|Prepare: As discussed in Chapter 4 and the Week 4 Instructor Guidance, intentional learning requires focus, commitment, time management, and personal skills. In addition to general study habits, developing sophisticated personal learning strategies will help you own your learning behaviors. Return to the chapter and critically read the scenarios of Dan, Cassie, and Nia in section 4.2, The Importance of Self-Regulation and Metacognition in section 4.3, and the concept of FIT: forge,intensify, and tether in section 4.4. Note how Dan, Cassie, and Nia all lack an understanding of how to be mindful, intentional learners. Their study habits are riddled with common issues, ranging from self-doubt, fear of not doing things right, to overconfidence.|
|Reflect: Carefully review Worksheet 4.1 in Chapter 4. Reflect on your own internal and external success factors and on your academic performance over the past three weeks. Analyze how a lack of self-regulation can hinder academic success and how, conversely, being intentional can lead to increased success and deeper learning. Your honest evaluation begins the process of developing personalized learning strategies and allows you to examine your readiness to take the next steps toward becoming an intentional learner.|
|Write: You will address a learner scenario in your response. Your assigned learner is indicated below based on the first initial of your last name:Dan – Last name A – GCassie – Last name H – LNia – Last name M – ZConsider what your assigned learner could have done to be more successful. Explain two things that the learner could have done to use his or her Learning Patterns more intentionally.Reflect on the past three weeks.Choose one of your Learning Patterns andIdentify a situation where you could have used the chosen Pattern with more intention in this class and explain how you could have forged, intensified, or tethered to be successful.|
ORIdentify a situation where you actually did use the chosen Pattern with more intention in this class and explain how you actually did forge, intensify, or tether to be successful.List your LCI scores in your response.Your initial post should contain a minimum of 250 words.
4.2 Three Student Scenarios
Over the course of this chapter, you will follow three different adult learners. You willmeet them at crucial points in their enrollment, and you will track their consciousdecisions to remain as they are or develop their personal learning strategies andtools. Their decisions will ultimately determine their growth and transformation intointentional learners or college dropouts.
Dan has an assignment to do. He meant to start it at the beginning of the week rightafter it was posted, but has kept putting it off. His deadline is now very close, so he isanxious to get it done.
At 8:30 p.m., after having something to eat and seeing that the rest of the family iswatching television, he heads to his study corner in the bedroom. He settles in, startsup the computer, and realizes he can’t find the notebook in which he jotted downideas for the assignment. While he thinks about where he last saw the notebook, hechecks the sports scores, scans his email, and looks up a website on tires that are onsale (tires: just another thing on the never-ending, unaffordable to-do list).
iStockphoto/ThinkstockDan cannot seem to focus on his workand procrastinates into the nightbecause he does not feel competent inhis abilities. How can he remedy this?
It’s now 9:16 p.m., and Dan is feeling tiredand could use something cold to drink towake himself up. He wanders out to thekitchen, passing the family room and pausingto see what’s happening in the latest episodeof his favorite show (which he is nowmissing because he put off doing hisassignment earlier in the week).
Ten minutes later and back in front of thecomputer, he repositions himself and, insteadof finding his notebook or generating newideas, he is struck by the fact that he has noreal idea of what he’s supposed to be doing. Besides, after receiving feedback on thelast assignment (which was nowhere near as positive as he expected), he doubts thathe can be successful on this one. He thought he had done exactly what was beingcalled for, but the grade he received suggested otherwise. Now he is beginning tothink he might not be able to complete the course. As a result of the repetitive, self-doubting thoughts, Dan stares glumly at the screen for the next half hour. Heaccomplishes nothing.
Even re-reading the pages assigned in his text doesn’t trigger any thoughts. Hedoesn’t take in anything and the words on the screen swim before his eyes. Maybethis isn’t the best time to start this work, he thinks. Maybe tomorrow would be better.
Dan spends the rest of the evening and late into the night attempting to do whatcould be done in 90 minutes or less. He stops eventually, not because his work isfinished, but because he feels tired and insecure, and can’t stand to think about theassignment any longer.
Dan as a Learner
Dan suffers from a basic problem with his self-esteem. Consciously, he wants to dohis work; unconsciously, the task is a terrifying chance to confirm that he isincapable, which is what he thinks he is. There’s a voice in his head, of which he’sprobably unaware, that goes something like this: “This is going to take me ages. Ican’t really do this. Others will probably ace this. Not me. I hate writing, even if it’sjust one paragraph. My thoughts never look right on paper.” Many students like Danare convinced that they are inferior to others. Little do they know that many otherpeople have similar self-doubts.
