Oh look – this book has both. This book isn’t trying to sell me anything but is trying to make a point/persuade me to consider certain habits if I want to foster creativity. I should be aware of whether the points are backed up by studies, personal anecdotes, or business or historical cases. I find this author reliable because of his education and work history as well as the recommendations he’s gotten from others like Sheryl Sandberg (of Facebook, Lean In) and Malcolm Gladwell.

Engage (during) and Transform (after) with writing, discussion, visualization, and organization
  • During reading: I typically like to make margin notes after I’ve read – every page or two – and then I make a note in the front or back cover of page numbers where quotes are that I want to record elsewhere but this book has so many great points my process isn’t working for me. My pages are all marked up and my list of page numbers is clearly excessive. I need a new strategy. Here’s what I’m considering:
    1. Make a single dot in the margin when I read something I find powerful – no underlines or margin notes – just lots of dots. Then when I’m done I can flip back through the chapter and look at the dots and try to compile the info into an end-of-chapter summary. If I’m reading and see a quote I could use for work in a CRISS workshop, then I’ll put the page number on the cover but I don’t really need to keep quotes just for parenting purposes.
    2. Keep doing what I’m doing – margin notes all over if need be. But then when I’m done with the chapter I should go read the resources Mr. Grant has online or in the back of the book. Do his summaries work for me? Maybe I can put them in OneNote or EverNote and just put page numbers where I have lots of markings next to his note. Maybe I should keep a file going with the quotes I like. I could just take pictures of the page as I go on and put them in a folder on my phone.
    3. Maybe I should create a chart or a Content Frame where my Power 2 categories are the Chapters or Chapter titles and then my Power 3s have to do with Parenting impacts, CRISS operating impacts, and student/teacher impacts. And quotes. But maybe I should try to restrict my quote selection to my favorite one or two per chapter. I don’t want this to feel like homework where everything has to be filled in – I want this to be a usable document that means something to me.

Reflect on content and process
  • Reflecting on Content: This is constant – blog entries, quotes incorporated into my workshops, etc. I’m seeing my connections and am using the end of book/online summaries to help me think about the take-aways.
  • Reflecting on Process: This is what I've done above and it has been eye-opening. I totally am that person who highlights or underlines everything. Then I’m anxious when I see a page full of underlines and highlights because it doesn’t help me find the information I want to keep any more than an empty page would. I like a lot of information coming at me but it’s hard for me to figure out what information to own and what to let go by. While I feel anxious with a page full of markups, I also feel anxious when I don’t highlight something. I’m realizing I need to have a very clearly defined purpose. If some content doesn’t apply to one of my goals, then I shouldn’t highlight it. Maybe I need to read with different colors? Or read these sorts of books on the Kindle app so I can highlight or make notes as I go along (and then I can download it into OneNote and have it all searchable in one place). I’ll try making more use of technology with the next book I read, even though my gut says I’d prefer to have paper in hand.

    I’m also realizing that discussion isn’t a huge part of my processing of this book. I need to write and organize the information so it makes sense to me and then I’m happy to apply it during discussion but talking with others as a first step isn’t something I’m interested in or excited to do. It’s not a strategy I’ll try for a while though maybe I should when Deb and I finally settle on a book we’d like to read together.

As a strong, motivated, instinctual learner, I don’t need to sit down and follow the Framework explicitly but when I take a moment to be metacognitive, I see that I’m using each piece to help me make meaning and find relevance. As I reflect on what works and what isn’t working, I’m aware that I’m seeking out other strategies and tools. Doing this sort of think-aloud with a student might make them realize that adults don’t suddenly leave school and pick up a book and read it and know the answers. Learning is complicated and life-long. It models a growht mindset and how to personalize learning.

Now it's your turn. What have you done recently where you now realize you followed the Framework for Learning?