Did you know that Tiger Woods can stop a golf stroke in mid swing if he doesn’t think it’s going to be a good one? Tiger Woods is always consciously monitoring his golf skills in order to hone in and improve on them.
Consciously controlling thoughts and actions is something that experts regularly do, and it is a major factor that sets them apart from everyone else. Metacognition is the conscious control of one’s thinking and learning, and it’s absolutely the most important component to learning. For experts, metacognition takes the form of self regulation. Experts are able to critically examine their own knowledge and skills, and then identify gaps. Once they identify the gaps, they seek to either acquire the missing knowledge, or to practice the needed skill.
This is exactly the process that teachers do when they monitor the performance of their students. But for experts they are able to do this on their own without the assistance of a teacher. In fact, many experts learn the techniques for monitoring learning from their own coaches or tutors. Once the experts reach a level of maturity, they are able to consciously monitor their performance after the period of tutoring or coaching has finished. Good metacognitive skills of self-regulation is something that everyone should master in order to learn throughout their lives.
With the amount of knowledge in the world exploding, it is the person who can pin-point exactly what he or she needs to learn in order to improve their abilities who will be the most successful. And that person must also know exactly how to can go about acquiring those abilities. By allowing older students to have more control over their own learning, they can begin to develop the skills of metacognition. Through project-based learning, and other independent methods, students can begin to pin-point on their own the areas where they need improvement or practice.