The second reason Dan struggles with his work is because he needs to be morestrategic in the use of his study habits. He makes some effort, but because he is usinggeneralized rather than personalized study habits, he gets tired, gives up, andreinforces his belief that he is not capable.
Are You Dan?
Dan (S25, P18, TR30, C14)
- Does all right at first, but rarely moves beyond doing the minimum. Self-doubtbuilds until he gets behind and overwhelmed.
- Isn’t comfortable self-reflecting or thinking about himself as a learner.
- Doesn’t ask for help; instead, hides behind his need to appear self-sufficient.
- Is a person of few written or spoken words.
- Is very practical and seeks to “fix” a situation using his own approach toproblem solving.
- Experiences a high degree of self-doubt; he believes that he:
- doesn’t have enough to say.
- cannot see the relevance of the assigned task.
- gets the task done (not well, but done).
- Begins to doubt his ability to complete his degree.
Cassie has an assignment due. She doesn’t want to miss the deadline or post a paperwith errors. Cassie is a conscientious student, and between her family responsibilitiesand her work, she runs a tight schedule. In order to get her studying completed in atimely manner, she sets up a schedule and “works” it. First she hurries to get a mealon the table for her two daughters, listening intently to them talk about their day;then she checks their homework; and finally, she gets them settled in bed, with justenough time left for her to get to her own homework.
Cassie works at the kitchen table. She likes to have music on when she is studying,but tonight she turns it down low so she can comprehend the information that is onthe screen in front of her.
Juan Silva/Digital Vision/Getty ImagesCassie is a perfectionist—which LearningPattern do you think is Use First for her?
She is focusing on the directions for theassignment, but she is concerned becauseshe doesn’t understand what they are askingher to do. The same thing happened whenshe was completing the last assignment, andshe ended up guessing rather than knowingwhat the expectations were. Her guesseswere only partially correct. Cassie cringes asshe thinks about the feedback she received,which included the suggestions that she usefewer words, select words more carefully forgreater clarity, and provide more support from her sources. She was also told thatshe had wandered from the topic and had numerous spelling and punctuation errors.
The clock is ticking, but Cassie’s mind isn’t. She reads and re-reads the directions forthe assignment. She studies each word, trying to figure out what the instructor islooking for. She needs to get started, but her fear of failure holds her back. Finally,she begins to write. After a few minutes she stops, stares at the screen, and thendeletes every word, certain that she is doing it all wrong. Midnight is approaching,and she has yet to make real progress. Panic sets in.
Cassie as a Learner
Cassie is stuck in the classic “be perfect” and “please me” modes that affect learnerswho are taught early in life that mistakes are a sign of imperfection and that pleasingthe teacher is what success in school is all about. Instead of developing theperspective that mistakes are a part of life, and you can learn a great deal from yourmistakes, Cassie is convinced that mistakes are to be avoided at all costs because theyshow others your shortcomings and inabilities. As a result, Cassie is gridlocked in herfear of not doing what is expected—perfectly. Like Dan, she is losing valuable timestuck in a learning quandary of whether to do what she thinks is expected or donothing at all. Because she doesn’t know with certainty what is expected, shehesitates to start the task at hand. She haltingly begins the task, but then deleteswhat she’s done. She has no sense of intention, and she is losing her desire to studyas she unproductively spins her wheels.
Are You Cassie?
Cassie (S20, P29, TR10, C22)
- Wants to please the instructor by showing what she knows.
- Reads the syllabus and weekly requirements, but can get tangled in thespecifics and anxiety about whether she is doing things correctly.
- Gathers lots of information, but worries whether it is the right information andwhether she has enough.
- Can’t organize her words and thoughts; is overwhelmed by all the informationshe has gathered.
- Finds it difficult to edit her own work because she has taken time to select eachword so carefully.
- Experiences a high degree of fear of being wrong. She is afraid that she:
- doesn’t have the right information.
- doesn’t understand the information well enough to write about it.
- won’t express her thoughts clearly or accurately.
- Begins to doubt if she is ever going to complete her degree.
Nia is also a nontraditional student who has just entered the world of college studiesonline. But unlike Dan and Cassie, her life is not encumbered with family. Currently,she is transitioning from 10 years in the military (three deployments) to civilian life.She has wasted no time finding employment while she pursues her college degree.
Nia is a “can-do” person whose service years have been devoted to military personneladministration, primarily payroll. She sees herself as a multitasker—someone with anumber of balls in the air at all times. She is quick on her feet, straightforward, anddeliberate. You always know where you stand when you work with Nia. Some woulddescribe her as a force to be reckoned with.
Tonight, with her study schedule in hand, she sits at her newly purchased desk infront of her state-of-the art computer, which is loaded with the latest software. Shehas the same assignment to complete as Dan and Cassie, and the same deadlinelooming. Like them, she finds the directions for the assignment unclear. But unlikethem, she is driven. Just because the instructor has not made the assignment clear isno reason for Nia to be concerned. She decides that she will clarify the assignmentfor herself and then proceed.
