In 2005, the National Academy of Sciences reviewed everything we know about learning in a paper called How Students Learn. In this report, 600 pages of research culminate in a single word, which the NAS identifies as the key to effective learning: metacognition. Metacognition (or thinking about thinking) is the secret to and driving force behind all effective learning. If you want your students to learn as much as possible, then you want to maximize the amount of metacognition they’re doing. It’s a pretty simple equation.

Metacognition shows up in the flipped classroom model, where we let the students be the teachers. If they can teach the topic to another, then they really know what they are talking about. Even if they cannot teach the topic, they have been forced to think about what they know and how to explain it. This is such a funny thing for teachers as they are being told not to teach but rather to get out of the way.

Whether or not we are actually teachers, most of us both have roles in our lives where we both teach and where we learn. I think that many of us rely on old models, which is to say that when it’s time to teach that we talk more (lecture) and when it’s time to learn that we listen more. It seems that we have had it backwards all this time. Remember that a great education does not come from a teacher who thinks for you.