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October 11, 2010

Do you Speak Cogitare?

Teachers have numerous conversations with students on any given day. How we speak to them, and specifically the questions we ask, can have a significant impact in their learning.

The act of asking a question seems simple...

"Did you get that problem correct?"

"What is wrong with this picture?"

"Can I help you with that?"

But if we really want to ask engaging questions, we need to probe deeper. In essence, we need to ask students to "Think about their thinking," otherwise known as "Metacognition."

In his collection of articles, "The School as a Home for the Mind," Arthur Costa challenges teachers to speak "Cogitare." He notes, "Speaking Cogitare simply means that we consciously use our language to evoke thinking in others...Do you speak Cogitare?"

Speaking "Cogitare" means we ask deeper questions. We get students to "Think about their thinking." Such questions (or challenge statements) might look like this:

"How did you know you were starting this problem correctly?"

"Explain to me how you know you didn't skip any steps."

"What lead you to make that decision?"

"Tell me another way to solve that problem."

When we ask students to engage in deeper thinking (about their own thinking), we help them take another step towards becoming critical thinkers.

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