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Metacognition — in Design and Education

I recommend first reading the summary` of this page.
 

Metacognition

Thinking is cognition.  When you ask “how can I think more effectively?” and you think about thinking — with the objective of improving the quality of your thinking, learning, and performing — this is meta-cognition, because it's your cognition about cognition.

 

Cognition-and-Metacognition

These two aspects of thinking — cognition, metacognition — are closely related and often overlap, so we can design strategies for using cognition-and-metacognition together in combinations that are mutually supportive and synergistically productive.  But despite these interactions, sometimes it can be useful to think about the special characteristics of either cognition or metacognition, and how to more effectively use each.  But even though for simplicity I'll often refer to metacognition, typically the real meaning is a blending of metacognition-and-cognition.

 

The Value of Metacognition

Those who study metacognition (educators, psychologists,...) think it can be very useful:  quoting from overviews of metacognition, "an awareness of the learning process [with metacognition] can improve learning dramatically" (Carleton College), and "the ability to appropriately allocate cognitive resources [by using metacognition]... is central to intelligence" (Jennifer Livingston), and "students who demonstrate a wide range of metacognitive skills perform better on exams and complete work more efficiently" (Wikipedia).

One of the "three core learning principles" in How People Learn is metacognition because "integration of metacognitive instruction with discipline-based learning can enhance student achievement and develop in students the ability to learn independently" so "it should be consciously incorporated into curricula across disciplines and age levels." (page 21)   {more about the value of metacognition}

 

Metacognitive Strategies — for Design and Education

Here are two related strategies — applied in the contexts of general Design Projects, and special projects in Personal Education — for using a process of design (and a model of Design Process) to improve the quality of cognition-and-metacognition and achieve better results:

 

• metacognitive Coordination Strategies for Design Projects

Design Process has 10 modes of thinking-and-action` including one to coordinate the process of design so you can make effective Action-Decisions.  How?  While you are designing, you observe the process of design, and evaluate your options for “what to do next” (by considering both urgency and importance, asking “what is the best use of my time right now?”) so you can make an Action-Decision and choose an action to do now, which occasionally is a planning of longer-term actions.  When you develop Coordination Strategies to guide you in making decisions about actions, "knowing the conditions-of-application when a skill (or idea) can be useful" because this conditional knowledge lets you "find a match between the demands of your current problem-solving situation (WHAT needs doing now) and your capabilities (HOW to get things done) so you can choose productive design-actions that will help you solve the problem."

In a process of design, you want effective thinking-and-action within each mode, and beneficial interactions between modesFor example, a generation of options for a problem-solution can occur when creative Generation is stimulated (by using metacognitive strategies) in ways that make this mode more effective, and also when creative Generation is guided (by using critical Evaluation) in a productive creative-and-critical interaction between the modes of Generation and Evaluation.

 

• metacognitive Learning Strategies for Personal Education

When anyone, including a student, wants to learn more effectively, they take control of their personal education` with a proactive problem-solving attitude, trying to "make things better" by improving their ideas-and-skills knowledge.  One valuable component of Personal Education is developing better cognitive-and-metacognitive Strategies for Learning.

Students can use a process of design to develop-and-apply Strategies for Learning:  they choose an area to improve, and then use a cyclic process of design with evaluative Quality Checks (for learning strategies) and Quality Controls (for applications of learning strategies) to improve the quality of their learning, thinking, and performing.  These improvements are the direct benefits.  An indirect benefit is that when students use a design process to develop Learning Strategies, they are improving design skills that they can use for other design projects in many areas of life, because we use design for almost everything in life.

Teachers should motivate students to develop-and-apply Strategies for Learning, and help them do this more effectively.  And, using a similar process of design, teachers develop their Strategies for Teaching.  In an effort to improve all of the Learning Activities they use for instruction — which can include Design Activities in which students do Design-Inquiry and/or Science-Inquiry — teachers use “external” metacognition (empathetic metacognition)* by “thinking about thinking” while asking themselves, “what are students thinking? how? why?”, as a basis for then asking “how can I design instruction that will help students think-and-learn more effectively?” or for making real-time decisions, during instruction, about guiding students (by asking or answering questions, giving clues,...) and providing formative feedback.  Teachers also develop-and-apply their own personal Strategies for Learning, and they benefit from the mutually supportive interactions between their Learning Strategies and Teaching Strategies.    /    * Although empathetic metacognition (my own term) is not really metacognition, it's analogous and it can provide some similar benefits.

