07 September 2010

Thinking about thinking aka knowing about knowing

In Forget's "MAX Teaching with Reading and Writing" he quotes someone named Georghaides who was unfindable during a short web search. I prefer to know who an author is quoting, just because I like to see the kinds of things in which the author is interested. Nonetheless, I like the quote:

“Georghiades (2000) describes metacognition as a process of reflecting upon and taking action about one’s learning.”

I’m definitely intrigued by the idea of metacogniton: the idea of thinking about thinking. Some even describe it as “knowing about knowing”. In my class, I do ask students to think about and reflect about their knowledge and learning. In my opinion, this is no small task and probes the depths (or heights) of Bloom’s Taxonomy to the extremes.

Honestly, its not much of a stretch to ask students to think “deep thoughts” when you are teaching them about physics. Some of the greatest minds in physics are well known for doing “thought experiments”, in which they thought something along the lines of “what would happen if…” These great thinkers include Einstein, Schrödinger, and Heisenberg.

I’ve been priming my students to be ready to think deeply when asked. I am going to implement a blog assignment on Fridays (we have a great online learning platform that is new this year) in which students will be doing a “Glog” or Gist Log (as a blog). This Gist activity is something we’ve talked about in Reading Comprehension and I would love to learn how to do it better. I’ve never done it, so I’m not sure how to go from here. Right now, it simply looks like, reflect on what you learned this week and have already started doing a short activity as a bellringer every Friday in preparation for the project.

Many students have been (falsely) led to believe they were thinking deeply about something because “it was hard” or the teacher said “critical thinking” when they introduced the activity. I would say that most (if not all) Pre-AP and AP students have not been required to do much more than “get to the right answer”. However, in my class, I am much less concerned with their answer and much more concerned with the process by which they arrived at the answer.

To that end, I have instituted a series of brainteasers as my bellringer activity. Just today, after a logic activity, a student said, “This is stupid. This has nothing to do with Physics.” I went on to explain that they obviously had not the slightest clue about teaching an advanced science class; especially one in which students should be developing problem-solving skills. This was met with silence as I was probably on the verge of loosing my cool and I think the student picked up on that. Hopefully, the student will begin to see that I don't simply do stuff because its busy work. I think many students miss the point of a lot of the stuff we ask them to do.

So, as I think about thinking, I ask myself: "Self, what can we do in class to help students see the point of what we are doing?" I only hear silence. So back to thinking about thinking with the goal of knowing about knowing.