Ethan Allen Preparatory, Ridgefield CT

You Don’t Know What You Don’t
Know, But You Can Learn!

One of the best parts about watching reality shows like the X Factor, The Bachelor, and Survivor is listening to people brag about how they are going to win, only to be buzzed off, voted out, or not given a rose in the first round. While the person on the show is crushed and shocked, we as viewers are able to make that prediction fairly quickly. We can determine quickly if someone is not as good of a singer as they think they are, or are not as skilled as the other contestants. So why are the people on the show always so surprised to receive negative feedback? Simple. They don’t know what they don’t know. 



Metacognition is a fancy term for being aware of your own thoughts, feelings, or learning. People with strong metacognitive skills are able to accurately judge themselves in terms of their skills and knowledge. While on the other hand, individuals with poor metacognition, like those portrayed on TV shows, are often overconfident and overestimate their own abilities. But reality stars are not the only ones who do this, in fact, most people do! Take a trip back in time to high school. You put all of your effort into studying for finals and feel like you are a master of the material. They should pay you for how much you know. You walk out of the test like Tom Brady after a Superbowl and rush home to tell your parents that you aced it. Two weeks later you get your grade back and… you failed. But how?! You studied! You knew everything! Well… apparently not, but how could you be so wrong? Simple. You don’t know what you don’t know. 


Learning to learn 

In school, students aren’t taught to evaluate themselves, which leads to poor metacognition throughout life. Like the case of the reality stars’ inability to know his or her skill level, students lack the ability to accurately judge their own knowledge. They do not notice when they don’t understand something, and are therefore unable to take action in fixing it. This affects how much time students will dedicate to studying, contributes to creating a false sense of understanding material and like the cases illustrated above, ultimately may lead to incorrect judgement of performance.  Metacognition not only means accurately evaluating yourself, but also knowing how you learn best. 


According to research studies, only 10% of people learn auditorily. Meaning, they can listen to someone speak about a concept, absorb it, and then apply it to novel situations. That means that the other 90% of people learn in other ways (i.e. Spatially, Linguistically, Kinesthetically, Mathematically, Interpersonally, Intrapersonally). Interesting then, that 80% of teaching is done through lecturing. How can we expect students to find success if those in charge of their education are not providing them opportunities to learn how they learn and evaluate themselves in the process? 


Ethan Allen Preparatory, is flipping the table on old and ineffective teaching techniques that lead to poor metacognitive skills. We value all learners and use a variety of delivery models beyond lecturing to grow student-athlete’s unique styles for absorbing information. We encourage students to take control of their learning from the start, and to test different methods that do and do not work for them. These range from multimedia videos to one-on-one instruction and hands on activities. Most importantly, we help students become aware of their own thinking and understanding by providing many opportunities to monitor and evaluate themselves. By giving many low-stakes assessments, students and teachers can judge what they do and don’t know, and have the ability to take action before it is too late. 


We have the power to know what we don’t know. We can use thinking about our thoughts to learn how we learn, and avoid becoming the next failed reality tv star, or the next student who prematurely announces an “A”.  Now that we know what we don’t know, learning can be more effective for everyone.