Most people go through their lives reacting to the circumstances that they find themselves in. They are unaware of why things happen to them and, as expected because of the fundamental attribution error. This basic psychological state tells us that if bad things happen to you, it is bad luck, whereas if good things happen to you it is because of your brilliant choices. On the other hand, if bad things happen to me (Jesse) it is because of my poor choices, whereas if good things happen to me it is because of my good luck.
How do we break out of the default thinking that involves us? How do we move from being the object of someone else’s actions and become the person taking the action. The first thing that we have to do is become self aware enough to know who and what we really are. Gain the cognitive enabler that allows you to clearly see what you have to offer. Find out what you know and what you don’t know. Understand what skills you really have and what you are lacking. This cognitive enabler, metacognition, is what you need to take real, active control of who you are instead of feeling like you are in control, but in reality are pawns of circumstances.
In addition to being aware in the here and now, developing metacognition allows you to watch the future and accurately judge how well you will fit. The future of work and learning require an agile mindset. The future of work and learning will be best met by an agile mindset that monitors both the work requirements coming down the line as well as the skill set that you have available to meet these requirements. Knowing yourself.
The future of work will require you to move seamlessly between working and learning. Depending on the advanced cognitive enablers you have, you will be a part of one of two scenarios. You can watch others, with their phenomenal luck (being in the right place at the right time, being the boss’s favourite…) who actually have just the right skill set needed for the new job move up in the world while you are just beginning to learn what you need to know to take advantage of the current needs – only to gain what you needed yesterday just as it becomes obsolete. Or, you can look down the line to see what is coming your way, realistically evaluate your readiness (knowing what you know), identify what you need to have or know in order to be ready when the future arrives (knowing what you don’t know), and then learn whatever you need to be able to do or know so that you are ready when the opportunity arrives.
Will you be acted on or will you take action?
Metacognition is one of the advanced cognitive enablers that you need to develop for the future of work and learning.
Metacognition, along with the other advanced cognitive enablers, will never “get you a job”. But then, the basic cognitive enablers never got someone a job either. Knowing how to read doesn’t get you a job, but not knowing how to read will keep you from getting all kinds of jobs.
I believe that individual prosperity will depend on our own ability to seamlessly move between work and learning. However, I believe that having a foundation of advanced cognitive enablers will be the luck that so many of us will see in others who always get the breaks and seem to just get ahead all the time.
I’ve written a lot about doing something about learning these advanced cognitive enablers. I’ve had dozens of initiatives pointed out to me that teach these advanced enablers, but they rely on the traditional educational approaches that have gotten us in the state that we are in. A state that has resulted in about 10% (or fewer) of university graduates with a full suite of advanced cognitive enablers that they can use across contexts. The Science of Learning tells us how these enablers are learned, and they are not learned sitting in a classroom listening to someone tell you what you need to regurgitate so that you can get good grades and obtain a certificate that says you listened well and passed some tests. It doesn’t matter how inspirational and motivating the speaker is, you don’t develop advanced cognitive enablers by sitting and listening. The approach taken by so many of the new “Brain Training”, “Agile Mindset”, Thinking Institute”, “Future Learn” offerings are just like a former colleague who insisted on teaching people how to develop and improve their writing skills (a basic cognitive enabler) by reading PowerPoint slides to them in a lecture theatre.
I’ve finally brought together a team to develop a place dedicated to really learning advanced cognitive enablers. Based on The Science of Learning, the method that I have developed over the decades to learn advanced cognitive enablers will be fully utilized to enable you to develop your advanced cognitive enablers. Not just a class that I teach to university students that always leaves the students asking (literally), “Why has it taken so long for me to find a class that actually expects and helps me to think? And why are you the only professor who does this?” One of my students said to me, “I have tasted what it is like to think and this is all I want to do now. I don’t just want to taste it, I want to be able to do it.”
It is early days, but after years of looking, asking, begging, cajoling and whatever else, I have made the move myself.
I am convinced that the future holds unimaginable opportunities. However, I firmly believe that those opportunities will unfold for those who are prepared. Prepared enough so that luck always goes their way.
Check out my new Socelor website to see what I am doing (really raw, but it is a start).
Let me know what you think.
Jesse is a world leader in the integration of the science of learning into formal teaching settings. He is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Lethbridge and Director at The Academy for the Scholarship of Learning. Huge advocate of the science of learning, he provides people with ideas about how they can use it in their classrooms. Jesse holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of Wales, Bangor.