Colton Cutchens

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Would reforming the core curriculum to include a Metacognition class and a Critical Thinking class be effective in education?

What is your opinion about adding a Metacognition class and a Critical Thinking class to the core curriculum? How would this effect students? Also, how would we need to structure these classes if we were to go about doing them? A Metacognition class would be defined to teach about self-reflecting, understanding, and discovering one's own talents, personality, and ways of thinking (this could be similar to a Psychology class). And a Critical Thinking class would be defined to outline what logic is and teach how to think logically and question rationally (this could be similar and categorized as a Philosophy class).

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    Dec 31 2012: I think that it is far more effective to teach these skills and dispositions in the context of school subjects rather than separating them from specific areas of application. In fact, I believe there is research that supports a moving away from compartmentalizing skills and disjoining them from application.

    Some schools over the last half century have offered specific modules related to "study skills" or "problem-solving" at the launch of courses or a school year for all students or included such content in courses called Guidance or Homeroom.
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      Dec 31 2012: So are you saying that teaching not only the subjects themselves, but also how to apply and rationalize them within the context of the two skills I have mentioned? If so, it would seem to me that we would need to abandon the traditional grading system that seems to be about scheduled, and almost uniform, productivity and put in place one that is focused around a more personal scale. One that does not dull independent thinking and questioning that could discourage some students from finding their true potential, and that reinforces an autonomous and creative environment so they can find their own motivations. Is it possible to have a grading system based off this?

      And in reference to your second statement, what are some resources on schools that have those modules that I could research?
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        Dec 31 2012: What I am saying is that critical thinking and reflection about understanding are part of every subject and therefore are appropriately addressed in the context of each subject.

        You could do a search for "teaching critical thinking," "teaching metacognition," "teaching study skills," and "teaching problem-solving." You will find much, more than you can use.

        One resource that pools research results in education is called ERIC. I don't remember what it stands for.

        In terms of grading, I never know what people mean by "the traditional grading system." In my experience, teachers use their own rubrics, either formal or informal, to evaluate work. Criteria in that evaluation include whether arguments are presented clearly and supported with evidence, whether different points of view or counterarguments are addressed, and so forth. In a subject like math, the assessment might be on whether the proof proceeds in such a way that no leaps are made that assume things that cannot be assumed, that assumptions are clearly expressed... In writing, conventions are often important and are part of the evaluation...Lab reports have rubrics that include whether the variables are defined along with means of measurement... Are these the sorts of things you include in "traditional grading systems?- criteria that echo the way work is evaluated in the disciplines by actual practitioners of those disciplines?
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          Jan 3 2013: First of all, thank you for sharing those resources with me, I will surely look them up to clarify my understanding.

          Second, I am not sure if I agree with your first paragraph, because, from my perspective, it seems that classes are more about teaching the subjects themselves, instead of going over the logic, thought, or reasoning that may preside over or before the subject itself appropriately so the student can question it effectively. Although, my perspective is limited, so I may be wrong in this statement.

          Lastly, I think I need to rephrase my previous statement, and I apologize for the confusion. What I meant by saying "traditional grading system" is not so much what it consisted of, but mostly the emphasis that is placed on it. I see the purpose of the examples you have given, and that is not the issue I am addressing. What I am addressing is the emphasis of which the letters “A, B, C, D, and F” are able to clearly represent the actual cognitive ability of a student in the corresponding subject. I think it is flawed for it being possible for a student to receive a low grade even though they reached the criteria though different means, because of their own creativity or in-depth reasoning and questioning, or maybe because they questioned the criteria itself. For I think it is a necessity for schools to be a place that advocates creative and independent thinking in all areas. What is your opinion of this?
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        Jan 3 2013: I am more familiar with an emphasis on logic, thought, or reasoning in the fields I have taught. There are subjects in which a larger body of fact may also be transmitted, but even there, these can be, and often are, part of a thematic narrative.

        One thing teachers are typically expected to convey is the style of inquiry that the field entails- how work in the field is done, using what sorts of resources and tools. Teachers can most effectively do this by putting students through the experience of searching and generating conclusions in the field. In science this might be by experiment and independent, scaffolded analysis of data. In history this might include examining original documents or practice in collecting data on recent history.

        Teachers and textbooks will, indeed, vary in how well they do all this, but best practice in this respect has long been established. There is a classic work by Jerome Bruner, for example, 1977, that provides a snapshot of what the process of education in the lower grades should entail to represent disciplines with integrity.

        I have never heard of the letter grading system as a way of measuring cognitive ability. Assessment and classroom grades in my experience aim to measure only what a student shows he /she understands and is able to do with respect to the material of the course. Teachers will evaluate this in different ways. Indeed if a student does not show or communicate understanding via one of the forms of assessment the teacher uses, the teacher would not have the evidence to assign a high grade. The grade can only represent what a teacher is able to detect through the person's oral and written communications, projects, and demonstrations.