 

Metacognitive Knowledge

Your use of metacognition, for Coordination Strategies or Learning Strategies, usually will improve when you "build a strong foundation of generalized metacognitive knowledge [about persons, tasks, strategies]... and personally customize this knowledge by ‘knowing yourself’ based on observations of yourself (as the person) in the context of various tasks using different strategies."

 


 

Performing and/or Learning and/or Enjoying

For this section, as with all others, I recommend first reading the overview-summary — because it's shorter, yet it contains a new idea (how "the thrill of victory" strengthens a focus on performing rather than learning) — and then read what is below, which includes illustrations you may find interesing and useful.

 

Should you use different thinking-and-actions during a basketball practice and a championship game?  Why?  We'll return to these questions later, after looking at the learning-and-performing of another kind of skill.

 

A friend became an expert welder` by using a Strategy for Learning.  How?  He continually improved by following the wise advice of his teacher, “every time you do a job, do it better than the time before.”  But... this advice can be interpreted-and-applied in different ways, to produce different attitudes and strategies.  Here are some principles for combining short-term and long-term priorities, for improving the quality of your performing and/or learning:

When you're doing a job that is important (or you're motivated by competitive pride) and you want to have maximum performance now, you're on-task with a Performance Objective.  If your goal is top performance, you should always focus on quality of thinking-and-action performance in the present, which sometimes involves metacognitively asking “how can I do it better” and “what have I learned in the past that will help me now?”

But at other times — when you want maximum learning now so you can have improved maximum performance later — you are on-task with a Learning Objective (Education Objective) and you may want to metacognitively ask “what can I learn now that will help me perform better in the future?”  An attitude of “learning from present experience, for the future” is useful for transfers of learning.

The main difference between these two objectives is the balance between priorities, in wanting excellent short-term performance now and/or long-term performance with continuing excellence that improves in the future.  Another difference is the balance of focusing on two ways to learn from experience, by using past learning for the present, and using present learning for the future.

Understanding the distinction between learning and performance is important for effective On-and-Off Regulation of Metacognition (below) and (above) for Learning Strategies and for closely related Teaching Strategies that distinguish between the "external metacognition" of evaluation-based formative feedback (used to help students learn in a classroom, for their education, analogous to a preparatory basketball practice) and the feedback of summative evaluation (to measure present performance, as in an important exam, or a competitive basketball game).

 

For balance and perspective, you'll want to include an Enjoyment Objective, so...

a Total Objective will be a blending of Performance, Education, and Enjoyment.  Or, with action-verbs, you want to perform and/or learn and/or enjoy.

In each "and/or", the AND is a reminder that you can achieve two or more objectives simultaneously, when you learn well and perform well and enjoy.  For example, focusing on peak performance now can help you learn how to improve performance in the future.  The OR is a recognition that, at least for Performing and Learning, sometimes you cannot maximize both, so you must set priorities.

In a personal example of conflict between Present Performance and Future Performance, a wise tennis coach persuaded me to accept a short-term decrease in performance to gain a long-term increase.  Similar conflicts can occur in other situations (e.g. when we use video games for education and we try to teach principles of problem solving), as discussed in Tennis and Other Games.

Due to the interactions of Performance and/or Learning (with a blend of priorities for each), instead of Strategies for Learning you may find it more useful to think in terms of Strategies for Performing-and-Learning or Strategies for Learning-and-Performing.

 

Regulating Metacognition — On and Off

On by Using Metacognition:  Sometimes you'll want to stimulate productivity by using strategies to improve the quality of your thinking-and-actions, or by deciding what to do next.

Off by Avoiding Metacognition:  But at other times, when ideas are flowing smoothly in ways that are intuitive and spontaneous, usually you should just go with the flow and “let it happen.”  When a process of problem solving (or reading, writing, listening,...) is going well, don’t think about thinking, just think.  By doing this, you allow productive thinking.

