Monday, April 1, 2013


I think that metacognition is perhaps one of the most important kinds of knowledge.  A person who is more aware of themself as a cognitive processor is more likely in my opinion to effectively retain and categorize knowledge. Higher metacognition could also result in more complex cognitive schemas that would allow a person to network stored information more efficiently and creatively. Arguably school is where children begin to form some of their most formal cognitive schemas and are most consciously aware of the fact that one is learning and retaining information. A significant amount of learning in school may be implicit as well, but school is a place where students’ metacognition can be ripened in an active environment that would also allow a certain level of awareness of the development of higher metacognition.
            One way to improve student’s metacognition would be teaching them about thought processes. For example, even students in elementary school would be able to grasp the barriers to rational reasoning. The textbook pointed out that one of the problems with low metacognition was that students were too confident that they would do well on a test because they were not aware which parts of the lessons they needed to spend more time comprehending. This reminds me quite a bit of the confirmation bias. Students are assuming that they will do better on a test because their overconfidence leads them to ignore the fact that they are not fully understanding the information they are learning. This leads students to falsely confirm that they will do much better on the test than their actual abilities would allow. With lower metacognition, students tend to be optimistic about their abilities. This “optimism bias” is a sort of parallel of the confirmation bias. If students were to learn about how we rationally reason and what keeps humans from doing so, they would be much more aware of how they retain information and apply what they are learning. Not to imply that students should become pessimistic learners, but rather that students should always keep of critical mind about their own mind. And that is why I think teaching students about reasoning will result in higher metacognition and improvement of their performance and, most importantly, allow students to more easily make these improvements.
            I also think that in order to improve metacognition in general, humans should continue to investigate how they think and know. I think the study of cognitive ethology would better our own understanding of our own theory of mind, which is likely why young chimps are often tested in comparison and/or relation to children. Whether or not animals have their own theory of mind is interesting to think about, but also reminds me of Nietzsche’s “I think therefore I am.” I believe any cognitive creature might be aware that they are thinking. I’ve always thought concepts like anthromorphism demonstrate egotistical assumptions that human abilities and qualities are something so specific to our species and cognitive abilities. What I think our human superiority complex is keeping us from is considering for a moment that studying animals can help overcome barriers and conflicts of studying humans. A lot of veterinarians believe that medical knowledge and practice with animals can improve how medicine is practiced on humans because vets have to work without being able to communicate with their patients. I propose that studying an animal’s cognitive function would provide different perspectives on studying cognitive function.
            And, of course, improving understanding of cognitive function is one way of helping individuals improve their own metacognition. I think testing or analyzing an individual’s metacognition is a much more effective way of understanding their intelligence than any sort of IQ or standardized test. In a way the whole point of a chapter about “Thinking and Intelligence” is to provide knowledge about knowledge and get students thinking about thinking. Learning basic concepts about knowledge and thinking are extremely important, and, like in the case of foreign language, the sooner a person learns the better.

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