We normally speak of three factors that influence the extent to which training gets successfully applied on the job: Ability, prior knowledge and motivation.

But there’s a fourth: Metacognition. It sounds complicated and academic, but it’s not. Anyone who’s taught others knows that some people learn better than others. And intelligence doesn’t always explain the difference. Most good learners couldn’t possibly explain how they do it, but they’ve figured out “how to learn.” They’ve acquired a set of skills that learning experts call “metacognition” (which literally means “beyond knowledge”).

The five metacognitive skills

Researcher R.C. Kelly isolated five metacognitive skills:

  1. Planning: Good learners plan out what they want to accomplish, then organize their time and resources effectively.
  2. Selecting: Good learners figure out how to cut through complexity, see what REALLY matters, and focus their learning efforts on high payoff areas.
  3. Connecting: Good learners connect new learning to what they already know. They create analogies and vocabulary to help them remember key concepts.
  4. Tuning: Good learners create a crisp, clear, focused image of the learning concept. They seek out corrective feedback and discard what doesn’t fit.
  5. Monitoring: Good learners constantly verify their understanding of new concepts. They test them and apply them in the real world, making adjustments when necessary.

Applying these metacognitive strategies in training at your organization will improve knowledge retention and, ultimately, results. The trick is to embed metacognitive learning methods in the very design of your training systems. For each of the give Metacognitive learning skills, the chart below shows what we should all be trying to accomplish to capitalize on the skills (center column), and then how we implemented this model at the RLI (right column).

Perhaps you’ll find this model useful in improving learning retention and training ROI at your organization.
metacognition

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