+ Help Students Think — About Thinking

David Gooblar at Pedagogy Unbound has made some suggestions to help students think about their thinking.

[O-G Tutoring in Columbus OH: see below]

Thinking about our thinking is called “metacognition.” When we begin to be aware that we are thinking, we can analyze, monitor and regulate the way we do it.  We think, as we struggle with a problem, “Hmmm, oh that’s what I’m doing here!”

That is metacognition.

Note: Gooblar’s piece is directed to instructors at the college level.  But these strategies can be adapted for even the youngest students, at the earliest stages of self-monitoring.


There are ways to help students recognize their ability to analyze, monitor, and improve their work.  For example, Gooblar shares a strategy called “exam wrappers.”  When students receive back their first graded exam, it comes with a “wrapper:” a brief questionnaire to help them review their performance.  They go over their exams, answering questions on the wrapper: how did you prepare for this; where did you make errors; what could you do differently next time.  These questions are all metacognitive in nature.


At the beginning of a school year (or a semester — or a unit) give students a questionnaire about study or learning habits. How do you study for tests; do you take notes; do you take noes by hand or on a laptop; how much do you already know about the subject matter?

At certain points during the term, review students’ answers to see if anything has changed as the course has progressed. In this way, students are encouraged to reflect on their progress and to be reminded both that they are responsible for it and that they can alter this trajectory.


The knowledge ratings approach asks students to rate their knowledge of today’s topic on a scale of of 0 to 3; 0 means absolutely no knowledge of it and 3 means very knowledgeable.  Tell them: our goal is to get everyone up to a three by the end of the class.

Take a time-out halfway through the class period and ask students to reassess their ratings. Have they improved? Then ask them to write down any questions they still have,  what is keeping them from that level 3 understanding.  They might voice their questions right then, if there’s time, so you have a chance to focus in on them during the last half of class.

At the end of class, do a final review: where do they now place themselves on that scale? The hope is they will be at 3 before tackling new homework.


These strategies force students to think about their own learning  practices.  Our goal is to make their own behavior visible to themselves.

We often assume students know enough about themselves that our suggestions and comments will be enough to set them on a path toward improvement.

But self-reflection is not a skill possessed by all students.  In the realm of self-assessment, as in all other areas, many students need direct instruction and scaffolding.

Source: David Gooblar’s blog piece; he is an adjunct, a writer, and the website proprietor at PedagogyUnbound.com  


Orton-Gillingham instruction in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com


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