On-and-Off by Regulating Metacognition:  How can you decide when to use metacognition (to think about process, plans, and strategies), and when to avoid it so you can focus on what you're doing?  If you increase your general knowledge about principles of cognition-and-metacognition, and your personal knowledge about yourself in the contexts of various situations, this knowledge (general and personal) will help you make wise decisions about on-and-off metacognition.

 

Here are some thoughts about effective regulation of metacognition.

 

Opportunities for Metacognition:  When you're not deeply engaged in a flow of productive thinking-and-action, this interlude can be a good time to ask “what should I do next, and how?” to coordinate your actions and stimulate your thinking.  For example,

Timings of Preparation-and-Production:  While you are writing a paper, you begin an action-decision` by asking “what should I do now?”  Maybe you need to learn more about the topic by preparing, by doing research to build a stronger foundation of knowledge that will help you generate ideas worth sharing in your paper.  Or maybe you already know enough, and the best use of your time is to work on writing the paper.

 

Using Intuition Wisely:  At a time when you have options for what to do next, which option-for-action do you find most emotionally appealing?  If you do this action, will you be more motivated to do it well?  Is your feeling an indication that, at an intuitive level, you think this action will be the best use of your time?  Maybe.  Or are you taking “an easy way out” by avoiding other actions that you should do, that might be more productive although less fun?  Maybe.  If you are procrastinating to avoid a high-priority project (or part of a project) even though it is urgent and/or important, you should ask “why?” and design a strategy to Avoid Procrastination and Use Your Time Effectively.

 

Know Yourself:  A key principle of metacognition is developing the valuable metacognitive skill of knowing yourself (and your situations) well enough to know when to use metacognition, and how to use it, so it will be optimally beneficial. 

Learning and/or Performance:  Generally, metacognition tends to be useful for learning, but sometimes not for performance.  And sometimes reducing both cognition and metacognition (except for a “body awareness” or “situation awareness”) can be useful, especially for skills that are mainly-physical, as in some situations for art (music, dancing,...) and athletics.  I claim that the typical goal of a Learning Strategy (which can be viewed as a Learning-and-Performing Strategy) is "to improve the quality of learning, thinking, and performing" because thinking (with some blend of cognition & metacognition) often is used for learning and performing;  but not always.

 

Skillful Metacognition:  In situations where metacognition is unproductive — if there is too much introspection of the wrong kind with the wrong timing — the difficulty is not metacognition, it's unskillful metacognition, due to a deficiency in skillfully regulating metacognition.

 

Skillful Performance

This table shows factors that influence performance:*

Actual
Performance
 = 
Potential
  Performance  
 – 
Distracting
Interference
Actual
  Performance  
 = 
Abilities
  + Preparation  
 – 
  Interference  
  (Distractions)  

To increase a level of Actual Performance, you want to increase Potential Performance — which depends on Abilities (inherited & developed) and Preparation (for the Performance-Situation) — and decrease Distracting Interference (mental, emotional, or physical).  An effective regulation of metacognition, for a particular Situation, turns it on (when it will improve Potential Performance) and off (when it would be a Distracting Interference).

* The concept of "Performance = Potential – Interference" comes from "Inner Game" educational perspectives — begun by Timothy Gallwey (and further developed by John Whitmore,...) who also has useful insights about Performing-Learning-Enjoying — that, along with other useful ideas, are examined more deeply in Optimal Performance: Regulating Cognition-and-Metacognition to produce better Thinking for Learning, Performing, and/or Enjoying.

 

MORE - Principles of Metacognition (with links to pages by many authors)

 


 

We can learn from experience in the Greatest Seminar on Earth, described by Tim Gallwey in The Inner Game of Work (2000) with introduction on pages 88-89 and "what to learn" & "how to learn" on 94-95-96-97.   What to learn? important objectives are QUEST - Qualities, Understanding, Expertise, StrategicThinking, Time.   How to learn? use a cycle of learning - Set-Up, Experience, Debrief,... - to improve your QUEST,

Learning from Experience - Inner Game of Work

 

I.O.U. - Later, I'll develop this more thoroughly with fuller descriptions, including quotations.  Until then, you can use the outline above plus the book-pages.

