In Chapter 1 of the Bain text, the author discusses the methodology for their study on what makes a college teacher truly exceptional. The first guiding question is about what the best teachers know and understand. They are all accomplished in their fields but that isn’t enough. Chapter 2 talks about this; how the best teachers motivate their students to connect information and evaluate problems using what they know. “[The best teachers] know how to simplify and clarify complex subjects, to cut to the heart of the matter with provocative insights, and they can think about their own thinking in the discipline, analyzing its nature and evaluating its quality.” Do you ever think about what you think about? How can metacognition make you a better teacher? Was there anything else in Chapter 2 that particularly struck you?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

7 thoughts on “Thinking…about thinking…

  1. Do I ever think about what I think about? Not deliberately or at length, but I do spend a lot of time thinking about how my students think. Permanent learning/understanding rather than temporary fact memorization is something we discuss frequently in class. I try to make connections between content from other classes to emphasize that all biology classes are part of the same story and what they learn in one class is going to come back and be built upon. I definitely see the 3 types of learners-some intrinsically motivated to thoroughly understand, some determined to get an A, and those who don’t seem interested or motivated. I’m looking forward to learning how to help the third group.

  2. I loved the idea of the test the physicist did at the beginning of the chapter – testing to see if student changed the way they thought after a class. I would love to devise something like that. I’ve introduced the idea of 6 big-picture concepts that students should learn over the course of a year in chemistry, but I haven’t connected my learning outcomes to them very well. I also found the idea of always having cumulative exams an interesting idea. I only have cumulative final exams, but chemistry really does build on itself, so devising questions that focus on the new material, but include the earlier learned concepts seems like a great idea. I have definitely interacted with those students who get an “A” but come away without much understanding, something I want to get away from.

  3. I often think about my own thinking, but one thing that I find myself thinking more about is what my students are thinking. For a long time, I believed that lecture-based teaching was the way that students would learn. This is because I believed I learned best with this method. It wasn’t until years into my teaching, I started to realize that I don’t believe that this is the best approach on its own. It took me thinking about my own thinking to realize that it wasn’t just the lecture-based teaching that I learned from. It was what I did as a student after class ended.

    I had a deep interest in mathematics, so I went through my notes and looked for more challenging practice problems outside of lecture. I spent quite a bit of time working on and struggling through these extra problems. This was where I believe I did most of my learning, by applying my knowledge from lecture to different/more complex problems. So, I find myself thinking about my thinking when I was a student, often. I am always thinking about way to incorporate some of this deeper thinking into my classroom to enhance learning.

  4. I particularly enjoyed the Physicists’ test to evaluate students’ ability (or inability) to refine their mental model of a particular concept. Although I don’t spend nearly enough time on my own metacognition, I do try to think about and refine my own mental models of my expectations of how students learn in my courses.
    I expend significant mental energy on reflection of my personal teaching practice and critical self-evaluation of my course activities and lectures. Following each course meeting, I reflect upon what worked and what didn’t work, why and why not, and what incremental changes could I make to improve the learning experience for that day. I jot notes for myself in a google doc and I will use those next year to improve.

    One day, I continue to naively tell myself, I will be caught up enough to be able to immediately revise my lecture/activities following each class so that they will be ready for the following year. At which time, I could then make another round of incremental improvements, better informed by more experience and the passage of another academic year.

  5. The part from this reading that really struck me was reading the MAJOR CONCLUSIONS starting on page 15. As I am completing my first PROT review (as a reviewer) at OSU I am pleased that there is quite a bit of alignment with how we talk about and measure “good teachers” in the University and these findings. Expertise is assumed at hiring, but the PROT evaluates the preparation to teach, the expectations of students, the teaching, and the way students are treated in the classroom.

    One of the things I think about a lot is the language faculty use when they are burnt out versus inspired by their teaching. I think that an inspiring and truly successful faculty instructor is always also a true lifelong learner who models that for their students.

  6. I don’t think that I can say that I think about what I think about. Instead, I will think about how I think about something. There’s more to thinking about a subject (the what) and that is the manner in which I think about it (the how). While in the classroom, if students are not fully understanding a topic, I tell them how I think about the subject and/or suggest they “think about it this way for a moment” in an attempt to provide another view that clarifies what they are not understanding. In my view, suggesting another way to think about a topic helps to complete the whole picture of a topic and to complement the students’ current thoughts. This helps me communicate with the whole class that contains the different types of learners. All of this discussion about thinking makes me think about how I would respond to this discussion post several years from now, after the likely inevitable changes to my teaching philosophy and approaches in the classroom.

  7. I’m still thinking about this meta-cognition idea and will share more later.
    We should think about our thinking and sometimes rethink our assumptions.

    I like the idea of using authentic tasks which arouse curiosity and challenge students.
    Rich mathematical tasks where concepts of calculus are applied to authentic situations such as wind energy, building dams, and elk populations are useful.

    I think it’s about awareness and assessing one’s own learning and goals.

    Students can become Newtonian physicists but not lose the spirit of Aristotelian philosophy.


Leave a reply

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>