“Do you talk with the text?” asked BYU- Hawaii Librarian Zoia Falevai at the Metacognition Workshop on Oct. 10 as students learned techniques to use materials for reading, research, and reports.
Falevai defined metacognition as “the awareness and understanding of your own thought process… thinking about your own thinking.”
“The difference is that studying is looking at the ‘what,’ while learning is looking at the ‘how and why,’” explained Falevai. “As a librarian I tell students where to find the scholarly article but not how to read it or understand it.”
Falevai said the inspiration for metacognition came from from the commandment from God to ponder. She shared her favorite scripture passage, 3 Nephi 17:3, which says, “Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again.”
What is metacognition?
In reflection of the principle, Terri-Lee Bixby, a history special instructor from New York explained, “[Metacognition] is the difference between getting a grade and getting an education.”
Falevai asked the students if they are aware of their own process of thinking. “As students we need to be active learners. You will use this skill for anything you need to understand more.”
She stressed the importance of understanding the reading and said, “Metacognition is breaking it down and asking questions so it makes sense to you and your thinking. Everyone has different ways of approaching something from prior knowledge and experiences.”
Quoting President Dallin H. Oaks, Bixby said, “We live in a time of greatly expanded and disseminated information. But not all of this information is true. We need to be cautious as we seek truth and choose sources for that search.” Bixby noted her appreciation of this statement from Pres. Oaks’ talk, “Truth and the Plan,” as it falls right in line with students.
The students were asked how they read a scholarly source and if they have a personal strategy for analysis.
Peyton Facemyer, a freshman from Utah majoring in business said, “I usually try to read it, but if I don’t understand it, I research something else to see if I understand the definition.”
Speaking of her father’s law school experience, Facemyer said, "Instead of just going through the motions of just passing the tests he actually had to know the subject so he could be a lawyer. This study applies to all fields. It’s not just memorizing, it’s understanding.”
Bixby explained, “Usually I look at the skeleton of the article. I look at the journal it was published in and the author and what year the study was published.” She then goes through the types of sources and does a close reading of article to make sure she has understood the article. If there is anything she does not understand, she uses the citations from the author.
Natahlia Lee, a freshman from New Zealand studying graphic design attended the meeting to learn skills for writing an analytic essay and said metacognition helped her go into depth of understanding.
Lee said she was unfamiliar with metacognition before the class, but she would recommend learning the skill. She said she finds learning the skill of focus as a freshman will serve her well in her future academic endeavors.
With academic deadlines in mind it can be difficult to maintain focus, according to Lee.
Mindfulness meditation was also addressed as Falevai emphasized the importance of controlling a wandering mind while reading or studying. She said, “When your mind is focused on one topic, mindless meditation is bringing the focus back to the present. Use all your senses and bring it back to all what noise you hear, what you see, what the room feels like. You cannot interact with anybody.”
Falevai compared mindfulness meditation to guided meditation where the mind focuses on one subject to de-stress. Above all, she noted, “You are keeping your mind focused on the present.”
Falevai taught even five minutes of mindfulness meditation can help the focus before reading a text. She gave the example of a cell phone ringing. Instead of an interruption, the phone occurrence is reflected to the senses of the subject. She said, “You can hear your cell phone ringing, but you do not think who is calling you.”
Additional tools to aid in metacognition that were discussed are:
Predicting: “I predict... In the next part, I think... I think this is...”
Visualizing: “I picture... I can see...”
Questioning: “A question I have is... I wonder about... Could this mean...”
Making connections: “This is like... This reminds me of...”
Identifying a problem: “I got confused when... I’m not sure of... I didn’t expect…”
Using fix-ups: “I’ll re-read this part... I’ll read on and check back”
Summarizing: “the big idea is... I think the point if. So, what it’s saying is...”
This is the first time the library offered a metacognition workshop for students. As a librarian, Falevai explained, “We help you find resources... for a college student scholarly articles are required to use for research.”
Future workshops will be announced in the Student Bulletin.
The material for metacognition workshops is gathered from Pierce College in 2016 for the conference, “Library West Instruction” in Utah. Falevai has adapted the content specifically for BYUH with the diverse student body in mind.
Falevai earned her master's degree from University of Hawaii Manoa in library education and instructional design from Purdue University.