Self-awareness is a valuable trait for many reasons. Whether it be a middle school student or the CEO of a large company, self-awareness:
Increases our proactivity, acceptance, and self-development
Helps us practice self-control and boosts self-esteem
Improves our decision-making
For students, one component of self-awareness is being aware of your strengths and challenges as they relate to learning. The ability to think about your learning profile is a great first step to academic self-awareness. When do you work best? When do you get frustrated?
The ultimate goal, however, is for students to not only be self-aware from a reactionary perspective (i.e. my sister played the drums last night and I couldn’t focus on anything so I stopped doing homework), but also a proactive perspective (i.e. I do best when there is no noise and I have a clear list of tasks for the day – so I’m going to the library after school, with my homework list, and sitting in the quiet section for 2 hours).
If we can raise student’s awareness of both the conditions and the strategies that help them succeed, we are well on our way to supporting the development of strong life habits! Conditions are situational decisions that impact the likelihood of success for a learner while strategies are methodologies that support the completion of specific tasks.
Let’s start with conditions, do you like music when you work or total silence? Do you enjoying working in the morning or late at night? Do you need mini breaks throughout work or one solid chunk of uninterrupted focus? These are all conditional preferences. Someone who does well in total silence, no matter how many strategies they employ, will struggle to be productive and effective sitting in the middle of a bustling cafeteria.
Getting students to be self-aware of the conditions that best support their learning style is critical to strong executive functioning skills. Once a student is cognizant of their conditional preferences, then we can graduate to the next level of awareness – strategic preferences.
Are you someone that likes to use the hamburger outline or funnel technique? When planning projects, do you time block or keep a running list of tasks? If you like to take breaks, do you use the pomodoro method? These are all strategies that may, or may not, help individual learners succeed in their studies. Everyone is unique and the strategies that work for one will not necessarily work for others. What’s important is that students recognize their preferences and tailor their working time to align with their needs.
While this cognitive development comes naturally to some students, many other struggle to develop self-awareness as relates to working habits (just ask many adults who still struggle to find their working groove)! It is essential for schools and classes to scaffold the development of academic self-awareness and provide opportunities and places for students to experience different conditions and strategies to identify what works best for them.