She begins by skimming the assigned materials and drawing her own conclusionsabout the points the readings make. She then reads the directions for the assignment,and while she is as uncertain as Dan and Cassie as to what to include in a “criticalanalysis,” she unhesitatingly starts and completes her response. She is not concernedthat she has not read the feedback on her most recent assignment. She is certain shehas met the instructor’s expectations. Besides, she wants to look forward, notbackward. She is committed to working her way through the course sessions as fastas possible. Nia is a woman on a mission with a clear goal in mind: first the diploma,then a career in human resource management.
Stockbyte/ThinkstockNia completes her assignmentquickly and without hesitation,but that does not mean that shefully understands theassignment or completes itcorrectly. What kind of learner isNia?
She completes the assignment in less than an hour,and moves on to checking her social media sites.When she finishes her updates, she returns to herclass work, and, even though the instructor’sdirections suggest that students re-read their workand double check it for sufficient content, use ofthree references, clarity of thought, and punctuationand grammar, Nia chooses to post her work withoutreviewing or revising it. After all, she knows whatshe wrote and knows it’s brilliant!
The assignment calls for her to do a critical analysisof one of the points raised in the readings and tosupport her analysis using three sources. Nia’sinterpretation of this, however, is to state heropinion of the article, and she does just that. Neverone to use her own words when someone else cansay it better, Nia uses passages from the readings, but she does not credit or usequotation marks for them. Nia’s learning problem is not self-doubt. Her problem as alearner is her ill-placed confidence in her work. She confuses confidence withcompetence.
Nia as a Learner
Nia does not suffer from a lack of self-confidence as a learner, but a lack of beingintentional. Throughout her years in school and in her military service, Nia was anoverachiever striving for recognition and affirmation—which others did not offerbecause she had not earned it. When she doesn’t receive the recognition she feels shedeserves, she blocks out the feedback of others and replaces it with her own messageof “a job well done.”
As a result, Nia frustrates her teachers and alienates her co-workers. Why? Becauseshe does not face herself as a learner. Nia chooses not to be self-reflective and not tolearn from others’ feedback on her performance. She cloaks herself in self-assuranceand denies what others have to offer her; this stops her from developing her abilitiesand skills.
Are You Nia?
Nia (S33, P32, TR22, C27)
- Is strong-willed.
- Operates as her own team.
- Lets her sense of self convince her that she:
- can submit work that is off-track from the actual assignment.
- can ignore feedback.
- will learn nothing from feedback.
- Accepts no feedback, mentoring, guidance, or help when it comes to learning;she:
- argues, rather than listens to, comments and suggestions.
- has little respect for others’ opinions.
- Does not engage in personal reflection.
Dan, Cassie, and Nia all lack an understanding of how to be mindful, intentionallearners. Their study habits are riddled with common issues, ranging from self-doubt,to fear of not doing things right, to overconfidence. Each uses some aspect of thegeneral parameters for studying: having a workspace, setting a study time, and havingthe correct materials. Yet, they are not headed for success because they let otherfactors disrupt their study.
4.3 The Importance of Self-Regulation and Metacognition
Dan, Cassie, and Nia have a number of things in common: they are adult learners, they have numerous outside interests andresponsibilities, and none has mastered a key component of successful learning—self-regulation. This is the ability to consciouslyexamine your own thoughts and behavior, to identify which of them is causing you to be unproductive, and to determine alternativethoughts and behaviors that will lead you to a successful learning outcome.
Self-regulation is steeped in self-discipline—a type of self-discipline that is not rigid but flexible, one that is open to facing reality, aimedat problem solving, and prepared to redirect your energy toward achieving your goal. As Marzano (1992, p. 138) notes, self-regulationinvolves the discipline and focus to:
- Be aware of your own thinking.
- Plan and then monitor your use of time.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of your actions.
- Be open to feedback.
The critical component missing in Dan, Cassie, and Nia’s approaches to learning is self-regulation. Dan does not regulate his time, hisfocus, or his self-doubt; Cassie does not regulate her fear of being wrong or effectively act to clear up her confusion about the assignment;and Nia does not regulate her self-assurance and refusal to consider others’ feedback or opinions of her work.
As a result, they allow their lack of self-awareness to stymie their success. Because they are armed only with the physical resources of aplace to study and the digital technology to do their work, Dan, Cassie, and Nia flounder. Each has a vague sense of how and where theyshould study, but each lacks any form of personal learning tools and personal learning strategies. None of their study effort is done withintention.
