I named my blog Metawriting for a reason. One of the foundational principles of my theory of teaching writing (or fostering writers as I prefer to think of it) is that in order to improve writing we need to think about writing and talk about writing – our writing as well as the writing of others. This is one of the reasons why creating a community of writers is so central to my classroom practice. My fascination with metawriting emerged from my quest to understand learning transfer – when and how are students able to transfer knowledge and skills learned in one setting (or class) to another. As a result, during my evolutionary journey as an educator I also became a metateacher and this week’s blog post will offer three reasons why you should become a metateacher too.
You can be a better teacher
If you think you have nothing left to learn and nowhere to improve as a teacher then you need to retire right now – seriously. Teaching is a journey and we should be constantly learning and growing. Obviously reflection is a key part of that journey, but so is teaching about our teaching. Forcing ourselves to explain our decisions and actions to others (administrators, peers, students, and other constituencies) can often shed light on ugly problems in our practice. This can be uncomfortable and even distressing, but it can also help us see these challenges in new ways and offers others’ the opportunity to help us solve these problems. This process can help us learn things about our practice and improve it. It probably won’t be easy and it won’t be pretty, but the benefits can be immeasurable.
You can be a better learner
Regularly practicing metateaching can help you become a better learner, because it changes the ways that you see and think about your classroom, your students, and your practice (heck, your life, I know metateaching has changed other relationships in my life). Metateaching rewires your brain in important ways so when you are exposed to new ideas and questions then you approach them differently than before.
You can be a better role model
Most teachers want their students to be good learners, to be critical thinkers. At Morehead State University, our current Quality Enhancement Plan is focused on critical thinking. Transfer continues to be an ongoing concern as well. I think an essential part of this process of developing as a learner and thinker (not to mention transferring knowledge and skills) is becoming a metalearner – developing an awareness of how you learn and think and, perhaps more important, understanding how new skills and knowledge builds on or extends from previous skills and knowledge. However, this is not usually something that comes naturally to people and, in my opinion, something we hinder rather than help during so much of formal education today (due to our excessive focus on compliance and obsessive attendance to mandatory testing). The best way to be help our students become metalearners is to model metalearning — and becoming metateachers.
I spend a lot of time metateaching in my classroom and I have seen its impact on my students as well as my practice. Are you a metateacher? What do you think are the benefits of metateaching? Is it necessary to be a metateacher to support metalearning?
Notes (some readings that influenced my thinking while writing this post):