We’ve looked at writing assignments that emphasize different aspects of Bloom’s Taxonomy, with one exception: knowledge. Yet, I have said that metacognition shows up frequently in certain types of assignments.
This assignment is a final reflection for a portfolio in my first-year writing class. Students submit two revised final papers, plus a reflection. I’m only giving you the instructions for the reflection part of the assignment.
|Assignment||Write a reflection that introduces your portfolio and discusses your work in this course for the term.|
|Audience||Your professor or any other writing teacher interested in your best work and your own understanding of your writing|
Your reflection introduces and explains both of the papers in your portfolio and your writing in general. That is, this document is both a self-assessment and a reflection on your writing this semester. It should include in some form the following information:
- The larger part should focus on the specific essays you have selected and how those pieces demonstrate that you have met the goals for the course. Consider questions like the following:
- How do these essays demonstrate that you have met the course goals?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the essays?
- To what extent are you satisfied with these essays as representative of your writing ability?
- What have you learned from working with these essays?
- In addition, you should discuss your writing process generally and the progress you have made this semester:
- How has your writing changed, and where do you see those changes?
- What new ways of writing have you tried, and what did you learn from those attempts?
- Have you learned anything in particular about your writing process?
I strongly recommend that you refer directly and substantively to the course goals in your reflection, as these are the concepts that have been driving your work (and my planning) for the term.
You may feel free to cover issues and ideas beyond these questions, and you should not feel the need to answer all of them (although you must address both major parts above). You should choose the elements that are most relevant to your writing for the semester and deal specifically with those. In addition, you should feel free to talk about problems and successes common to both of the essays you have chosen to include.
Examining the Verbs in Key Sentences
Here are the sentences that let us know what we are supposed to be doing in this assignment:
Write a reflection that introduces your portfolio and discusses your work in this course for the term.
The larger part should focus on the specific essays you have selected and how those pieces demonstrate that you have met the goals for the course.
In addition, you should discuss your writing process generally and the progress you have made this semester….
This assignment has two other elements that make it different from the ones we’ve examined in previous chapters. First, it includes a lot of questions guiding us through thinking about the course and our work, but as the assignment says, we do not have to answer all of the questions. Second, and related to the first point, there are a number of statements that indicate we have a range of choices:
- Choose which questions you’d like to deal with, including none at all.
- Add aspects of the course and your writing that aren’t suggested by the questions if you’d like.
- Feel free to talk about both successes and issues in your writing.
I’m not marking the verbs here, but these elements help us understand the task.
What does this assignment ask us to do? We actually have a sentence that names the task in two parts:
…[T]his document is both a self-assessment and a reflection on your writing this semester.
The verb here (“is”) doesn’t help us, but this sentence identifies the two parts of the work: assess and reflect if we convert those nouns into verbs.
Before jumping into the next section, take what you know about the task in the sample assignment and see which types of knowledge and which cognitive processes you believe the assignment is looking for.
After you read the rest of this chapter, decide whether or not you agree with my analysis.
Kinds of Cognitive Processes
Let’s look at those verbs to understand the cognitive processes involved. We are being asked to reflect as we introduce our work and discuss it. We should focus on the essays we have selected for our portfolio and how those demonstrate that we have met the course goals. We should discuss our process.
Remembering is more important here than in the other assignments we’ve examined. Not everything that we reflect on will exist in some form that we can look up. And if we look at the grid of Bloom’s Taxonomy, we see that at the intersection of remember and metacognitive knowledge, we are doing tasks like identifying strategies—in this case, strategies that have worked for us, or not. Still, remembering isn’t central to this assignment.
How much we demonstrate our understanding and how much we analyze depends on the questions that we choose to focus on in our reflection. These aren’t explicitly part of the assignment, though. Similarly, creating is a part of the assignment primarily through the freedom we have to choose what we would like to present and how we do that.
Applying, however, is part of this assignment because we are asked to demonstrate how we have met the course goals using our portfolio essays. Whenever we are asked to use one thing to help explain another, we’re in the realm of application.
Evaluating is a primary task in this assignment—and in many reflective assignments. Reflections ask you to judge, for example, your progress or your work or your learning. It is not enough to describe your work; you must also assess it.
Kinds of Knowledge
And the key sentences, as always, also point to the kinds of knowledge we are supposed to demonstrate in the assignment.
Any time a professor is asking you to reflect, they are asking for metacognitive knowledge. You might reference specific factual elements or describe key concepts or processes, but in a reflection, these types of knowledge are all in the service of metacognition. What have you learned? How do you know that you have learned that? How does this learning connect with other ideas and information that you have? Why are these ideas and connections important? These are metacognitive questions.
In this assignment, we will also use factual knowledge (for example, about the course goals or our own writing), and when we talk about our writing process, we would use our procedural knowledge of what writing processes can look like. We might even use conceptual knowledge as we explain how we learned about characteristics of a good thesis statement or a strong body paragraph.
But these are all secondary. Metacognition is central here.
Putting It Together
This assignment asks us to evaluate our work according to the course goals and according to our own sense of what has been most important to our learning. These rely heavily on metacognitive knowledge and on the tasks of applying and evaluating.
Thus, the intellectual work of this assignment is to demonstrate our own awareness of our performance in the course, specifically examined in relation to an external system (the course goals) and an internal one (our own sense of our accomplishments).
A kind of knowledge that is self-aware and that focuses on how a thinker thinks. It is sometimes called "thinking about thinking."