BTW, re: the timings of 3 similar cyclic models for learning from experience, I never saw this "inner game" approach until recently (late 2014), long after I had independently developed my model and then discovered the models for Self-Regulated Learning that were developed first, before the similar cyclic models constructed by myself and Gallwey.

 

 

APPENDIX:

Principles of Metacognition — links to Other Authors

Before you read this section — which is part of my larger links-page (about Active-Learning Theories & Teaching Strategies) written in 2007 and developed much more thoroughly in 2011 — I recommend reading my up-to-date summary of Metacognition and Thinking Strategies.

 

What is metacognition, and how is it useful?

When you personally use theories of learning — both general (developed by others) and personal (based on your self-knowledge) — to improve your own thinking, learning, and performance, when you ask “how can I think more effectively?” and think about thinking so you can improve the quality of your thinking-and-actions, this is metacognition.

The following two paragraphs briefly summarize what metacognition is, plus principles for why-and-how it should be incorporated into instruction:

Metacognition - An Overview by Jennifer Livingston, explains the "higher order thinking which involves active control over the cognitive processes engaged in learning" based on Metacognitive Knowledge — of person variables ("general knowledge about how human beings learn and process information, as well as individual knowledge of one's own learning processes"), task variables (for what is required), and strategy variables (knowing cognitive and metacognitive strategies, plus conditional knowledge about when to use these strategies) — that can be used for Metacognitive Regulation to plan and monitor cognitive activities, and check their outcomes.  She explains the relationships between cognitive & metacognitive strategies (they "are closely intertwined and dependent upon each other... [and] may overlap..." but with differences "in how the information [about principles of learning, both general and personal] is used...; [metacognition is] actively utilizing this information to oversee learning"), metacognition & intelligence ("the ability to appropriately allocate cognitive resources... is central to intelligence"), and the benefits of Cognitive Strategy Instruction.   { In this outline, she often cites the ideas of John Flavell. }

• As one of its "three core learning principles" the prominent book How People Learn recommends that instruction in discipline-specific metacognition — with teachers helping students define their own learning goals, and monitor their own progress toward achieving these goals — "should be consciously incorporated into curricula across disciplines and age levels... [because] a ‘metacognitive’ approach to instruction can help students learn to take control of their own learning... can enhance student achievement and develop in students the ability to learn independently. ... An emphasis on metacognition needs to accompany instruction in each of the disciplines, because the type of monitoring will vary" in different disciplines;  schools of education should help teachers "develop strong metacognitive strategies and learn to teach these strategies in a classroom environment" in the context of teaching their subject-area concepts and skills.   { quoting is from pages 18 and 21, in sections about Key Findings and their Implications for Teaching }

The Role of Metacognition in the Classroom from Carleton College, is a links-page;  its brief summary begins by citing How People Learn in a claim that "an awareness of the learning process can improve learning dramatically," and it links to selected web-resources that include an introduction and a summary of Marsha Lovett's talk:

Teaching Metacognition by Marsha Lovett, explains (in mp3 and PowerPoint-pdf) what metacognition is, why we should teach it, and (in slides 34-48 of the ppt-pdf) how at Carnegie Mellon University "metacognitive instruction is integrated into first-year science courses" by using wrappers for homework, lectures, and exams.

Metacognition: Thinking About Thinking by Jonah Lehrer, author of the book How We Decide (reviews & interview) discusses (in mp3) "the brain mechanics underlying decision-making... [and] how too much information can sometimes make decisions more difficult, a condition he describes as ‘paralysis by analysis’ ... [and] how one can improve on their own decision making process by practicing metacognition."

Learning Your Way: A Metacognitive Approach to Study Strategies is a website, developed by Rick Sheets, to introduce the main concepts of metacognition and explain how you can use it for improving Motivation, Acquisition & Retention of Knowledge, and Performance, plus Anxiety Reduction.  As stated in its name, this website emphasizes study strategies;  metacognition can also help students learn problem solving, as explained in the next page:

Metacognition: Study Strategies, Monitoring, and Motivation by William Peirce, begins by claiming that "instructors should explicitly teach the reading, note-taking, and study strategies that will be effective in their courses" and "should teach students how to monitor and self-assess their use of study strategies."  He then explains why, and how, in 8 sections with useful information about a wide range of ideas and applications.