The pathway to becoming an intentional learner begins with noticing, understanding, and regulating your thoughts and behavior before,during, and after a learning experience. This learning behavior is known as metacognition, which lies at the heart of intentional learning.It consists of the phases your mind goes through as you are seeking to learn. As you metacognate, you are moving the externalhappenings of the world to the internal operations of your mind. You are taking in the world around you, making sense of it, anddeveloping the means to respond appropriately.
In the context of intentional learning, metacognition is defined as the internal talk that goes on within your mind as you are learning.While its traditional definition is “thinking about thinking,” the pioneers of metacognitive study described it more specifically as “learningto direct one’s own mental processes with the aid of words” (Vygotsky, 1986, p. 108). Your internal talk consists of the “chatter” of yourLearning Patterns as they call to one another—expressing their feelings, concerns, or the actions they want to engage in (see Figure 4.1).Each of your Patterns plays an important role in your learning; each has a different perspective; and each has a distinct voice.
The communication among your Learning Patterns forms your metacognition. Rather than being a distraction, the chatter among yourPatterns allows you to actively listen to how your Patterns are at work within your mind, pulling and tugging you in different directions.This awareness provides you with the insight necessary for “purposeful decision-making about how to proceed with the task” (Baird,Fensham, Gunston, & White, 1991, p. 164). Self-regulation allows you to take charge of your Patterns and “talk back” to them, employingstrategies that help you complete the task you have been given.
4.4 The Action Phases of Metacognition
What follows is a list of the action phases that your mind goes through as it completes a learning task. The terms (see Figure 4.2) arewords chosen to represent what occurs in each phase. These are not scientific terms, but instead learner-friendly descriptive words that allow a student to observe and understand what isgoing on in his or her mind. They were chosen to help students respond to the age-old question: “What are you thinking?” and theequally frustrating criticism frequently leveled at them: “You know I can’t read your mind!”
Phase 1: Mull
Virtually all tasks begin with some form of mulling—meaning you get inside the assignment or the task and seek to understand, “Whatam I being asked to do? Have I ever done this before? What were the results? Do I want to repeat those results or avoid them?” You don’tstart to do anything until you have a sense of where you are going and how you are going to do it. If the voices of your Patterns arecrying out for clearer directions or a greater sense of purpose, then ask for what you need. Don’t let the frustration of not knowing howto start the task escalate from simmering questions to boiling anger. Mulling is healthy; boiling isn’t. To avoid reaching that level offrustration, clarify what is expected of you by decoding the assignment.
Decoding is a learning strategy that helps you mull and connect metacognitively to the instructor’s expectations. The goal of decoding istwofold: 1) to identify and clarify the intent of the directions—that is, what the instructor expects from you; and 2) to complete the taskin the way your instructor expects it to be done.
A pivotal tool to assist in decoding is a word wall; it is a chart divided into four sectors, with each sector labeled for a different LearningPattern (see Figure 4.3). By using the cue words from the word wall to indicate what Patterns are required to complete the task, you candecode assignments, objectives, or any course-related task.
When you are just beginning to learn how to decode, use a generic word wall. As you become experienced at finding the cue words inyour assignments, add more of them to the word wall. As you take more specialized courses, build your own word wall by identifying thekey terms associated with each subject and associating them with each of the four Learning Patterns.
Decoding tasks accurately is the main point of mulling. The steps to decoding are the following:
- First, read the directions for the task.
- Next, circle the verbs, specific terms, and titles that are intended to direct you.
- Then, using the word wall, find the words you circled within the assignment, noting the Learning Pattern that each word falls under. Goback to the directions, and above each word, write the first letter of the Learning Pattern it is directing you to use. See Figure 4.4 for anexample.
By breaking down the assignment into the Learning Patterns required, you have a much clearer understanding of what is expected of you.At least three of the actions to be taken require the use of Precision. Only one requires Sequence and one requires Technical Reasoning.This assignment calls for no Confluence. That means that the instructor is not asking for your outside-the-box ideas or uniqueperspective. The instructor wants an accurate description of critical thinking (Precision) presented in a concise (Technical Reasoning)bulleted list (Sequence). Decoding the task clarified how to proceed and meet the instructor’s expectations.
Now try your hand at decoding the task described in Figure 4.5. Which would you circle as the key action words and specific terms andtitles? Refer to the word wall to find each of your circled words, and determine the letter of the Learning Pattern that should go abovethe word(s). Remember: All terms and phrases fall under Precision even though they may not be listed specifically under that category.
What specific Learning Patterns are going to be required to complete this task? Can you identify when you will need to be using onePattern more than another? Knowing the Patterns that you will be called upon to use when completing a specific task helps you feel moreconfident about what the instructor’s expectations are for the assignment, and what you are being asked to do to complete it.
