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2000 Robyn Boswell: Future Problem Solving - NZ kids foot it

2000 Alan Cooper: Thinking to learn

2000 Gwen Gawith: Information literacy in action at SCONZ

2000 Gwen Gawith: Blooming questions

1999 Art Costa: An interview with Art Costa

1999 Robyn Boswell: International Future Problem Solving success

1999 Gwen Gawith: The survival of the book: Co-existing with Gog and Magog

1999 Gwen Gawith: Lost the plot: Reading for what?

1999 Gwen Gawith: Rushkoff and visual literacy

1999 Gwen Gawith: KFL: Knowledge Free learning?

1998 Gwen Gawith: Ban projects: Teach information literacy

1998 Gwen Gawith: The cry for deep learning…

1998 Gwen Gawith: The Mercury model of information literacy

1998 David Hyerle: Thinking literacy in an age of ICT

1998 Pauline Donaldson: A virtual classroom with 3500 students

1997 Jeff Bruce and Gwen Gawith: information literacy and Infolink

1997 Gwen Gawith: How to ? or not to?: That is the ?

1997 Gwen Gawith: Unlocking learning: Key words

1996 Gwen Gawith: Epistemic fluency or the cognitive trots!

1995 Gwen Gawith: A serious look at self-efficacy: waking beeping Slooty!

1993 Gwen Gawith: The National Curriculum and the information process

information literacy:
learning & thinking

Thinking to learn

This article was published in Good Teacher, Term 2 2000

Alan Cooper

The greatest advantage we as educators can give the students we teach is to enable them as learners.

The key to all this is the ability to reflect: for the student to be able to metacognate about him/herself in such a way that he/she is able to understand self and as a result take positive steps that take advantage of the strengths, and either build up weaknesses or compensate for them.

An example is what Daniel had written about homework: I sat at the desk, and had it quiet. I usually get into trouble with Mum because she wants me for dinner but I want to get my work done.

This metacognating on his work habits has crucial information about wanting to get work done before going to dinner, despite his mother's call. The normal connotative meaning of persistence is positive. In this case, however, without a greater understanding of himself, for Daniel it is a negative. For Daniel to know himself he must first of all understand why his persistence causes him to behave as he does. This is the Intrapersonal Intelligence - the knowing about ourselves in order to self-direct and adapt - that Gardner talks about.

Once Daniel understands that his persistence drives him to complete a task before he moves on to the next activity, he can self direct accordingly, whether it is getting to dinner or a further academic activity. For instance he could chunk his work, with each chunk bringing closure in keeping with the dinner hour, or simply keep the longer pieces of work until after dinner. In so doing he uses his Intrapersonal Intelligence knowledge to avoid the conflict with his mother in concert with his Interpersonal Intelligence - having sensitivity for others that allow our own advancement. As Gardner tells us, neither of these intelligences can develop without the other, and the above illustrates this well. Understanding the connection is important.

The connections he makes thus enables him in both the academic and social/emotional spheres. The more he understands who he is and why the more positive and in control he becomes. He feels good.

Neurobiologists and the brain friendly classroom knowledge informs us that this feeling good activates the neurotransmitters in the brain (serotonin/endorphin/dopamine). Thus there is a further connection. Success breeds success!

Daniel of course can not be expected to successfully work all this out for himself. The teacher must lead him, and lead him gently toward metacognition. It may take months for that to happen as the teacher's trust has to be earned and is constantly going to be scrutinised. Again the neurobiologists warns us that at 11 or 12 Daniel has moved away from the trust and obedience of the years 0 to 10 and on into the fiercely independent and anti authoritarian teenage years when parental, teacher, and other authority figure directives are no longer easily accepted.

So the teacher's task is not simply to do Multiple Intelligences, to do Learning Styles, to do Intelligent Behaviours, or to do any of the new ideas and innovations that come along as if they were ends in themselves, but to use them to promote and maintain, within the learner, successful strategies for understanding and improving their own learning.

In this way Multiple Intelligence, Learning Styles, Intelligent Behaviours and so on, serve their real purposes as means to an end. That end is giving the learner the knowledge and skills to control his/her learning. If what we choose to do does not do this we need to ask why then are we doing it at all? Learning is too serious a business to have emotional bandwagons, or teachers chasing the latest fad simply to be fashionable.

As our students construct their knowledge through metacognition so do we as teachers need to do the same. Every connection we make between one school of thought, one theory of learning and another needs to be done with a healthy scepticism until the practical evidence is in. Paradox and mirage will not be far away.

Alan Cooper has taught at all levels, from primary to tertiary, including being a deputy principal of a secondary school and principal of St George's Primary School in Wanganui. He now conducts courses for New Zealand educators.