Using Metacognitive Strategies and Learning Styles to Create Self-Directed Learners by Steven Shannon, is a journal paper that begins by comparing advice from his 4th grade teacher (urging her students to "think about how we think") and GI Joe (declaring, in a post-show PSA, that "knowing is half the battle").  The paper continues by examining the characteristics of a self-directed learner (motivation, goal orientation, self-efficacy, locus of control, self-regulation, metacognition, learning styles) and continues by explaining the instruction designed to help students develop these characteristics, before concluding that "teaching students metacognitive strategies is a valuable skill that helps students become more self-directed learners."

 

Self-Efficacy ...

is an important attitude for students.

What Is Self-Efficacy? by Kendra Cherry, is a good introductory overview.

• Here is a brief definition of self-efficacy plus a series of links with responses to asking "Want to know what it does?" and other questions, including comparisons of self-efficacy and self-concept.   (their "Efficacy page" has MUCH more, from Albert Bandura & others)

Metacognition and the Self-System by Kavita Seeratan:  "The self-system — which includes constructs such as self-efficacy, self-esteem, locus of control, motivation and attributional beliefs — is a complex, interdependent system that supports both metacognitive functions and academic performance. ... it appears to underlie the development of the metacognitive system and helps to determine the quality of academic achievement."   /   also by Seeratan, Learning Disabilities: Metacognition, Motivation and Affect

Metacognition and Motivation by William Peirce, who says "metacognition affects motivation because it affects attribution and self-efficacy" in one section of his comprehensive page about Metacognition: Study Strategies, Monitoring, and Motivation.

• Carleton College describes Attitudes & Motivations in the Affective Domain (plus selected literature) and Motivating Students (principles & links).

How Metacognition Can Promote Academic Learning by David Riddick, briefly summarizes a research article.  Here is one useful principle: "When students are able to understand their strengths and weaknesses they can apply strategies to off-set their shortcomings."

How Motivation Affects Learning & Behavior by J.E. Ormrod, plus "Next Article" links for Identifying Motivation Problems and Subject Matter Anxieties.

Student Attitudes (engagement & perceived competence) and Academic Achievement with Overview + Full Report and more.

A New Taxonomy of Educational Objectives summarizes a proposal by Robert Marzano, for a taxonomy with three systems (Self-System, Metacognitive System, Cognitive System) and a Knowledge Domain.

 

Views of Intelligence ...

are related to perceptions of self-efficacy, although they are not the same.  Students with an entity theory of intelligence "believe that their intelligence is a fixed trait, that they have been given a certain amount of intelligence and that is that," but with an incremental theory of intelligence they "believe that their intelligence is a quality they can develop through their effort and education... [and they] are more focused on learning and becoming smarter."  These quotations are from Theories of Intelligence by Carol Dweck, who says: "Each theory affects not only students' motivation to learn but also their success in learning and their achievement in school."  /   To persuade college students that they should adopt an incremental view and try to improve, Marsha Lovett uses a “brain as muscle” analogy, by explaining how both will improve in response to well designed programs of exercise.

Harmful beliefs: How a theory of intelligence can hamper your child's ability to learn by Gwen Dewar.

• I.O.U. — There will be more about this in the future.

Continuing the links from earlier:

Metacognition Theory summarizes the ideas of John Flavell, an early pioneer in metacognition.

• Pacific Crest has several pages about "learning skills" that could be useful for stimulating metacognitive self-analysis;  I'll look at these, while thinking about the ideas below, and will link to one or more of their pages before April.  {their ideas, like most in this page, are important when we're pursuing Goals for Education - Improved Ideas-and-Skills}

Research on Metacognition and ___ , by Halaman Muka, is 4 pages where ___ is filled with Problem-Solving Skills or Reading Skills or Writing Skills or Instruction.

