Walking and Talking

Today was no different from any other day.  I expected the usual challenges-my mindset (Am I doing this today or am I looking for an excuse?), the weather, which in the past couple of weeks has been hit or miss, and the terrain (oh those hills!). I was getting ready for my daily exercise-walking about 4 miles. I laced up my sneakers and headed out the door because when the time is right I have to just do it. As I said, today was no different from any other day except that today before my walk I read the first chapter of How We Think by John Dewey. In this chapter Dewey defines thinking in two ways; random thinking-the mind in a relaxed state, unconnected thoughts flowing in and out without conscious effort and reflective thinking-connected, focused thoughts based on beliefs and seeking evidence to support beliefs to draw conclusions. I needed some walking and talking time to process what I had just read.

I headed out the door, down the driveway and onto the street. I could feel the humidity in the air but today that did not bother me. As a matter of fact, I barely noticed the humidity. My mind thinking about something else-seeking a connection between Dewey’s ideas on thinking and my thought on metacognition. I have toyed with this idea of metacognition and its importance in teaching reading and writing. But the way Dewey defined reflective thinking kicked my thinking into high gear! How is metacognition and reflective thinking the same or different? With every step I took, my awareness of my surroundings diminished and the conversation in my head took over.

I think metacognition is important for teachers to understand if they are going to teach reading and writing well. A teacher must become aware of what happens in his/her mind when he/she reads and writes. Becoming aware of the strategies used to understand text when reading and strategies used to communicate ideas in writing are important for effective instruction. Once the teacher is aware of  his/her understanding, the teacher is able to decide when and why he/she used strategies and the result of the strategy use. Awareness and reflection is the experience needed to form the foundation for instruction. This is how I understand the role of metacognition in teaching reading and writing. However, Dewey presents this idea of reflective thinking in which one thought determines the next thought threaded by a common idea. Is metacognition paying attention to what connects thinking, or analyzing the relationship between thoughts?

Did I feel a rain drop? Oh, it can’t rain now, I have not fully understood my thinking yet! AND I am far from home…where can I find shelter? Oh well, I’ll just keep going and see what happens.

Is metacognition an awareness of what prompted the first thought and later thoughts?

Go away clouds! I have thinking to do!

Here’s how I see the relationship between reflective thinking and metacognition:

first thought=awareness of understanding

later, related thoughts=investigation to deepen understanding (how do I understand this?)

draw conclusion=knowledge (what I now know because of strategy use)

Oh, wow, I’m almost home.”

As I approached the crest of the final hill, my house in sight, I realized that what was usually an exhausting walk was almost over and I had not noticed my usual challenges. Yes, I was winded and there were a few raindrop stains on my clothes and glasses, but as I slowed my pace (walking and thinking) I had a sense of accomplishment. Today, this sense of accomplishment was different from most days. Today, not only did I complete my walk but I also came to an understanding about the relationship between reflective thinking and metacognition. What a powerful feeling!

How has walking (or any thing else you might do) and talking helped you sort out your thinking?

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