Standards In Focus Nebraska’s Cognition Strand

Standard 5.1 Students self-assess growth in language learning, practice, and understanding.
Standard 5.2 Students set language learning goals and organize priorities.

Replicating success is easier when the pathway to success is clearly understood. Nebraska World Language Standards 5.1 and 5.2 focus on the cognition of second language learning. By learning the cognition and metacognition of language study, students will be better able to engage in and take responsibility for their own learning. O’Malley (1985) clarifies the difference between cognition and metacognition. Cognition refers to the strategies used for specific learning tasks. Metacognition references the executive functions of planning for learning, evaluating progress, correcting mistakes, and forming a new plan responsive to needs.

Directly addressing cognitive and metacognitive strategies can increase student effectiveness in all three modes of communication. Henner Stanchina (1987) demonstrated that effective listeners improve interpretation by maintaining a constant inner dialogue to elaborate and transform what they hear. These listeners also recognize failure in comprehension and activate appropriate knowledge to repair the failure. Anderson (2002) suggests that students “may be taught that an effective writing strategy involves thinking about their audience and their purpose in writing.” By practicing cognitive strategies used in the presentational and interpretive mode, students become better prepared to use them during the dynamic interpersonal mode.

Practical examples of cognitive and metacognitive teaching are easy to find. Products like LinguaFolio, LinguaFolio Nebraska, and LinguaFolio Junior, have established a foundation of self-assessment, goal setting, and prioritization. However, Nebraska’s challenge is to encourage the function of these activities in the language of study. By creating these models in the target language, at an appropriate level and with scaffolding, we provide greater relevance and context to the language. Consider the following. Routine classroom management tasks, when accomplished in the target language, become acquired language. Students understand the intent of commands without knowing the conjugation structure. At novice levels, cognition and metacognition can be approached through isolated words or short phrases such as “I understand a little, a lot, not at all” or “I think, I read, I write, I speak”.

The “Nebraska C”, cognition, is merely a defined approach to best practice and research. Taking an active role in planning for language study, establishing processes and connections, and evaluating progress creates a partnership between the student and teacher that promotes more successful language learning.

Anderson, N. J., & Eric Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics, Washington, Dc. (2002). The Role of Metacognition in Second Language Teaching and Learning. Eric Digest. ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics.

Henner Stanchina, Carolyn. 1987. “Autonomy as Metacognitive Awareness: Suggestions for Training Self-Monitoring of Listening Comprehension.” Méanges Pédagogiques, 69-84.

O’Malley, J. M., Chamot, A. U., Stewner-Manzanares, G., Kupper, L.J. & Russo, R.P. (1985). Learning strategies used by beginning and intermediate ESL students. Language Learning, 35(1): 21-46.