Metacognition in Problem Solving (from AGPA P-16 Science Education) says "expert problem-solvers, and effective thinkers of all kinds, are usually self-aware thinkers. They plan strategies for attacking thinking problems."

Learning from Experience by Craig Rusbult (editor of this page), explains how my friend became an expert welder by following the wise advice of his teacher: "Every time you do a welding job, do it better than the time before."  How?  Remember what you've learned from past experience;  always concentrate in the present and be alertly aware so you can accurately-and-thoroughly observe what you are doing and how your thinking-and-action is affecting the quality of your work.  This now-focus will help you do the job better now, and you'll also learn more from the present that will help you in the future.  This is a good strategy for learning how to improve welding, or anything else in life that you're motivated to improve.   /   more:  The page about Learning from Experience also describes my friend's strategy for work and play, plus "how I didn't learn to ski [but then did learn]", and more about educational motives and strategies.

 

Performance and Education:  Here are some useful principles about priorities, related to the story (above) about learning how to weld:   • when you're doing an important job, so you're on-task with a performance objective, ALWAYS concentrate on quality of thinking-and-action in the present, which SOMETIMES involves metacognitively asking “how can I do it better” and “what have I learned in the past that will help me now?”, and OCCASIONALLY you'll ask “what can I learn now that will help me in the future?”;   • but at other times in life you'll be on-task with a personal education objective, when asking “what can I learn now?” is the top priority.   To some extent, the difference between a Performance Objective and Education Objective is the relative amount of focusing on (and effectiveness of) two ways to learn from experience, by using past learning for the present, and using present learning for the future.  { Optimal Performances in a Variety of Contexts }

 

Metacognition in a Problem-Solving Approach to Education

The website for Learning Your Way... says, "metacognition starts with a conscious awareness of what you do know and don't know [but want to know]" so you can "decide what you need to learn" and develop strategies to help you achieve your knowledge-goal.  If you compare this description with my definitions of problem ("any situation where you have an opportunity to make things better") and problem solving ("converting an actual current situation [in this case, a state of knowledge characterized by what you know and don't know] into a desired future situation [with an improved state of knowledge]"), you'll see that metacognition is one aspect of a problem-solving approach to personal education.

If students are sufficiently motivated to learn so they can improve their own lives, they will adopt a forward-looking future-oriented strategy of intentional learning — by investing extra mental effort beyond what is required just to complete a task, with the intention of achieving their personal goals for learning — that is a problem-solving perspective on self-education.   { Usually the personal motivations of students improve when - with educational teamwork - their teachers enthusiastically try to persuade them that education is a very important "opportunity to make things better" in their own lives by more fully developing their personal potential, and therefore is a goal worthy of personal problem-solving efforts with highly motivated intentional learning. }

In one problem-solving approach to helping students learn metacognitive strategies, An Introduction to Design explains the process of design, which includes using your awareness of the current now-state (where you are) and desired goal-state (where you want to go) to guide your strategic action-decisions about thinking-and-action that will help you make progress toward solving a problem that is the objective of your design project.

Using metacognition during problem solving offers many benefits.  An Introduction to POGIL has a section about using metacognition during Guided Inquiry to "produce an environment for continual improvement," and they describe a 5-step method for helping students "link conceptual and procedural knowledge" to improve their problem-solving skills.

The thinking strategies are related, yet different, in two types of design: •  during a typical design project (where the problem-solving objective is a better product, activity, strategy, or theory) a student's decisions about “what to do” will help them solve this problem and also improve their problem-solving skills in future projects; •  with intentional learning, when a student's personal objective is better ideas-and-skills knowledge, their "strategic action-decisions about thinking-and-action" form a cognitive-and-metacognitive strategy that helps them improve their learning skills.  These two types of design are related, as explained in my Overview of Design Process.  The simplest verbal-and-visual representation of my model for Design Process is a two-step cycle, shown at the right.

