1. Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the world works. If their initial understanding is not engaged, they
may fail to grasp the new concepts and information that are taught, or they may learn them for purposes of a test but revert to their preconceptions outside the classroom.
Students at a variety of ages persist in their beliefs that seasons
are caused by the earth’s distance from the sun rather than by the tilt of the earth (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 1987), or that an object that had been tossed in the air has both the force of gravity and the force of the hand that tossed
it acting on it, despite training to the contrary (Clement, 1982). For the scientific understanding to replace the naïve understanding, students must reveal the latter and have the opportunity to see where it falls short.
2. To develop
competence in an area of inquiry, students must: (a) have a deep foundation of factual knowledge, (b) understand facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework, and (c) organize knowledge in ways that facilitate retrieval and application.
Experts, regardless of the field, always draw on a richly structured information base; they are not just “good thinkers” or “smart people.” The ability to plan a task, to notice patterns, to generate reasonable arguments and explanations,
and to draw analogies to other problems are all more closely intertwined with factual knowledge than was once believed.
To develop competence in an area of inquiry, students must have opportunities to learn with understanding. Deep understanding of
subject matter transforms factual information into usable knowledge. A pronounced difference between experts and novices is that experts’ command of concepts shapes their understanding of new information: it allows them to see patterns, relationships,
or discrepancies that are not apparent to novices. They do not necessarily have better overall memories than other people. But their conceptual understanding allows them to extract a level of meaning from information that is not apparent to novices, and this
helps them select and remember relevant information. Experts are also able to fluently access relevant knowledge because their understanding of subject matter allows them to quickly identify what is relevant. Hence, their attention is not overtaxed by complex
3. A “metacognitive” approach to instruction can help students learn to take control of their own learning by defining learning goals and monitoring their progress in achieving them.
In research with experts
who were asked to verbalize their thinking as they worked, it was revealed that they monitored their own understanding carefully, making note of when additional information was required for understanding, whether new information was consistent with what they
already knew, and what analogies could be drawn that would advance their understanding. These meta-cognitive monitoring activities are an important component of what is called adaptive expertise (Hatano and Inagaki, 1986).
Because metacognition often
takes the form of an internal conversation, it can easily be assumed that individuals will develop the internal dialogue on their own. Yet many of the strategies we use for thinking reflect cultural norms and methods of inquiry (Hutchins, 1995; Brice-Heath,
1981, 1983; Suina and Smolkin, 1994). Research has demonstrated that children can be taught these strategies, including the ability to predict outcomes, explain to oneself in order to improve understanding, note failures to comprehend, activate background
knowledge, plan ahead, and apportion time and memory. Reciprocal teaching, for example, is a technique designed to improve students’ reading comprehension by helping them explicate, elaborate, and monitor their understanding as they read (Palincsar and
(excerpts from How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School, Committee on Developments in the Science of Learning:
Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 1999, expanded Edition 2000, retrieved online November 14, 2015 http://www.colorado.edu/MCDB/LearningBiology/readings/How-people-learn.pdf