Teacher for Learning


Students need to assess the demands of the task, evaluate their own knowledge and skills, plan their progress, monitor their progress, and adjust their strategies as needed.

Self-directed learning and actively taking the time to reflect on one’s own learning is described as metacognition. Developing metacognitive skills through deliberate practice and embedded checkpoints fosters intellectual habits that are valuable across disciplines.

These checkpoints should occur at the beginning of the learning where students are encouraged to practice task assessment and planning. Metacognition should continue through the evaluation of the outcomes and adjust approaches accordingly.

A very important factor for developing this flexible mindset is rooted in students’ self-efficacy. It is extremely useful for instructors to stress the importance of developmental approaches so that they can fully appreciate that intelligence is not fixed.

Deliberate Practice

Strategies to promote metacognition

  • Be explicit; indicate what you don’t want; provide performance criteria.
  • Provide opportunities to peer and self-assess; practice; and give feedback.
  • Ask your students whether the answer they provide is reasonable given the problem.
Study Groups

Here are some helpful prompts to ask your learners:

  • What do I already know about this topic?
  • How does this topic make me feel?
  • Does this topic relate to something I already know?

One activity that can be done at the end of class is Stephen Brook’s critical incident questionnaire (CIQ).

Other metacognitive strategies that lead to self-directed learners are Note-taking (see organization), One Minute Paper (see feedback and practice), Reflective Writing (nuggets), Exam Wrappers, Retrospective Post-Assessment.

Extend Activity

Arrow extending from page

This activity is taken from the Thought Vectors, designed by Dr. Gardner Campbell.

Nuggets: Check out the Faculty Patchbook, and select an article that resonates with you. Take a passage from the article that grabs you in some way and make that passage as meaningful as possible.

It could be a passage that puzzles you, or intrigues you, or resonates strongly with you. It could be a passage you agree with, or one you disagree with. The idea here is that the passage evokes some kind of response in you, one that makes you want to work with the passage to make it just as meaningful as possible. A good length for your nugget is about a paragraph or so. Too much, and it becomes unwieldy. Too little, and you don’t have enough to work with.

How do you make something as meaningful as possible? Well, use your imagination. You’ll probably start by copying and pasting the nugget. Or if you’re feeling very multimedia inclined, read your nugget aloud and make an audio file. From there, consider hyperlinks, illustrations, video clips, animated gifs, screenshots, whatever. Make the experience as rich and interesting as you can.

Obviously, one of the main goals of this assignment is to get you to read carefully and respond imaginatively. Your work with “nuggets” should be both fun and in earnest. It should demonstrate your own deep engagement and stimulate deep engagement for your reader as well.

Culminating Activity

Throughout this module we’ve explored various types of metaphors for teaching and learning.

Prior learning was baggage.

Motivation was drive.

Mastery and organization of knowledge are like component building blocks toward a cohesive structure.

Self-direction and metacognition are like our own internal GPS signaling our own personal wayfinding.

Now it’s time to put it together considering your own teaching philosophy. What is your metaphor for teaching and learning?

Here are some exercises for exploring your teaching philosophy and some metaphors for teaching  from the University of Waterloo.

Find a photo or draw a picture. Narrate why this image represents you and your approach as a teacher.

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