TEACHING METACOGNITION: THE POWER OF MINDFULNESS
Sample list of mindfulness prompts in the Reflection Portfolio:
This prompt is the first in the series and is designed to focus the students on the subject-matter of the course from the ‘big picture’ perspective. This is a contextualized writing course and the so students are learning about the subject of “sustainability” and environmental science as they acquire and practice professional writing skills. This short video interviews astronauts who participated in NASA’s first successful mission into space. This mission was focused on getting to the moon, but they discovered during the journey that the view of Earth from space was the most profound aspect of the mission.
A view we have seen thousands of times in photographs and screens, this video takes us back to the time when we became consciously aware that we were on “spaceship Earth.” This reflection is the first step in situating the students in a state of conscious awareness of the subject-matter.
This second prompt defines “mindfulness” but also locates the importance of this concept in the students’ field:
What is Mindfulness?
As you have discovered, the field of engineering requires life long learning. An important element of learning is metacognition.
- Connecting with how your prior experience and/or emotions are shaping your thinking
- Noticing the quality/intensity of your thinking
- Directing/Correcting your thinking
Reflecting on these aspects of your thinking helps you to acknowledge your strengths and redirect yourself in areas that are limiting to your learning and development. This process is especially important when you make mistakes, or are disappointed with an outcome. What can you learn from that experience? All success is riddled with failure, so get in the habit of reflecting deeply on this important aspect of learning.
Did you know that Stanford’s School of Engineering developed a consortium just to get engineers to reflect? Indeed. Bottom line: they believe that mindfulness improves engineering. According to Stanford’s Consortium to Promote Reflection in Engineering Education website, “examin[ing] a past experience or performance on a task is a simple strategy that successful engineers use on a regular basis.”
All reflection assignments are classified as participation points, and graded CR/NC. This third reflection asks students to self-evaluate by rating their performance on Formal Paper #1. Students also just completed the peer-review process, and they can often leave that process feeling empowered, or intimidated. This reflection helps build awareness of this experience and process their reaction to criticism.
How successful were you on completing your resume project? What would you rate yourself on a scale of 1-10? Explain your answer.
Thank you for participating in peer-review! What did you learn about yourself in this context? What strengths did you notice?
What areas do you want to focus on so that next time you can improve your experience/outcome? If you did not participate fully, please reflect on this decision. Remember: Think meta-cognitively (think about your thinking). Why did you make that choice?
By the time students complete this reflection, they have had a few successes and a few failures…in fact, I try to time this reflection following a round of tough grading…typically after the Mechanics quiz, which tests their APA style and editing prowess.
1. Reflect honestly on your reaction to a “bad” grade or test score. How do you feel? What do you think? What do you do? Peer Discussion post.
2. Next, read the excerpt from Saga Brigg’s “25 Ways to Develop a Growth Mindset” (below) and label your response in #1 as either a growth or a fixed mindset. Explain how your mindset may help you or hinder your success when navigating failure.
A “growth mindset,” as Dweck calls it, is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a tendency to believe that you can grow. In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (Links to an external site.), she explains that while a “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, a growth mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure “not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.”
The consequences of believing that intelligence and personality can be developed rather than being immutably engrained traits, Dweck found in her two decades of research with both children and adults, are remarkable. She writes:
“Believing that your qualities are carved in stone creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character, well then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics.”
The fixed mindset can negatively impact all aspects of your life, Dweck says.
“I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves in [a learning setting], in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?”
But when you start viewing things as mutable, the situation gives way to the bigger picture.
“This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments, everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”
This is important because it can actually change what you strive for and what you see as success. By changing the definition, significance, and impact of failure, you change the deepest meaning of effort.