Dan, Cassie, and Nia all need to learn how to decode their assignments; it will save them valuable time, improve their learning outcomes,and increase their grades. Remember Dan’s dilemma? Instead of generating ideas or organizing his thoughts, Dan became fixated on thebelief that he had no idea what he was supposed to be doing. Cassie was faring even worse: She sat in front of her computer rereadingthe directions for the assignment, trying to guess what the instructor wanted her to do. Nia didn’t even realize that she needed to takethe time to mull and decode the assignment, which required a critical analysis with support from three sources. She simply wrote a paperstating her opinion of the article.
All three used their study time inefficiently and ineffectively because they did not take the time to mull the assignment and decode it. Ifthey had, they would have saved valuable time and submitted work that matched the expectations of the instructor.
Phase 2: Connect
The second action phase of metacognition is the act of mindfully connecting to the assignment. If you have mulled and decoded theassignment accurately, then you begin to make connections to the requirements of the task. Of course there are various types ofassignments, but most involve critical reading and critical writing, and each requires that you interact with text.
Connecting to Your Reading
Using the steps below to guide you, connect your ideas and experiences to the content of an assigned reading(s):
- As you’re reading, think of a similar assignment you’ve had in the past. In your mind, can you begin to compare what you are readingnow to what you have read in the past?
- Jot down questions that cross your mind. Post your questions and read others’ responses to them.
- Search for relevancy in the assigned reading. “Deep read” the passage, rather than skimming it.
- Anticipate the conclusion of the assigned reading before you complete it. Are you surprised by the outcome?
Understand what you are reading:
- Look for a thread of logic or a progression of thought (e.g., Step 1, Step 2, Step 3).
- Pick out new terminology and look up words you didn’t know.
- Search for the central point; pull it together from different parts of the reading if it is not explicitly stated.
- Consider the reading from several different angles.
Connect to the points in what you are reading by asking yourself:
- Do you feel you were “of like mind” with the author?
- Do the facts speak to you?
- Can you relate your own experiences to its message?
- Do you see any parts of the reading as a jumping off point for your own thinking?
Regardless of the type of assignment, intentional learners use their Learning Patterns to connect to the task, first by mulling anddecoding, and next by connecting to it.
Neither Dan, nor Cassie, nor Nia invest in connecting to their assignments. Each allows personal issues, including self-doubt, fear offailure, and lack of personal investment of time, to get in the way of completing the assignment successfully. None is likely to succeed oncurrent or future assignments if each continues his or her current approach. Conversely, if they allow their Patterns to guide them inconnecting fully with the task at hand, they are much more likely to succeed (Johnston, 2005; Johnston, 2006).
FIT: Forge, Intensify, Tether
A second aspect of connecting to the assignment involves fitting yourself to the task. FIT is an acronym comprised of the first letter of thewords Forge, Intensify, and Tether. FIT describes the type of self-regulation you need to use in order to fit your Learning Patternsspecifically to the task you are facing. Your goal should be to match the amount of each Learning Pattern required of you to the amount ofthat Pattern you use.
Take for example, the task decoded earlier (see Figure 4.4):
“Write in bulleted form a brief description of critical thinking.”
When decoded, you recognize that the task requires you to use Precision (as noted by three different terms, write, define, and criticalthinking) first and foremost. Suppose your Precision, at a score of 18, is borderline Avoid/Use as Needed. In order for you to complete thetask successfully, you will need to temporarily increase or forge your Precision to fit the task. Once you are conscious of the possibledisconnect between the assignment and your Learning Patterns, you can do something about it. Even though you don’t enjoy operating ata high level of Precision, you are able to do so once you recognize what the task calls for and you find a strategy to help you increaseyour Precision to complete the task.
As noted in Figure 4.5, the assignment you decoded requires you to do the following:
Of the 17 key words decoded in this assignment, 12 require the use of Precision. Two require Sequence, and three require TechnicalReasoning. None requires the use of Confluence. Clearly the assignment requires a great deal of Precision and a moderate use of Sequenceand Technical Reasoning. But what if your Learning Patterns don’t match the assignment? Do you give up? No, you take action and forgethe Pattern until it fits the level of Precision required by the assignment.
The term forge is intended to be applied to those Patterns that fall between 07 and 17 on the LCI “degree of use” continuum. The purposeof forging a Pattern is to increase the use and performance of it. Forging requires you to work in a way that you would usually prefer notto. However, because you know the Pattern is necessary for the task, you seek to make proper and appropriate use of it. Impossible? No.Does it require your attention and intention? Absolutely! It also requires an increased use of mental energy.
