by Bailey Larson

THROUGHOUT THEIR TIME AT PREP,  students are exposed to myriad pedagogies.  They work individually and  in groups; they study concepts incrementally  and cumulatively; they work  with their hands and contemplate in  their heads; and they create their own  coursework in independent studies. 

Faculty members develop teaching  styles that fit their personalities and the  needs of their students, and approaches  vary from class to class. But every now  and then, Prep teachers stop and take  time to ask their students to pause and  reflect about what they’re learning, how  they’re learning and whether it’s working  for them.

Moments of metacognition are  purposefully worked in throughout  Prep’s academic and human development  curriculum, meant to give students  an opportunity to learn how they learn. 

Dean of Studies Sarah Cooper  says such pauses allow students to both  solidify and contemplate what they’ve  learned. 

“If you are just having information given to you all day without having time to reflect on it, it doesn’t coalesce in your brain as well. It doesn’t allow you to make connections between the learning you’re doing in one class and in another, and it doesn’t allow you to apply that learning to the rest of your life.” — Sarah Cooper

“If you are just having information  given to you all day without having time  to reflect on it, it doesn’t coalesce in  your brain as well,” she says. “It doesn’t  allow you to make connections between  the learning you’re doing in one class  and in another, and it doesn’t allow  you to apply that learning to the rest  of your life.”

Cooper sites Make It Stick: The  Science of Successful Learning, which  reads, “The more you can explain about  the way your new learning relates to  your prior knowledge, the stronger your  grasp of the new learning will be, and  the more connections you create that  will help you remember it later.” 

In the Performing Arts Department,  Jon Murray works metacognition  throughout his music curriculum. Sure,  he has to teach students the technical  side of playing an instrument, but it  can’t end there. He talks to students not  just about the notes and the keys, but  also about how their individual instruments’  sounds fit into a larger piece of  music. He has to teach them to have an  awareness of their own thought process  and how that fits into the group. When  students grasp this concept, he says  there’s an aha moment. 


“They’ll start to talk about what  they’re doing and show signs of  curiosity about their place in the larger  ensemble,” he says. “Then they’re  more locked into the process.” 

In 9th grade English, as each  semester comes to a close, the students  are required to create a writing portfolio.  The students choose samples from  their work throughout the semester that  represent progress. They revisit journal  entries, essays and other assignments  to see where they’ve been and how  they’ve evolved as writers. They hone  and edit the pieces and assemble a final  portfolio. 

Cole Slater ’18 says the process  was initially frustrating, as it was hard  to return to and improve on work he  completed early in the year. But seeing  how he had evolved in his ability to  express himself on paper was well worth  the frustration. 

Alana Weiss ’18 agrees. “I can see  the change,” she says. “I can see how  I’ve grown as a writer.” 

Ninth grade English teachers Dr.  Tyke O’Brien and Jodie Hare, along with  former teacher Mike Miley, adopted  the portfolio review process three years  ago. When submitting their work, the  students must also include a letter that  details why they chose the pieces, what  their challenges were in writing them and how the revision process affected the pieces.

“I was shocked at how honest the  students were and how seriously they  took the writing and reflection, as such  seriousness was not always evident  in the actual in-class revision process,”  Hare says. “The letters are honest,  engaging and heart-warming.” 

Metacognition pops up throughout  Prep’s curriculum, through math test corrections and art class critiques, when  students review their labs in science  class and when they study for exams  in world languages. Cooper says these  moments help students discover new  ways to embed information into their  brains and their lives, valuable skills for  their continuing intellectual journeys.