The third magical ingredient in the learning process is knowing how to learn. It’s about finding a method and process and following that path. Teachers are very good at telling students what to learn, but generally need to improve upon helping students understand how to learn.
Metacognition is one of the most important concepts of all. Metacognition is about learning how to learn. Let’s take a classical homework example – learning vocabulary words to pass a test the next day or week. Passing out a worksheet with the vocabulary words and warning the students about a quiz or future test is one thing, helping they with study skills is quite another matter.
How can you learn these words? Read the words, write the words, find the roots of the words, compare the words to others you know, ask someone to test you, explain the words to others, use flash cards or an app, test yourself, time yourself, put the words in a sentence, review often, check the list before you go to sleep and again in the morning. The list could be longer and I, at least, have no expectation everyone will do everything on that list. It’s just that we have to understand, and help students understand, that learning is not only a result of motivation and determination but also a process where you know how to practice. It’s also about engaging as many senses as possible and using what you are learning in various contexts.
Sure, if you have a high-level short term memory you can get through those tests, but I am assuming you want to learn even for the long run. Then it is good to understand that learning is a mental, physiological and strategic process.
When you understand this and you help the children, young adults and adults you meet in your role as teacher or leader to understand this you will hear fewer people say, “I can’t learn this. It’s too hard.” You will hear more people, including yourself, say, “I can learn this when I make a decision to learn, focus and have a strategic plan.”