The amount of mental energy needed to alter your natural level of performance in a Pattern is directly related to the degree you arerequired to use it. For example, Dan avoids Confluence (14). He is not a risk-taker, and this assignment is asking him to do something hehas never done before. In addition, he almost avoids Precision (18). Therefore, when he is required to “write, describe, and explain” aspecific term, his tendency to avoid Precision has him feeling stressed and filled with doubt about his writing ability. Consequently, heneeds to use a significant amount of energy to intensify (energize) his Precision and forge (increase) his Confluence in order to freehimself to take on the assignment and believe he can achieve.
Cassie, too, has a Pattern she avoids: Technical Reasoning (10). It is not easy for Cassie to problem-solve. By not knowing how to use herTechnical Reasoning to ground her Precision (29) and make it work for her, she allows her mind to go round and round in circles, nevercertain of what to do or how to proceed. Her Technical Reasoning could prove helpful to her in completing the assignment if she knewhow to put forth the mental energy to forge its use. For example, she could use her Sequence to plan a step-by-step approach to forgingher Technical Reasoning and solve the problem she is facing.
Forging is a metacognitive skill that takes patience, practice, and determination. Forging a Pattern is a challenge. The same is not the caseif you use a Pattern at the Use as Needed level. Then increasing the use of it requires only that you intensify it.
The term intensify is intended to be used with the Patterns that you Use as Needed. Use as Needed Patterns scores fall from 18 to 24 onthe LCI continuum. They are the “quiet” ones that stay in the background until called upon. If they operate closer to the Avoid edge of theUse as Needed continuum, then they remain almost dormant unless awakened. If they operate at close to the Use First edge of the Use asNeeded continuum, then they are more actively and readily available for use without a great deal of effort. Your Use as Needed Patternsprovide a rich set of options for you. They provide a counterweight to the extremes of your Use First and Avoid Patterns.
Dan, Cassie, and Nia provide you with good examples of how their Use as Needed Patterns can help balance the use of their otherPatterns. Dan Uses Precision as Needed, while Nia Uses Technical Reasoning as Needed. Cassie has two Use as Needed Patterns, Sequenceand Confluence. If they were aware of the potential power of their Use as Needed Patterns, their study sessions would be moreproductive. Dan could intensify his Precision and use the increased energy to address the degree of Precision the writing assignment iscalling for, thus raising his confidence and lowering his self-doubt. Cassie could awaken her Sequence and use it to feel more secure infollowing the assignment’s directions. She could also use her Confluence to lessen her fear of doing the assignment incorrectly, andinstead, free up her Precision to be willing to take a little risk and trust that she is using the right words when she makes her points inher analysis.
Nia also has a Pattern that could help her regulate her study behaviors. In Nia’s case, it is her Use as Needed Pattern of TechnicalReasoning. If she were to intensify it, she would be better prepared to complete her written response because her Technical Reasoningwould demand that she carefully craft it to meet the assignment’s specifications. Of course, Nia also has three Patterns that she Uses Firstthat drive her behaviors as a student in ways that are not always productive. In many cases, she needs to tether them.
The term tether is applied to those Patterns you Use First. These are the Patterns that fall into the 25 to 35 range on the LCI scoringcontinuum. These Patterns drive your life and your learning.
Of course, the challenge of using a combination of Use First Patterns in concert with your Avoid and Use as Needed Patterns is to do sowith intention. In the case of your Use First Patterns, you must stay alert for when these dominating Patterns need to be tethered—thatis, pulled back, held down, or restrained.
Tethering involves addressing those mental processes that leave you feeling self-assured and confident. They sometimes must berestrained because Use First Patterns do not necessarily represent competence. Their confidence is sometimes misplaced, particularlywhen they are not the dominant Patterns required for a task. Thus, tethering your Use First Patterns helps you gain perspective andanchors you to the current reality of the assignment, and it prevents you from getting stuck trying to do things the assignment doesn’trequire or allow.
Dan, Cassie, and Nia all have Use First Patterns that warrant tethering because even Use First Patterns can mislead a learner. For example,Dan could benefit from tethering his Technical Reasoning (30), his tendency to use few words, which can inhibit his Use as NeededPrecision (18). In the case of the assignment calling for an analysis with detailed support from three sources, he needs to intensify hisPrecision and tether his Technical Reasoning in order to write a paper of an acceptable length, with sufficient supporting details.
Cassie could benefit from tethering her Precision (29) because it makes demands for perfection on virtually everything she does. HerSequence (20) never organizes well enough; her Confluence (22) never has good enough ideas; and her Technical Reasoning (10) isvirtually ignored because it doesn’t help her have the precise words to assist her when writing. When Cassie doesn’t tether her Precision,all of her other Patterns are stifled.
