Teaching Students to Take Charge of Their Learning

Dear Gateway families,

How do we effectively prepare children for the world to come?

Curriculum and education defined by historical facts and contemporary skills will always struggle to prepare children for their future. The challenges they will face are different from the ones we faced growing up; just look at how the pace of human knowledge creation has accelerated, and the impending automation of many traditional jobs. It’s a scary, humbling task we face!

A recent article by Greg Satell posits that the skills children will need for their future are the ability to understand systems, to apply empathy and design skills, to communicate complex ideas, and to collaborate and work in teams. Already we see this driving elite universities as they look for intellectual curiosity among their undergraduate applicants, and in graduate programs that conduct group interviews to check for social cognition and communication skills.

To this excellent list, Gateway adds another critical element: metacognition and self-reflection.

Metacognition is the ability to think about one’s own thoughts and learn from them. It is also the key skill that helps students improve their learning process. Through metacognition, students become aware of their strengths and challenges as learners, and begin to monitor their use of learning strategies. They learn that their own learning processes can change, that they can iteratively use goal-setting and planning to achieve their objectives, and how to self-monitor and adapt. Through this process, students become confident scholars who develop inner standards of success and achievement, and learn to transfer their abilities to new tasks and contexts.

We build students’ metacognition at Gateway by teaching them about the concept, by incorporating their authentic voices and choices into their learning, by explicitly articulating and modeling it in the work of faculty, and by regularly guiding children to engage in reflection. In grades fourth through eighth, families will see this driving force during the upcoming School/Family conferences, in which the students participate to present examples of their work, discuss their learning experiences, and review goals for their academic growth.

Being metacognitive means being more aware of one’s journey on the path of learning. How much more pleasurable and intentional it feels for our children to be agents of their own scholarship, rather than perceive school as something outside of their control that happens to them!


Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School