Friday, September 13, 2013

Inviting metacognition through the back door

For my first lab of the year I threw my students a bit of a curve ball,  asking them to look below the surface of complex images, asking them to articulate less than obvious connections between art and science, and asking them to write and re-abstract their ideas by condensing sentences into short phrases and finally, a single word. 

What does this have to do with science? I wondered myself when I discussed my lesson plan with my rhetoric colleagues. Turns out they had done similar exercises with their students. Should I be teaching rhetoric instead of science?

My goal for this lab was to prepare student for the upcoming struggle with science ideas. Something that will unfold in the next few weeks as we tackle more complex and abstract ideas. I hope that this (and upcoming) labs will provide practice for taking on abstract and seemingly unrelated concepts. I hope that as students study for exams they will find themselves re-abstracting ideas from their careful notes, articulating the central ideas of the course. 

As students worked on their phones and laptops, independently and in groups, I took a few notes on their behaviors. Here's what I observed:

Problem solving

I think students have used technology intensively in other classes, though perhaps not as intensively as they did this week. There was sustained work with their devices over the two hours of lab. Minor technological problems were resolved through group work as students helped one another navigate.

Thinking about complexity, making unexpected connections, articulating, simplifying, and abstracting. Using precision language through tweets and other exercises, struggling with ideas and processes, working solo and together, these exercises were designed to invite metacognition in through the back door. 

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