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Maturing in Kung Fu: The Metacognition Principle (Part 2)

For those of you who follow my blogs, you’re familiar with a few of my last articles outlining some principles of kung fu.  For those of you who are new to my website, allow me to share links to the articles I’m talking about (in the order they were released):

In this article I would like to expand on our conversation of the metacognition principle and provide some insight on how this principle can be taught to students.

David Dunning, Kerri Johnson, Joyce Ehrlinger and Justin Kruger, in their book Why People Fail to Recgonize Their Own Incompetence, found that “people tend to be blissfully unaware of their incompetence,” lacking “insight about deficiencies in their intellectual and social skills.”  They warn that “if people lack the skills to produce correct answers, they are also cursed with an inability to know when their answers, or anyone else’s, are right or wrong.”

For martial artists such lack of ability (i.e., being able to do what you intend to do the moment you intend to do it) can be detrimental.  So, when we’re faced with the prospects of ignorance, inability, false-confidence, arrogance, and other attributes that could hinder our abilities, we must ask ourselves, “What can we do about it?”  Effectively.  Efficiently.  There’s too much at stake to hope on luck.

Well, the same book I listed above suggests that increased metacognitive abilities—to learn specific (and correct) skills, how to recognize them, and how to practice them—is needed.  So, let’s look at ways instructors can empower their students to mature in this area:

1.) Model Your Thought Processes.

questions answers signage
Photo by Pixabay on

A teacher could, while performing a form (i.e., kata) demonstrate their own thought processes while performing the form.  For example: How do they determine the purpose of their structure, energy or motions (or the combined whole)?  How do they connect new ideas (maybe expressed by students or other instructors) to previous knowledge?  How do they track their own understanding of each section of the form?  How do they assess what they’ve learned?  How do they decide the changing pace of the form?

2.)  Create Simple Tasks For Students To Demonstrate Thinking

Teachers can require students to keep a journal during and away from class to track the student’s individual thinking as they process lessons taught and enlightened learning on their own.  It’s best, though, if teachers are specific in their instructions on this; for example, guide students to mark one moment in their training they found surprising, confusing, or erroneous and explain their reaction.

3.)  Increase Conversation Between Students & Instructor

Have a student who has been with you for awhile to show a new student something.  While doing this task, observe and correct as necessary, but allow the guiding student to correct themselves, some.  Allow them to identify things that they could do better and find a solution for doing them better.  This brings understanding.

4.)  Conduct Pre- and Post- Lesson Polls

Bring up a subject that you plan to cover and take a poll of students, seeking to identify their attitudes and preconceived notions about it; then, after class gauge whether students have changed their minds based on what they’ve learned.

5.)  How did you figure that out?

20170302_110050(0)When a student corrects something or changes their behavior, ask them how they figured it out.  This helps students reflect on the learning strategies they employ and gives their classmates an opportunity to see how their peers learn.

6.)  Make Revisions Part Of Class

Students benefit tremendously from opportunities to revise their work and reflect on how their thinking has improved. This gives them the chance to understand what errors they made the first time around and how the learning process has led them to see the problem differently.

“[I]t is terribly important that in explicit and concerted ways we make students aware of themselves as learners. We must regularly ask, not only ‘What are you learning?’ but ‘How are you learning?’ We must confront them with the effectiveness (more often ineffectiveness) of their approaches. We must offer alternatives and then challenge students to test the efficacy of those approaches.

~ Maryellen Weimer, PhD  From her article: Deep Learning vs. Surface Learning: Getting Students to Understand the Difference.

Practice does not make perfect, after all.  Perfect practice makes perfect.

Empower yourself to life!™

©2018 Yost Wing Chun Academy. All Rights Reserved.

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