How to Study Smart: Metacognition

Many educators are interested in teaching students about the processes by which we think and learn, called metacognition (the term was coined by psychologist John Flavell and Ann Brown in 1976.) or Cognitive Strategy Instruction. The goal is to teach skills that successful students use to every student, to figure out personal strategies for learning and problem solving such as study skills and techniques for memorizing. For example, students may not understand why spent a lot of time studying for a test or writing a paper but got only an average score because they didn’t provide their own analysis and integration of ideas. We need to learn our strengths and weaknesses as learners and then plan effective strategies, such as asking a teacher for more feedback and evaluation.

A common problem is spacing out while reading or in class, which wastes time. We can study smart by staying focused by writing notes or diagrams while reading or in class rather than day dreaming or being distracted by media–another example of a metacognition activity. Instead of just reading passively, a student can do “self-questioning, “ ask “how” and “why” questions, compare and contrast, and write test questions. Another strategy may be to study in a quiet place in the library away from distractions, which I needed to do in my first years in university.

Evaluating and analyzing our study strategies and our weaknesses and strengths as writers and learners is a metacognitive activity. For me, it’s a waste of time to study late at night or when I’m tired. It’s better strategy for me to get up early to study, while you might be an owl who is wide awake at night. One more example of thinking about how to succeed in academia, if math word problems on a tests are difficult, it may be better strategy to answer the numerical problems first. My strategy with math classes was to get a tutor. If an approach isn’t working, evaluation and a plan are necessary. The basic point is if we’re not satisfied with our performance, we can figure out a different technique, perhaps by talking with instructors or successful students.

Please comment on your strategies.

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