Metacognition and Aha Moments of Learning #bizchampion

Metacognition and the Aha Moments of Learning: Train Yourself to Be a Rockstar in any Industry.

When we start out learning something new, we all go through different stages on the way to metacognition, in which we become aware and in control of the knowledge structure. Looking at the “Steps to Metacognition” diagram above, it is clear that we really can learn anything with the right study habits, a growth mindset and magic or the “Aha” Moment of Learning happens. This diagram was adapted from Waldman and Newberg’s “The Spectrum of Human Consciousness Model” demonstrates the stages of learning on the pathway to metacognition.

STEP 1: Instinctive Learning: We begin to study and learn something new with curiosity and desire and experience positive emotions when success is attained. Conversely, we experience negative emotions when we fail to reach our goals.

STEP 2: Habitual Learning: We form study habits over time and it is very important to develop proper study habits, or else we will only get by until the work becomes challenging. Developing these habits early will set you up for a lifetime of success.

STEP 3: Intentional Learning: This is where we spend most of our logic, reason, and attention when solving problems. The challenge here is that we are working with our short-term working memory, which contains limited information . It is easy to get distracted at this level of awareness . Worries, fears, and doubts also operate on this level and can interfere with our decision-making strategies . We must learn strategies to move forward in spite of fear and focus on the positive side of situations, taking a proactive approach to learning instead of giving up at the first sign of a challenge .

Dr. Pillay

Dr. Pillay

STEP 4: Creative Learning: This is where all of the magic happens for decision-making and goal-setting; this process is very stren- uous on the brain and requires frequent breaks in order to reset our neurochemistry . We must find a way to relax our brain and our body . During these “resting states,” remarkable activity takes place, allowing the brain to creatively solve problems . We must be careful to not confuse creativity with reality but must recognize that magical thinking is a normal creative process . When creativity is integrated with logic and reason, research shows that we can solve conflicts and improve academic success. Dr. Srini Pillay’s most recent book, “Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind” outlines the importance of taking creative breaks to hit these higher levels of breakthrough. His book brilliantly outlines the importance of taking breaks in between periods of focused concentration. “Focus and unfocused are two different settings” Pillay explains “Focus is the close and narrow that illuminates the path directly ahead. Unfocused is the beam that reaches reaches far and wide, enabling peripheral vision.” 1

For Educators:

  1. What are ways to move students to the “Aha Moment of learning? Allow students to discover the ways that work best for them to study. Each student learns differently, and there can be many ways students can prepare for different assignments. Have students share how they study with their classmates. Do they study the same way for an essay question as they would for a test?
  1. How can you tie in new learning built on prior knowledge? Remember that prior knowledge is different for each student so how can you level the playing field and have students share their experiences with others for more collaborative learning?
  1. What types of feedback can students receive to improve learning? Are they on track and what else can they do differently?
  2. How can you add the reason “why” each lesson is important so students understand practical applications of what they are learning? The lights go in when students can see the relevance to all they are learning to real world examples.
  3. What ways can you move students from memorizing to application so that new knowledge transfers?
  4. How do students develop the best study habits and work-spaces to increase productivity? What must they do to ensure focused learning will take place?
  5. What strategies need to be in place to eliminate distractions like phones, social media, music or television?

Learn to Look Within Yourself for Answers:

Dr. Daniel Siegel

Dr. Daniel Siegel

Mindfulness expert Dr. Dan Siegel talks about the importance of parents teaching their children to learn “mindsight” or to look within themselves for answers in order to gain social and emotional intelligence. 2 In his book, “Mindsight:The New Science of Personal Transformation” Dr. Siegel shares that teachers introduced to “mindsight” teach with the brain in mind and are reaching students in deeper and more lasting ways.”

Learn More:

Andrea Samadi, the founder of is an author, speaker and former middle-school teacher. She participates in ongoing mentoring featuring some of the top neuroscience researchers in the country to find new ways to increase learning by reducing stress. Click the link to learn more about Andrea Samadi, and the Level Up Program for Educators.


  1. Dr. Srini Pillay ”  Tinker, Doodle, Dabble, Try  (Random House, New York, 2017). Kindle Edition Location 233
  2. Dan Siegel, “Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation” (New York: Bantam, 2010) Kindle Edition Location 133

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