Metacognition? Ever heard of it? Are you wondering if this has anything to do with early intervention and if you should even keep reading this post? 🙂
Well the answer to both questions is YES!
Metacognition is an underlying concept that relates to implementation of effective early intervention strategies and is one that most interventionists probably aren’t even aware of. It is the fascinating concept of “thinking about thinking,” or in more formal terms, the control and regulation of thought.
If you’re still thinking “huh?” then check out this 1 1/2 minute video for a Brief Overview of Metacognition or this great article: Thinking about Thinking: Metacognition from Mind Matters. Hang in there and keep reading!
I think that we are most effective in our work with caregivers when we help them learn new ways to think about their child’s abilities and development. Development can happen (or not) without much thought from the surrounding adults. For many children, it just unfolds. However, we know that the environment can have a significant and altering effect on a child’s early development so, as early interventionists, we want to help caregivers understand what they can do to enhance a child’s development and how to do it everyday. When it really works well, it taps into the parent’s ability to think about how he/she thinks about the child, about daily routines, and about interactions with the child. When it works, metacognition is happening!
Metacognition involves monitoring & reflection and assessment & correction. During visits, we teach parents how to monitor and reflect not only the child’s development, but also what the parent is doing during the parent-child interaction to support development. I see this as especially essential when working on managing challenging behavior, feeding issues, and communication. The way the parent responds to the child can make a world of difference, so the parent must be aware of his own thinking and actions. Based on this monitoring, the parent can learn to assess and adjust his approach to the child for positive results. You can think of it as a kind of feedback loop. When it works, it can become a habit that’s easier to use in different situations because monitoring and assessment are always happening.
You also use metacognition when you think about your role in a family’s life. If you go into the home, sit on the floor, work with the child while the parent watches, then leave after 50 minutes, you probably aren’t using much metacognition. You might even be on autopilot. However, if you plan for the session (based on what happened at the last visit), monitor your role as a coach and consultant during the visit, and self-correct whenever you find yourself focusing on the child rather than the parent-child interaction, then you are using metacognition. The monitoring and self-correction you do is a constant dance, especially when you’re new to this model of intervention that focuses on the service provider’s role as a support to the parent rather than a teacher of the child.
The exciting thing about metacognition is that it’s strongly linked with positive learning, which is an important goal of EI. We can teach parents how to use metacognition! The funny thing is, if you THINK about it, you may find out you are already supporting parents in adjusting how they think! If you reflect and find that, no, you really aren’t helping parents learn to plan, monitor, and assess, then now’s the time. Try it out on your next visit!
Okay, this post is a little more academic than most. Check out these other posts for ideas on how to help parents think about what they do and why they do it: Who is the Focus of your Visit? Adult Learning & Early Intervention and 7 Specific Questions to Ask When Exploring Family Routines
How do you help parents reflect on how they think and interact with their child? How do you coach them in assessing their thinking and making changes?