Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Meta-Cogitating About Meta-Cognition

For some reason, in no small part stemming from conversations with my gal in NYC, Trish, of Menopausal Stoners and other venues, from her nest in the Upper West Side, from whither she ventures out to teach neo-nates how to begin to navigate this sordid, tawdry existence, Meta-cognition has been on my mind a bit lately. Meta-cognition is that function of the Mind of the learner which knows itself as a knowing self. Operational awareness, and practical manipulation, of this capacity is a crucial accomplishment for successful learning: Knowing that you can learn--are learning--is essential to actually learning. It is not a trivial competence.

Which reminded me of Howard Gardner's "varieties" of intelligence.

Gardner has derived a non-hierarchical taxonomy by which he characterizes what we now regard often as mere "talents" as actually consisting of discrete kinds of intelligence, including complex strategic capabilities and abilities for successfully inhabiting and navigating the life-world. That is what ANY 'intelligence' is: a collection of skills, abilities, predispositions, and competences which enable us to survive and thrive in our worlds.

Gardner started with seven, and has since expanded it to eight, and is allegedly weighing data for one or two more. The Original Seven were:
  • Literary/textual,
  • Mathematico-deductive,
  • Kinesthetic,
  • Plastic/spatial ('artistic/sculptural'),
  • Musical,
  • Meditative/contemplative, and
  • Personally interactive.
He added 'naturalistic,' later.

Gardner theorized that in everyone, there were latent capacities for operating in any of these universes--that we all had some of all those capacities--but that in all of us, one predominated.

In me it is the literal/textual. I have little mathematico-deductive (linear) aptitude; I dont think that way. I was never an accomplished athlete, but I could perform in almost any physical activity I wanted to learn. I fenced, surfed, skied, played tennis and racquetball, along with the basic three American "Ball-sports." I am no kinda artist, but I sing pretty not badly, for being untrained. I am reflective, but not meditative; and I know how to work a room pretty good,.

That each "kind" of intelligence indeed creates its own life world becomes totally clearly when one interacts with others whose skills (and this is where we get back to meta-cognition) the person is intimately aware of possessing and learning from. I was a sort of academic coach for some guys on the LSU track team in the late 80s, and I had a chance to talk about learning with their bodies with Olympic-class athletes, and I can assure you, they know the world on VERY different terms than does a middle-aged profesor. You know someone who has "musical" intelligence if that person ALWAYS has song or a tune in their heads or on their fingers. And THEY know the world in uniquely "musical ways."

We 'privilege' the literary/textual (the domain of metaphor, interestingly) and the mathematico-deductive because those are the two facets upon which commerce and business depend. School caters to those, because school serves to sort, first, and then to train workers for fodder for the Elite machinery. The others kinds are often regarded as extraneous or expendable by the CorpoRats and paper-pushers, acceptable only as adjuncts which might turn a marginal profit someday, somewhere.

1 comment:

PENolan said...

Interestingly enough, Gardner wrote an article a number of years prior to his discussion on multiple intelligences that focused on language development and bird song. I have to dig through my stuff from Bank Street to find it - but you could see the beginnings of his idea starting to germinate.

I'm still curious about the relationship between meta-cognition and language acquisition with particular regard to communicating what we know. So much of what happens with animals is also communicating what they know - like where the food or hazards are. Makes you wonder.