Now let's look at a dialogue where a student describes how she employs metacognitive strategies to better comprehend her reading assignment.

Professor: I asked my student how she approached this reading task for her intro to sociology class. This is what she told me.

Student: First, based on our class discussions, I determined what my professor wanted us to do with our reading assignment. She wants me to be able to discuss what and why students learn in school, according to this reading selection. She also wants me to share my own experiences, comparing and contrasting them to what is said by these authors.

Professor: So, what did you do?

Student: The first time I read this I was overwhelmed by the amount of new information I was getting. As I paused and reflected I realized I wasn't getting much to take away with me.

Professor: I sense you did not panic. What did you do?

Student: So, I figured that I needed a plan. I needed to make an outline, I decided, of the first paragraph to get started. First, I needed to reread it to determine the Main Idea. I decided it was "Students learn academic skills and cognitive skills in high school." It wasn't exactly in one sentence like that, I had to understand what the whole paragraph was doing by reading out loud to myself, slowly. Then I asked myself what ideas supported that and listed them. This is how it turned out:

Main Idea: Students learn academic skills and cognitive skills in high school.

  1. Academic skills
    1. use computers
    2. write 3-part essays
    3. differentiate equations
  2. Cognitive development
    1. think critically
    2. weigh evidence
    3. develop independent judgement

Student: Oh, and I had to look up a vocabulary word, "cognitive," to make sure I understood the word correctly from the examples given in the paragraph. I started to make a chart to organize my ideas.

Professor: Good. Good strategies.

Student: Yeah, but I also know we are supposed to share our own experiences and sometimes we're just called on randomly, so I wanted to be prepared instead of embarrassed. I wrote down in a journal I keep for this class some ideas of what my friends and I did and didn't get in high school, complete with examples and my reactions.

Professor: Great!

Student: Thanks. But that took a long time for just one paragraph, although it made me ready to read the rest of the section. So, in the second paragraph I had to determine the main idea and then make a list of the five ways studies say cognitive development is enhanced in school. So I ended up outlining that too. Oh, and I had to look up "enhanced."

Professor: Good.

Student: Thanks. Then, in the next paragraph I was just able to summarize how ideal learning conditions vary by social class in just one long sentence, in my own words, of course, to make sure I understood the concept.

Professor: Great strategies ... So, it took you a long time to read the entire assignment.

Student: Yes, but it was worth it. I used my reading notes with my lecture notes, and I not only aced the test, but I had a lot to say in discussion, and I really got interested in this topic! Thanks for teaching us how to approach a text so we can really understand it. Metacognition really works for me!