As parents we’ll do everything we can to help our children become more successful and independent learners, but it’s not always easy! We speak to Dr. Trevor Richards, child psychologist and Headmaster at All Hallows Prep School, about how a strategy called ‘metacognition’ could be real game changer. Described by the school’s Year 2 children as “thinking about thinking”, metacognition is an approach in which they learn to reflect on their own learning and cognitive process.
What is metacognition?
Metacognition involves developing children’s ability to reflect on how they think and how they learn best, not just what they think and what they have learned. Therefore, the great thing about metacognition is that it can be applied to any subject and across all levels of performance. The metacognitive strategies that students use in their Science class can also be used in Music lessons and on the sports pitch!
There are ways that you as parents can support your child’s development of this type of thinking:
1. Help your child to identify what does and doesn’t work well
Work with your child to identify what is going well and why and where improvements could be made. It is important to stress areas where progress is being made, rather than focus only on the next set of targets. We need to do more of what is working well, as well as put a stop to things that aren’t working.
2. Encourage reflective thinking
Ask your child what they would do differently next time if they make a mistake. Would they work harder next time, ask for help earlier, prepare more, read instructions more carefully, etc? This will help increase their self-awareness – a key aspect of metacognitive thinking.
Remember to celebrate successes, too! It is important to focus on what went well so they repeat them elsewhere.
3. Build on their reflective thinking
This type of thinking involves becoming aware of biases and prejudices that sometimes colour our judgement. In an age-appropriate way, you might encourage discussions about society or moral dilemmas and this will help enable children to challenge their own biases and become adaptive thinkers. It also helps them begin to realise that for so many of life’s big questions, there is rarely a simple right or wrong answer!
As young people’s conceptions of thinking are so malleable, both schools and parents have the power to help them develop these metacognition practices, with all the benefits this may bring for their intellectual development, learning and performance long after they have left school!