Metacognitive Skills for Lifelong Learning
Why I’m Passionate about this Topic
Why would I be passionate about metacognitive skills for lifelong learning? What kind of total nerd weirdo actually says they’re passionate about something like that?
In my career as a music educator and college professor, I researched and published on the topic of metacognition for learning—specifically, music learning. Click this link to check out my book on Amazon: Thinking about Thinking: Metacognition for Music Learning.
While I was researching metacognition for music learning, I realized that it could be applied to any type of learning. One exciting thing I discovered is that metacognition can be used by adults as well as kids to help us learn anything we put our minds to.
Meta . . . What?
Metacognition is literally thinking about thinking. It’s an executive type of thinking. In other words, metacognition is the Boss or Supervisor type of thinking that helps us to control our own thoughts and leads to efficient learning.
In this post, I’ll describe 6 metacognitive skills and actions that will lead you to more efficient learning.
- Set a goal for what you want to learn.
- Decide what learning task(s) you will accomplish.
- Plan your learning adventure.
- Monitor your learning and engage in self-assessment.
- Evaluate the results of your learning adventure.
- Set goals to extend into your next phase of learning.
Step 1: Learning Goals
Think about your current life situation. Is there something that you really want to accomplish? If so, what are some things that you’d like to learn that will help you accomplish your goal?
Maybe you’d like to start your own business, but you need to learn about accounting, marketing, personnel management, and how to write a business plan. You can set learning goals and use metacognitive skills to acquire the necessary knowledge and understanding to successfully plan and start your business.
Or, maybe you want to start a blog. I did this a few months ago. After retiring from my college professor career, I set a goal to learn how to start a blog. I gathered materials and got started. As I continue on my blogging adventure, I’m continually setting new learning goals that will give me the knowledge and understanding to meet my blogging goals.
These are just two examples of learning goals. What do you want to learn? Does it involve cooking, speaking a foreign language, gardening, photography, or specific skills that will help you to advance in your career?
Call to Action: Take a moment and write at least one learning goal for yourself.
Step 2: Learning Tasks
In order to learn anything, we need to DO something. A learning task is the thing that you DO to acquire knowledge and understanding. This allows you to gain skills and achieve your learning goal.
If you want to learn photography, you need to go out and take pictures. If you want to learn French cooking, you need to get yourself into the kitchen and do some cooking.
In my case, when I wanted to learn how to start a blog, I did a lot of reading and then actually set up my blog and got started. I am constantly developing new learning tasks as I continue to learn about blogging.
Call to Action: Right now, try to brainstorm at least one or two learning tasks that you will accomplish to achieve your learning goal.
Step 3: Plan your Learning
Now, it’s time to make a clear plan for getting your learning task(s) done.
Gather your resources and materials. Will you read a book, take an e-course, take an audio-course, attend a conference, or enroll in a face-to-face course at your local community college? Will you do a lot of research online? Or, will you work with a friend, family member, or professional who can teach you new skills and information in a one-to-one situation?
Set a timeline. Give yourself a deadline to accomplish your learning task(s). Hold yourself accountable for really putting in the work on your learning adventure. If life gets in the way (as it always does), re-calculate your timeline and stick to it.
Call to Action: Based on the learning tasks that you wrote down a few minutes ago, try to make a list of resources and materials. Additionally, what is a realistic deadline for achieving your learning task(s)?
Step 4: Monitor and Self-Assess
Once you have set your learning goals, planned your learning adventure, and gathered your resources and materials, you will be well on your way. At this point, it will be important to engage in self-assessment. Throughout the time that you work on your learning task(s), try to honestly assess the quality of your work. This is called monitoring your learning.
As you monitor and self-assess, you might want to ask yourself these questions. Did you really nail this new skill? Are you really developing a deep understanding of a new concept? Or, do you need to go back and do a little bit more research/reading/practicing to complete a learning task with a good quality result? Maybe there are some aspects of the learning task that need more attention from you.
Be honest with yourself. Get an evaluation from an expert, if necessary. Again, it is important to hold yourself accountable.
Steps 5: Evaluate your Results
When you get to the point of completing a learning task, you will want to evaluate your results. What have you learned? Do you need to go back and delve more deeply into the intricacies of the learning task that you just accomplished? Or, are you ready to move on to a new learning task?
Step 6: Set New Learning Goals
If you’re ready to move on, where do you want to go next in your learning adventure? Accomplishing one learning task naturally leads to the realization that you need to DO a NEW learning task. So, set your new learning goal and get ready to pursue your next learning task(s).
Do you see how Step 5 leads naturally into Step 6?
Can you see that Step 6 is really the same as Step 1?
This means that using metacognitive skills creates a big Learning Spiral. One learning adventure leads naturally into the next one, and the spiral keeps going—on and on towards greater knowledge, understanding, and skill in whatever it is that you want to know and be able to do.
To help you manage your own lifelong learning experiences, I created a free printable lifelong learning log. Simply click the link above and sign up to receive the free printable. I hope it will be useful to you.
You might also enjoy this post: Manage your Lifelong Learning Adventures.
Takeaways from this Experience
- In my personal experience with learning to write and maintain a blog, I found that I needed to read and do some research before I was ready to actively start the blog and begin to write regular blog posts. The reading and understanding of basic concepts was, in itself, a learning task.
- Once I got my blog started, I set new learning goals related to many aspects of blogging, such as photography, social networking, and search engine optimization. Each learning task became a vital piece of the puzzle for my overall learning goals.
- I will continue to learn for a long time! The needs and opportunities for learning experiences are limitless!
- Teachers in middle schools, high schools, and universities routinely teach their students to use metacognitive skills. But, metacognition is a type of thinking that we can all use at any stage of life for lifelong learning!
Enjoy Life Creatively!