Starting to study again after a long period of time can be a difficult task. Metacognition, or “thinking about one’s thinking”, is the key to your success while working on your firefighter promotional exam prep and getting promoted in the fire service.
Metacognition is defined as “thinking about one’s thinking”, but let’s break it down a bit more. Metacognition can be broken into an awareness of two separate parts: an awareness of, “one’s thinking and learning” and an awareness of “oneself as a thinker and learner.” Metacognition ultimately allows you to have an awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to various subject matters. Being actively aware of one's own strengths and weaknesses as they learn helps you fill in the gaps in regards to what you need to focus on as you study and what you have mastered. Metacognition can be particularly helpful to individuals who do not initially pass their firefighter promotional exam because it allows them to go back and self-analyze where they went wrong and discover how they could improve with a new mindset.
Strategies to Target Metacognition
The first step in metacognition is to plan. As soon as you sign up to take the firefighter promotional exam you need to ask yourself:
How much time do I need to master the material?
What material will be on the test?
What supplies do I need to study successfully?
What study methods should I use to best understand the material?
Before you even crack open a textbook you should create a game plan to set yourself up for success. Do not start studying until you can answer all of these questions and any other questions that may help you create the best possible study plan.
The second step of metacognition is to monitor yourself as you study. This is where the self-awareness of your learning comes in. You will begin studying using the plan you have created for yourself and then routinely check in on your own progress. You will do this by asking questions such as:
Is this study method working?
Is this study method the most effective for me?
Am I spending the right amount of time studying?
During the monitoring phase of metacognition you want to be sure your plan is working in the best way possible so you can pass your firefighter promotional exam. You will ultimately determine how often you need to stop and monitor your learning based on your own learning style and strategies.
After you have checked in with yourself, it is time for a self-evaluation to see if you are reaching your study goals. Metacognition relies on the honest self-evaluation of your learning. One way to evaluate yourself is by asking these questions:
What is working?
What do I need to change?
How am I doing?
It is important to ask yourself these questions as you study so you can make any necessary changes to your learning strategy to do the best you possibly can on your promotional exam. If you do not pass your promotional exam your first time, it is critical that you go back and ask yourself these questions so you can improve if you decide to take the promotional exam again. The key to metacognition and learning is being able to understand what it is you understand and what it is you do not.
Lastly, you need to be able to make changes. After you have evaluated how your plan is going you need to do whatever is necessary to improve your studying methods and retention. This could include studying for longer periods of time, changing study methods all together, changing study location and so on.
Being metacognitive as you learn is not something everyone is able to do naturally. Being metacognitive allows you to take control of your own learning which is critical as you prepare for your firefighter promotional exam because there is no teacher checking on your progress, just a final exam. As you study it is important to use metacognition to stop studying, monitor, evaluate, and make changes to your study plan as necessary in order to pass your firefighter promotional exam.