Friday, November 16, 2012

District Tech Planning - Student Goal 1b (Independent Thinkers)

 (More tech plan musing...)

Student Goal 1b

  • To be independent thinkers.
    • (Everything under goal Life Long Learning) Plus...
    • Non-Judgmental
    • Open to Suggestion
    • Learn from mistakes
    • Concerned more with the process and not the product
    • Emphasis on the big picture and not the independent steps*
    • Seek Experiences - “get out of comfort zone”

This goal seems a little more difficult to justify as a separate goal. It could be considered a prerequisite for both the goals of lifelong learning and for the ability to solve problems. In order to be effective in those two realms, being an independent thinker would be an asset. Is it more a characteristic of a person as opposed to being a skill? So if we were going to teach someone how to be an independent thinker, what skills would we practice?

The first three bullets above, the skills we would like our students to take away from school under the Independent Thinkers goal all require self-reflection, or what we also know as metacognition. So what are the skills of metacognition? Metacognition is at the top of the a three tiered thinking process. It It starts at Cognitive Description, or a focus on what the child is thinking about a content, moves to Cognitive Extension or a focus on how the child is thinking  about the content, to finally Metacognition that focuses on the child’s thinking about his/her own thinking about the content. Robert Fisher in a paper titled, Thinking about Thinking: Developing Metacognition in Children,  describes in detail this progression to metacognition in children and writes that, “We need to encourage children to probe deeper into what they have said and what they think, through what has been called 'empathetic challenging' (Bonnet 1994).
Inquiring into a child's thinking facilitates thinking.” The bottom line is successful students have a higher degree of metacognitive capacity than less successful students. How do we teach metacognition in the classroom?

Initially developing student metacognition skills begins by exposure to reflective vocabulary during instruction.
Language is modeled by the teacher and takes the forms such as, “The thinking we are going to use today is...” or “What thinking have we been doing....?” and sets the stage for students to begin thinking about their thinking. In addition instructional lessons can be created to further model self reflection during instruction by the teacher. One such example that I experienced over the Summer was demonstrated to me in a workshop put on by the Great Valley Writing Project, the Stanislaus area group of the National Writing Project. In one example, the teacher demonstrated her thought process while writing in front of her students, modeling what she wanted her students to do. Instead of having the conversations in her head as she wrote, she verbally described what she was thinking as she wrote her narrative. Her modeling showcased to her students what was going on in her head as she decided to what words to use, and the decisions she struggled with as her narrative took shape. This short example runs the gamut from cognitive description straight through to the potential for metacognition.

I’m still struggling whether to keep "Independent Thinker" as a separate goal in our District technology plan. However, an emphasis on on creating independent thinkers is a real goal whether it is embedded into another goal or not; modern tools facilitate students’ ability to substantiate their internal thought process in much more varied ways than traditional paper and pencils. 

cc original photo courtesy of  

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