Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Marketing Metacognition

By on January 25, 2009

So I just got the January MindWare catalogue and I realize that here we have a toy catalogue that is solely for metacognitive purchases.  So this got me thinking: how can schools market metacognition?  I realized, of course, that until our standardized tests become a more critical-thinking assessment, however, is there a point in doing so? 

In education there is this internal struggle going on between teaching metacognition (what we know they should know) and teaching test prep skills (what we know will give bang-for-your-buck on test scores.)  

I believe that teaching metacognitively is harder and more challenging on both the teacher and student.  But it’s worth it because our primary job is to prepare kids for life, not for tests.

But wouldn’t it be even grander to see tests reflect more real-life assessments to begin with?  

I recently read that 50 years ago 8 out of 10 jobs were industrial and assembly related, but by the time our students are in the work force, 8 out of 10 jobs will be idea driven.  It may be harder, but, nevertheless, it is their future.    

More importantly, however, is the fact that our standardized tests don’t require the higher-level thinking that real life will throw at them when they are older.   

I understand the challenge that comes with testing metacognition.  How do you design a test such that one can grade it in a multiple-choice format?  Grading multiple choice tests are, I’m sure, cheaper than hiring multiple teachers to subjectively judge written answers as they do for the 7th grade state writing exam.

My solution has to do with learning to pitch metacognition.  If it’s marketed as sexy, if the demand goes up, perhaps test-designers would be more pressured to get on the brain bandwagon.  And if tests start to reflect those skills more, wouldn’t more schools begin to teach to THOSE tests?  

So back to my MindWare catalogue.  Each toy and activity is pitched in its blurb as something that can boost essential skills and critical thinking.  

Wouldn’t it be interesting if tests could say the same?  How would it change the way we teach?



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