Nia’s three Use First Patterns are a force to be reckoned with. Collectively, her Sequence (33), Precision (32), and Confluence (27) haveher believing she can tune out the rest of the world and listen only to what she perceives to be the right structure (Sequence), the bestanswer (Precision), and the greatest idea (Confluence). Tethering for Nia is vital. Only then will she be able to connect to the worldoutside of herself. Left untethered, Nia is destined to continue down an isolated pathway as a Strong-Willed learner unable to recognizehow she allowed her Patterns to ambush her success.
“FITing” your Patterns to a task takes energy. The task at hand must be carefully and accurately decoded. The amount of resourcesneeded to accomplish the task needs to be carefully assessed. Consequently, it is vital that you give yourself the space emotionally,mentally, and physically to FIT your Patterns to the task. Build in opportunities to regenerate your energy if you have been tethering orforging your Patterns for several hours at a time, because the mental workout you will experience is every bit as tiring as an hour or twoat the gym.
Know, however, that the effort is well worth it. Never underestimate the tremendous feeling of accomplishment that awaits you when youhave succeeded in completing a task to a degree that you have not achieved before. Always keep in mind that “Learning strategies aremost effective when students can make informed choices about which strategies to use in particular learning situations” (Lovett, 2008).
Phase 3: Rehearse
A change in study behavior does not happen without practice. The metacognitive term is rehearse, a robust form of practice. Rehearseinvolves studying the situation, preparing to meet expectations, running through the actual sequence of completing the assigned task ortest, and then repeating the actions for the purpose of improving your performance or outcome. The rehearse phase allows your Patternsto go through a trial run to make certain that the performance of the task, the completion of the project, and/or the public presentationwill meet the standards set by the instructor. Rehearsal prepares for expression by allowing any mistakes to be identified and corrected inadvance of submitting the final product.
The centerpiece of the rehearsal phase is the personal learning tool called the strategy card. After decoding and strategizing how to FITyour Patterns to the task, you can use your knowledge of your Patterns to develop personal strategies to direct your efforts. The mostefficient way to do this is to develop a personal strategy card (see Figure 4.6).
Personal strategy cards are essential to effective rehearsal because they help you address the requirements that you have decoded fromthe assignment and they help you connect to the instructor’s expectations. Strategy cards help you organize your approach to achievingsuccess. They allow you to practice “smarter, not harder.” You are more effective when you develop a strategy card for each major task orassignment. In doing so, you become more disciplined and you match your efforts to each requirement. Dan, Cassie, and Nia can eachbenefit from developing personal strategy cards to guide their study and completion of work.
Dan begins his next assignment using some personal learning strategies and tools. See Figure 4.7 for the new assignment, which Dan hasdecoded. Then, using a strategy card, he matches his Patterns to the task, and develops strategies that will help him see the path to beingsuccessful, and thereby motivate him to complete the task efficiently and effectively.
Before he understood himself as a learner, Dan would have looked at the task and given up. Now that he knows how to metacognitivelymake his Patterns work for him, he invests himself in completing the task. Read through Dan’s strategy card (see Figure 4.8). What canyou learn from Dan’s example?
Now it’s your turn. Using the same assignment as Dan, complete a strategy card in Worksheet 4.2. Begin by filling in your LCI scores andexplaining the degree to which you use each of your Patterns. Remember, you can refer to the Personal Learning Profile you developed inChapter 2.
Next, look at the assignment again in Figure 4.7. How well does what you are being asked to do match with your Learning Patterns?Where are your Patterns comfortable? Where do you experience a sense of discomfort? Once you have identified the fit of your Patternsto the task, begin to fill in your strategy card.
Note that in order to FIT who you are as a learner to the assignment, you may need to use strategies in just one area, or in several. Seehow well your Patterns match or to what degree you will need to forge, intensify, and tether in each. Then complete the worksheet.
Recording the strategies you use to achieve success in one assignment creates a resource bank that you can draw on the next time youare confronted with a similar one. Having a set of effective strategies also raises your confidence and decreases your self-doubt. Havingpersonal learning strategies disciplines you to put forth intentional, focused effort. Developing a strategy card requires you to invest, notavoid, and dig deeper, rather than skim the surface of the task at hand. Using a strategy card keeps you grounded in the requirements ofeach assignment and able to use your Learning Patterns skillfully.
Phase 4: Attend
In order to maintain the level of insight you gained about yourself as you rehearsed, you will need to attend to using the strategies thatbrought you to a new level of achievement. Often, students who begin to use personal strategy cards that help them understand, study,and complete learning tasks set them by the wayside once they have learned how to complete certain types of assignments successfully.They decide to operate on autopilot, based on the strategies they have used so far. In doing so, they jeopardize all the study ground theyhave just conquered. They can quickly find themselves back to square one, especially when a new type of assignment rattles them.(Author’s note: As one who avoids Sequence, I frequently create a strategy card to help meet book deadlines or to complete what for meare tedious tasks, such as writing a grant proposal that is based on a strict set of requirements that allow for no deviation from theformat. It works on many levels, personally and professionally.)
