Research shows that students who talk about how they and others think become better learners.
Howard Gardner, well-known scholar in psychology and education, recently said that in the last decade, the most important research in developmental psychology has been about children's theory of mind. Although primarily of interest to psychologists, the work is also important to educators. For many years, educators have thought about children's thinking and promoted competent and critical thinking in the classroom. The new work in children's theory of mind shifts the focus onto the ways children themselves think about thinking. As Jerome Bruner writes in his most recent book:
Modern pedagogy is moving increasingly to the view that the child should be aware of her own thought processes, and that it is crucial for the pedagogical theorist and teacher alike to help her become more metacognitive—to be as aware of how she goes about her learning and thinking as she is about the subject matter she is studying. . . . Equipping her with a good theory of mind . . . is one part of helping her to do so. (Bruner, 1996, p. 64)
Theory of Mind
What is this theory of mind that has occupied developmental psychologists for the past decade or more? It's common to talk about children's theories of different domains—physics, for example, or biology. We mean that children have an integrated set of concepts underlying their understanding of how things work in a particular domain. Children's theory of mind underlies their understanding of human behavior. Our social life depends upon the interaction of minds—that is, interactions of our thoughts, wants, feelings, or plans. To explain what we did or what we're going to do, we tell one another what we want, what we believe, what we hope for, what we intend, and so on. Moreover, we attempt to interpret other people's actions by considering their thoughts and wants.