 

Regulation of Metacognition — On and Off

In both types of design, often the best short-term strategy is to avoid “thinking about thinking” and just think, letting the process flow naturally with relaxed concentration.  An extremely valuable metacognitive skill is knowing yourself well enough to know when you should focus your thinking on whatever you're doing now, and when you can pause for metacognitive reflection, to passively observe your process of thinking, or to actively analyze your metacognitive observations and plan thinking strategies that will increase your performing and/or learning.  Also essential is self-knowledge about how you can avoid “paralysis by analysis” and much weight you should give to rational analysis and to your instinctive feelings about a decision;  either end of the spectrum, and the broad range in-between, can be informed by what we commonly call intuition.

 

Self-Regulated Learning — Applied Metacognition

This is a well-established area of study that is a cognitive/metacognitive approach to self-education, similar to what I'm describing above.  It's just using a different term.  Similar to other experts on metacognition, people in this area have developed a variety of high-quality programs — like those mentioned at the end of Livingston's page in "Metacognition and Cognitive Strategy Instruction" — for skills that are general and also specialized (for reading, writing, arithmetic,...) and for the whole range of ages.  These programs are built on a strong foundation of knowledge about self-regulated learning;  I think their work will be very useful for education, and soon this section will contain more information about self-regulated learning, or (more likely) their "applied metacognition" will be merged into the main section about "metacognition" above, since it already contains many applications.

 

Metacognition and Feedback based on Evaluations

As a teacher, you can help students improve their learning strategies, both directly (by describing the strategies you enthusiastically recommend, and explaining why they work so well) and indirectly (by coaching students, to encourage and guide their own metacognitive discovery of personally customized learning strategies).  During both of these, feedback that is based on evaluations can serve as useful guides for your coaching and your students' metacognition.  When a student produces their own evaluative feedback by observing their own thinking/actions and the performance-results, this is metacognition.  When teachers provide evaluative feedback about results and/or process, this “external metacognition” will serve a similar function when it facilitates and improves the metacognition of students.

Two Terms:  Although I prefer to think & write about feedback, in the writing of others the word evaluation (or assessment) occurs more often.  They are related, but in teaching they are different.

Stages of External Feedback:  With external feedback, such as that provided by a teacher, there is a time delay between observation, interpretation, and communication.  First, you (serving as a teacher) awarely observe to get information about the performance and learning of individual students, or groups.  Second, you interpret your observations;  you evaluate student performances and make inferences about the effectiveness of their learning processes, and decide if you want to recommend that they revise old strategies or apply new strategies.  Third, you decide whether and why (and what, how, when) to communicate with your student(s).   /   With internal feedback your observations of your own performances-and-learning are “communicated” to yourself at the same instant, although there is a delay in your interpretations, and in your decisions about strategy revisions and applications. }

Educators distinguish between evaluations (and feedbacks) that are formative and summative, which differ in both purpose and timing:

Purpose — Throughout a course, the purpose of formative evaluations is to improve the quality of learning, with students and teacher using information about the ideas-and-skills being learned (or not learned) as a basis for asking “what changes in learning strategies or instruction might be educationally useful?”  Later, summative evaluations (such as exams that try to measure what has been learned) are used for assigning grades.  Or, using analogies, we can compare basketball practices (formative) and games (summative), or a chef tasting soup (formative) before customers taste the soup (summative).

Timings — A typical course is split into parts, and for each part formative evaluation precedes summative evaluation (it's formative then summative, formative then summative, formative...) so a summative evaluation for one part can be viewed as formative evaluation for the next part, by teachers and students.  Teachers can adjust their instruction with improvised educational design in a process analogous to metacognition.  Students who want to improve their learning strategies can ask themselves, for each exam question they miss, “Why did I miss it?” (did I study the wrong way? not study enough? not read the question carefully? omit a step in the process of thinking? think illogically? get too nervous to think clearly? run out of time?) and “How can I improve?” (so the next time I'll get it correct).

Overview of Assessment by Marie Baehr & Steven Beyerlein, describes assessment as "a process used for improving quality [of a performance or an outcome]" that "is critical for growing lifelong learning skills and elevating performance in diverse contexts."  They explain The Nature of Assessment, 10 Principles of Quality Assessment, and Issues that Affect Assessment Quality, and provide examples of assessment.

