When Kids Have Structure for Thinking, Better Learning Emerges

Amidst the discussions about content standards, curriculum and teaching strategies, it’s easy to lose sight of the big goals behind education, like giving students tools to deepen their quantitative and qualitative understanding of the world. Teaching for understanding has always been a challenge, which is why Harvard’s Project Zero has been trying to figure out how great teachers do it.
Some teachers discuss metacognition with students, but they often simplify the concept by describing only one of its parts — thinking about thinking. Teachers are trying to get students to slow down and take note of how and why they are thinking and to see thinking as an action they are taking. But two other core components of metacognition often get left out of these discussions — monitoring thinking and directing thinking. When a student is reading and stops to realize he’s not really understanding the meaning behind the words, that’s monitoring. And most powerfully, directing thinking happens when students can call upon specific thinking strategies to redirect or challenge their own thinking.
‘We are trying to demystifying the process of thinking by making it visible.’“When we have a rich meta-strategic base for our thinking, that helps us to be more independent learners,” said Project Zero senior research associate Ron Ritchhart at a Learning and the Brain conference. “If we don’t have those strategies, if we aren’t aware of them, …