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Learning How to Learn is More Than Learning

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Ronaldo Mota – Member of the Collegiate of the Presidency of ABMES; Chancellor of the Estácio Group

There was a time in a very recent past where the mastery of a certain content, coupled with some procedures and techniques, could be sufficient for a professional to fully meet the demands of the time. The model of economic and social development was compatible with such requirements and schools, at all levels, met the expectations, fulfilling in an exemplary way what was expected of them.

The drama is that time, inexorably, flows and drastic, rapid, and profound changes are under way, radically altering this context. Digital technologies are fast moving towards a society where information is fully accessible, instantly and, basically, for free.

Educationally, what once was sufficient continues to be, but new ingredients and additional features are now present with the same, or greater, importance.

In the Industrial Revolution, and especially during the twentieth century, the predicates of a good professional were associated with the Fordist and Taylorist patterns of production and the skills that were compatible with them. The contemporary world presents challenges unimaginable a few decades ago, going through an essential aspect associated with the learning process.

If the relevant was what had been learned, what matters most today is how much the learner has increased his/her understanding and control over his/her own cognitive process. In other words, the increase of the level of awareness about how he/she learns, allowing, together with the other actors of the process, to generate personalized educational strategies that meet the learner’s particularities and peculiarities.

Metacognition is what we define as this set of approaches that transcends simple cognition. Metacognitive skills include: i) knowledge of cognition, including knowledge of factors associated with performance in learning, mastery of various types of strategies adopted to learn and how to customize each strategy for specific situations; and ii) the regulation of cognition, referring to the establishment of planning and goals, monitoring and control of learning and evaluation of regulation itself, especially the results and strategies adopted.

In sum, the stimulus for students to reflect on their own processes and strategies implies self-reflection and the need to learn to work in teams, including the practice of understanding the other, thus promoting collaborative and independent learning, indispensable in a learning scenario of lifelong learning. In the formative process of the learner, there are added to the traditional characteristics of a more technical nature, a set of socio-emotional elements, which some see as a recovery of humanistic elements as opposed to exclusively technological emphases. Such dynamics can also be seen in the light of the prioritization of metacognitive instruments (knowing how to learn) in addition to the older version of simple cognition.

From the point of view of the employers of higher education professionals, and the use of new business opportunities by the trainees themselves, what one learns in the classical approaches of higher education remains indispensable, although insufficient, for the activities of the current professional universe . However, the innovative approaches that privilege metacognitive skills will rather be the defining ones of the success levels of these citizens throughout the accomplishment of their missions, whatever they may be.