Distinctions Between Assessment and Evaluation also by Marie Baehr, says "[formative] Assessment provides feedback on knowledge, skills, attitudes, and work products for the purpose of elevating future performances and learning outcomes.  [summative] Evaluation determines the level of quality of a performance or outcome and enables decision-making based on the level of quality demonstrated.  These two processes are complementary and necessary in education."  Her paper logically explains, in a brief 4-page summary, many educationally useful ideas.

editorial comments about terminology:  I think these papers by Marie Baehr (Overview... and Distinctions...) are excellent, but her unconventional terminology is not useful.  I hope educators will continue using adjectives (formative and summative) combined with a noun (assessment or evaluation), instead of eliminating the adjectives and using only the nouns (assessment and evaluation) — which most people, including me, treat as synonyms — for labeling important distinctions.  The two-word labels, using adjective and noun, clearly identify the differences (formative versus summative) and similarities (both are evaluations of quality), but the one-word labels don't.    { And there is a more important reason to avoid one-word labels. }

My Evaluation Philosophy by Julian Hermida, explains why he uses a wider variety of formative and summative evaluations, but "ephasizes formative feedback... throughout the course" because "my ultimate goal is to help my students develop strong metacognition skills."

Formative and Summative Assessments in the Classroom by Catherine Garrison & Michael Ehringhaus, explains what formative assessment is, and emphasizes the importance of "what teachers do with the information they collect. ... research shows descriptive feedback to be the most significant instructional strategy to move students forward in their learning. Descriptive feedback provides students with an understanding of what they are doing well, links to classroom learning, and gives specific input on how to reach the next step in the learning progression."

 

Optimal Performance — Motivation & Anxiety

This section is closely related to Learning from Experience — which explains how objectives can be short-term (wanting optimal performance in the present) and/or long-term (wanting optimal learning for the future).

I.O.U. — This sub section is underdeveloped now, but I wanted to begin developing it, mainly because it's important, but also to support my pages about Problem Solving & Metacognition in Education — Using Design Process, such as in these sections --

   

We can think about optimal performance for a wide variety of situations, but below I'll focus on four areas where we use cognitive skills and/or motor skills -- in the contexts of exams, speaking, music, sports:

general - My section about Regulating Metacognition for Optimal Performance and/or Learning looks at principles for "avoiding, using, and regulating metacognition ... [to] help you regulate metacognition by turning it on and off, to maximize its actual positive effects (in helping you improve your thinking, learning, and performance) and minimize its potential negative effects (in being a distracting INTERFERENCE that will reduce performance) in an effort to achieve optimal benefits.  In situations where metacognition is unproductive — if there is too much introspection of the wrong kind with the wrong timing — the difficulty is not metacognition, it's unskillful metacognition, due to a deficiency in skillfully using metacognition.  [You should] develop the valuable metacognitive skill of knowing yourself (and your situations) well enough to know when to use metacognition, and how to use it, so it will be optimally beneficial."

sometimes turning metacognition "off" is a way to avoid a paralysis-by-analysis (or any decrease of cognitive efficiency, which is less serious than paralysis but is not optimally efficient) that could be the result of too much introspection of the wrong kind with the wrong timing

 

Here is an extremely rough-draft collection of "candidate pages" that I'll go through later, to check them for quality and decide whether to retain or replace them or, especially to add more in the categories for exams & speaking, to supplement them with additional pages:

speaking -

music -- http://www.davidleisner.com/guitarcomposer/noname.html

• music -- http://www.uwec.edu/counsel/pubs/musicanxiety.htm

• music -- http://eeshop.unl.edu/anxiety.html

stage -- http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-your-voice/201011/performance-anxiety

sports - http://www.sportpsychologytoday.com/tag/performance-anxiety/

• sports -- http://sportsmedicine.about.com/cs/sport_psych/a/aa010603a.htm

• sports -- http://socialanxietydisorder.about.com/od/copingwithsad/a/sportsbasics.htm

• sports - http://www.brianmac.co.uk/psych.htm and http://www.brianmac.co.uk/companx.htm

• stage fright - http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/stage-fright-performance-anxiety?

• youth sports - http://www.momsteam.com/team-of-experts/keith-wilson-msw-d-div/performance-anxiety-in-youth-sports-parents-can-help-their-ch