        Competent teachers typically use multiple forms of measurement to triangulate on a judgment.

        The grade is not emphasized as if it is somehow the goal of the educational undertaking. The goal is learning and the grade only a rough summary measure.
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          Jan 3 2013: Ah, I see there is much more than I have previously perceived and I will have to ponder all of this. If I may ask, what subject(s) have you taught and how long?
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        Jan 3 2013: I have taught different subjects in secondary school than at university. In secondary I have taught math and science, though in that context I have also woked with students on research papers, presentation skills, study skills, and other cross-disciplinary learning skills. I have taught a very long time.
  • Jan 22 2013: Teaching critical thinking skills and meta-cognition is desperately needed for the children and adults in our schools. What would be possible if every adult and child in the school setting knew what it meant to be responsible for their own needs and reactions with others? The standards and curriculum are available--there just needs to be the public demand for such instruction (and application of these skills across the school day). I think everyone would be happier for it.
  • Jan 15 2013: Courses dedicated to Critical Thinking and Metacognition are readily available at many (most?) colleges & universities. What may be needed is the inclusion of these classes/skills within Colleges of Education/teacher training programs so that elementary and secondary education teachers are well-versed in how to incorporate these skills within k-12 content areas (project based learning opportunities, performance/authentic assessment , etc). Of course, it needs to be balanced with best practices in terms of child development/cognitive development, and it can look different in k-3, 4-8, 9-12 grades and in differnt disciplines. Also, think about debate clubs, essay competitions and other outlets where students need to either individually or in small groups tackle a substantive issue.
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      Jan 16 2013: These subjects are included in teacher credential programs and ongoing professional development for teachers.
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    Jan 10 2013: Years ago, I attended a graduate course on adolescent psychology. Addressing the information on puberty, I was astonished and told the instructor "Why wasn't I learning this when I was eleven, my teen years would have been so much better if I knew what was happening."
    He replied " You could have, all you needed was an undergraduate degree and covered the tuition".
    As has been already said, children learn (acquire knowledge) based on the information they can process.
    Maybe, if I had gone to the class (I didn't have the degree or cash)...
    No, I think my adolescence would have been the same.

    Everything in it's time and in it's place.
  • Jan 8 2013: Critical thinking is good...Maybe, as part of the course, we can have students apply logical concepts to religion... lol
  • Jan 2 2013: It would be a good thing if these subjects were part of everyone's education. There's just one small problem: not everybody has te potential to learn these things. And even those who do have the potential, don't always want to. So I think we should introduce these classes to the curriculum, but we shouldn't make people attend them.
    Such classes would have to be very different from ordinary classes. The teacher could give some pointers, but every student would have to figure our for themselves how exactly they want to do this. If a student want to learn how to be critical, let them chose for themselves what they want to criticize. It would be a great oppurtunity to let students learn what they want to learn.
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      Jan 3 2013: I think almost everyone has the potential to think logically, but only if they so choose too, and also the potential and motivation to understand themselves. According to Erik Erikson, at a young age (around 6 to 12 years old), children usually start to have a motivation to be competent with what they do, especially with what they like doing. This motivation can be hindered greatly if what they like doing, or what they are good at doing, is not advocated in their environment, and thus could prevent them from becoming metacognitive and self-aware during adolescence. On that notion, if we can introduce metacognition to the core curriculum at an early age, maybe the motivation to continue the understanding of one's self would still be present and students would have the ability and want to do so?
      Again, an advocating environment may be key with progressive development in logical thinking. And that may have to be introduced as a class once one's cognition is developed enough to handle abstract reasoning (around the age of 11, according to Jean Piaget), so that they can use logic to understand and know how to apply the subjects they learn later in school.
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    Jan 2 2013: In my school Life Orientation, which covers these two area's of thinking, is not taken very seriously. People mess around and so do not do very well which in turn leads to the education department making it easier which further reinforces this idea that it is not very important.

    Before a class along either of these lines can be introduced this stigma or dogma of how useless they are needs to dealt with. I do not know how but I do know that if the stigma is not dealt with then it will not be taken seriously and it will never achieve its purpose to further develop the youth of today
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      Jan 3 2013: I think in order to show how these two subjects are important is to introduce them to the students at an early age (see also my reply to the comment above), so that the process of understanding one's self and the concepts of logic are started and worked on continuously throughout their lives, especially during school (which I believe needs to be a catalyst of all kinds of personalities and talents). If one is not metacognitive, they may not ever, or even begin, to reach their full potential. Correspondingly, if one does not how to reason, one may not be able to see how to mentally conceive of and apply many other subjects, both of the arts (subjective) and sciences (objective). If these two qualities can be shown to the students at an early age, then they may develop the motivation and want to take the class, and their education, seriously.