Academic journal article Science Scope

Strategies for Learning and Metacognition: Identifying and Remembering Big Ideas

Academic journal article Science Scope

Strategies for Learning and Metacognition: Identifying and Remembering Big Ideas

Article excerpt

How can language enable students not merely to memorize facts, but to learn concepts, theories, and laws? Questions having to do with students' knowledge acquisition--not only in science, but in any content area--emanate from the field of information processing (Miller 1956; Newell and Simon 1972; Simon 1972; Siegler 1978). One common hypothesis of information processing is that as children mature, their short-term memory capacity (known as M-space) increases (Piaget 1970; Pascual-Leone 1988; Case 1992). A first assumption from this hypothesis suggests that learning is limited by physical development and, in contrast to older children and adults, younger children do not possess the working short-term memory for processing complex information, remembering, and solving problems. A second assumption would be that learning continues to increase equally across disciplines as students get older. However, research suggests that students who use strategies to cluster information or unify pieces of information may increase their ability to perform cognitive functions (Miller 1956; Brown and Lawton 1977; Linberg 1980; Reder and Anderson 1980; Brown and Day 1984). An important concept that has emerged from the research is that the cognitive skills used in problem solving, remembering, and storing information are knowledge centered and content centered, not age related (Brown and Lawton 1977; Linberg 1980; Schneider et al. 1993). This notion stresses the importance of prior knowledge, along with learning skills. Research suggests that memory, content knowledge, and learning strategies all affect a student's performance.

Activities that provide students with challenges in patterning, sorting, and the classifying of information help to develop students' conceptualization of class. Classification provides a basis for indexing information for storage and later for the retrieval of that information. The analogy of the computer and human memory provides a useful model of how our memory uses categories to organize and retain the numerous pieces of information that flood our senses. The categories and other associations are developed by the learner to assist in recall and provide context to aid comprehension by recognizing the main idea. The activities in this article offer students an opportunity to examine collections of data and determine the rule for the grouping (classification). It is common for students to encounter systems of classification in biology (phyla), chemistry (periodic chart), and Earth science (minerals). When studying any of these classification systems, the learner is required to distinguish between similarities and differences among group members. This ability is important in putting the lists in some kind of order, and in recognizing items by class. The science curriculum depends on the skill of classification for concept building. As a related study skill, classification promotes visual discrimination, observation, memory development, organizational skills, and problem-solving ability. Students who are skilled in classification easily see the importance of physical characteristics of shape and pattern to form and function. Tables 1-27 list words, abbreviations, or symbols; students can identify the relationship or rule that governs the content within the list. Students should attempt to solve as many of the challenges (Tables 2 through 27) as possible. If a certain challenge appears too difficult, the teacher should feel free to provide additional hints, some of which have been provided (see underneath some of the tables below). Students can use any resource that will help them with the tables (see Table 1 for a completed example). Tables 1-21 are used with permission from the CERTA Corporation (2006).

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Note for the teacher: You can design an informal study to determine which lists are easier or more difficult for students to categorize. …

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