Today, I’m excited to share with you a conversation with Andrew McPeak. Andrew is a next gen researcher, speaker, and curriculum designer with Growing Leaders. He also is the coauthor of our newest book, Marching Off the Map. Here are some highlights from our conversation.
Andrew McPeak: Tim, I am excited for this conversation today because we are really talking about engagement, and a lot of times when we use that term we use “student engagement,” but engagement is an important subject for all industries. You and I have been talking about this for months—and even years—and you told me a story a few months ago that I thought was a perfect picture for how engagement became so clear for you and why this is so important.
Tim Elmore: Well, I stumbled on to the greatest discovery about teaching and learning years ago—accidentally, I’m ashamed to say. I was mentoring a group of university students in San Diego and one of the students in my group emailed me and asked, “Who is going to pick the topic for the next session?” I grabbed my computer and quickly typed, “I can do that”—or at least that’s what I thought I typed in. I was not aware that the letter “I” and the letter “U” are right next to each other on my keyboard; I accidentally sent the message “U can do that” and the rest is history. I drew a breath to start the meeting and I couldn’t even get any words out. They jumped in— thinking I had empowered them to lead—and I mean they set up the ice breaker question, picked the topic, included videos, had experiences to share, and at the end they even had practical steps to take. It was marvelous. I was never so proud as when I watched those university students take the ball and run with it on their own—I never told them it was a mistake on my part.
Andrew: Absolutely. This is for people who are listening and saying, “Oh I’ve told my kids to lead a group or class before.” The reality is, there is actually a scientific term for this that’s called metacognition. I wonder if you could set up that term for us and talk a little about what it suggests.
Tim: What I learned way back then was all about metacognition. Metacognition, or thinking about thinking, is really the secret behind all true learning. When you download information, you can hear it and understand it, but your memory of it is a crapshoot. I just believe the students of today learn best when they get to do stuff on their own. So if we want our students to learn as much as possible, then we will want to maximize the amount of metacognition they are doing. It’s a relatively simple equation: the more learners reflect on their learning, the more they learn. The better they engage in the subject and how to communicate it to others, the more they actually own it.
Andrew: Fascinating. This is huge, Tim. It actually reminds me of when I first started leading. I led a series of college interns and we would go around and do these conferences. One of the things we discovered was when we gave them ownership over the things we wanted to cover, we noticed student engagement increased at our conferences. So I have totally seen this happen. We’ve mentioned already that metacognition is a research-based concept and it’s a term that is really being popularized out of Harvard University. I wonder if you could set us up with where this research is coming from and what kind of things they are saying about metacognition.
Tim: So in 2005, the National Academy of Sciences summarized everything we know about learning, in a report called “How Students Learn.” Their research actually culminates in a single term: metacognition. The NAS identified this word as the key to effective learning. Quite literally, meta means “behind” or “over” and cognition means “the act of knowing.” So our task is to increase the amount of metacognition—or seeing how I am thinking about this and reflecting on it so I can proceed much better.
So in our Marching Off the Map book that is going to be coming out, we actually summarize this. I talk about moving from a traditional pedagogy or style to a transformational pedagogy. Let me just give you three quick ideas for you to think about:
1. In traditional pedagogy, students are consumers. In the transformational pedagogy, using metacognition, students are creators.
2. In the traditional pedagogy, teachers are commanders. They are trying to do crowd control in front of the class. In transformational pedagogy, teachers are consultants.
3. In the traditional pedagogy, it fosters complacency. In the transformational pedagogy, it fosters contribution. You actually get the students doing more.
I hope you take time during your commute to listen to the whole conversation. Click below to listen to the full discussion.
New Book: Marching Off the Map
Our new book is now available for preorder! Leading today’s students often feels like being in a new country with old maps that don’t work. Understanding and connecting with the generation in this land is often times frustrating and draining. We need new strategies on how to march off our old maps and create new ones.
This new resource collates decades of research and experiences into one practical guide that helps adults:
- Inspire students to own their education and their future
- Lead students from an attitude of apathy to one of passion through metacognition
- Enable students to push back from the constant digital distractions and practice mindfulness
- Raise kids who make healthy progress, both emotionally and intellectually, through their teenage years
- Give students the tools to handle the complexities of an ever-changing world
- Understand and practically apply the latest research on Generation Z