The metacognitive phase that cautions you to attend to—that is, to pay attention to—a task also disciplines you to stay focused and notwaver from the high level of performance you have developed when using your personal strategies. Attending to a learning task is to bein an active state of focus, clearing away distractions, and concentrating on what you need to consciously do to complete the task well. Toattend means you don’t let up; you’ll continue to operate at a high level of focused energy. The reason this is so important is that whenyou submit your work, or complete an assessment, or in any way perform the action that you have been rehearsing, you want it to occurat the same high level of performance that you achieved during the rehearsal phase.
How many times have you seen a playoff in which one team wins its division easily and must wait for its opponents to finish out a closeseries? When they finally begin the playoffs, supposedly as the dominant team, the team’s play is lackluster. Often, they can’t get back themojo they had in the earlier round. The team that finishes first often loses its ability to attend at the same level as the rival team thatexperienced no downtime. The attend phase of metacognition is when you need to be coaching, encouraging, and challenging yourLearning Patterns to be on alert and to continue doing the work of intentional learning.
Phase 5: Express
To express means to go public with what you have been rehearsing. It’s the real thing. To reach the metacognitive phase of expressindicates that you have mulled, decoded, connected, FITed, rehearsed, developed personal strategies, and attended to maintaining a highlevel of performance. The paper being submitted is your best work. The project being presented is your best work. The comments beingposted represent your best effort. All of your effort has been processed and refined. It is the result of not mere study habits, but themetacognitive behaviors of an intentional learner determined to succeed.
Phase 6: Reflective Practice—Assess, Reflect, Revisit
The final phases of metacognition form the basis of something called reflective practice, which is actually a part of critical thinking.Reflective practice is also known as double-looped learning because it takes you back to examine the defining questions you askedyourself as you entered into doing the assignment (your assumptions, actions, and decisions) and the results you achieved at theconclusion (success, partial success, or failure). Reflective practice allows you to learn from your decisions and actions while determiningtheir effectiveness. Don’t skip these vital stages, as they help you gain confidence and avoid repeating any mistakes.
The metacognitive phases, when faithfully followed, always include a time to assess. Unlike external assessment or testing, the assessphase of metacognition means confronting questions internally, such as “What have I really achieved?” and “To what degree have Iachieved it?”
You need to ask yourself, “What is the outcome of my effort?” and let the feedback from your instructor lead you to consider the resultsof your efforts. The metacognitive phase that follows links to this one—it too focuses on the question, “What is the outcome of my effort?”
When you reflect, you begin your internal conversation with “As a result of my effort, I. . ..” and you conclude with, “Next time, I will. . .”When you reflect, you ask, “Where does the buck stop? Who is responsible for this success? This failure? This mess?”
This is the piece of professional and personal growth you may have been missing. After all, anyone can use the phrase “mistakes havebeen made” to anonymously attribute failure and blame. But only mindful individuals with a clear sense of their personal LearningPatterns face themselves (Osterman & Kottkamp, 2004) and say precisely, “I screwed up, and I am prepared to take the heat for it.”
Nia, the Strong-Willed learner, avoids this phase of learning at all costs. Her unwillingness to reflect costs her. Using your metacognitionwell equips you to reach a powerful self-awareness and to be open to ask, “What did I allow myself to do? What did I fail to do? Wheredid my Learning Patterns steer me off course?”
This is the autopsy of failure and of success. Without intentionally focusing on your actions, approaches, and thoughts, you are doomed tocontinue to achieve less than you could. You cannot continue to repeat the same actions, believing that they will yield a different outcome.Reflection requires us to face ourselves—specifically how we have used our metacognitive talk and our self-correcting opportunities andhow we have failed to do so. This is the key to being an intentional learner.
The good news found in reflective practice is that it does not conclude with simply assigning blame or with rewarding success. Reflectivepractice invites you instead to revisit your metacognitive phases, noting both those that enriched and those that frustrated your venture.Revisiting metacognitive decisions serves to reinforce the specific strategies that led to success and to reconsider those that led to failure.Revisiting grows both metacognitive capacity and personal insight.
There is no doubt that when you understand your Learning Patterns and are aware of the internal talk of your Patterns as they workthrough the metacognitive phases, you are well equipped, as Peter Senge, the guru of professional development, describes, “to consistentlyenhance your capacity to produce results that are truly important to you” (1999, p. 45).
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