Despite its emergence in early childhood many of our students will not fully develop their metacognitive skills before leaving school or ever. Students spontaneously pick up MC skills from parents, peers and especially teachers, however for our disadvantaged students in particular the emphasis is on the teacher to cultivate these skills. However many teachers avoid metacognitive instruction believing it to be too complicated for their students to understand or actually lacking the awareness of it or strategies to teach it. As subject experts however we think metacognitivley every day, but it can be hard to remember a time when we did not and therefore even harder to transfer our skills – metacognition can become tacit or automated for us.
Metacognition and Marginal Gains
Ben Crockett (@BenCrockett1)
Lead Teacher of Geography
Durrington High School
What is it all about?
Metacognition was first coined as a term by
John Flavell in 1979, and although a precise
definition remains elusive it can be primarily
considered to be the awareness one has about
their thinking processes and how one is able to
control these (Aydin, 2011)
Basically it’s the monitoring and control of
thought – or “thinking about thinking”
Subcategories – Martinez (2006)
1. Metamemory and metacomprehension –
appraisal of one’s own prior knowledge and
quality of comprehension
2. Problem Solving – determining what to do
when you don’t know what you are doing
3. Critical Thinking - evaluation of ideas and
processes for their quality.
All very interesting but why?
• Large body of research providing evidence of
academic gains with metacognitive instruction
(i.e Nietfeld & Shraw, 2002; Thiede, Anderson,
& Therriault, 2003).
• Individuals with well-developed metacognitive
skills can think through a problem or approach
a learning task, select appropriate strategies,
and resolve the problem or successfully
perform the task.
And yet …as subject specialists we actively
engage in metacognition every day
• Stress the importance of metacognition to learners – use the language
• Focus on questioning that connects new information to former learning
• Consciously model our metacognitive strategies to our students – focus
on how tasks are accomplished rather than the final product. Many of
our students do not necessarily take a systematic approach to task
completion and need to be trained to do so. Providing them with a
finished product without making the process of achieving this visible to
students has minimal impact.
(Chauhan and Singh, 2014;Gabel, 1999)
Real life examples:
• I completed an exam paper, not answering the questions but writing
on the paper what my brain would have been saying to itself had I
been completing it. The point was to make visible my thought
Explicit prompt sheets and checklists (Shraw, 1998) – move away from
content lists and use sheets to prompt planning, structuring, monitoring
Use your whiteboard – model the modelling. Make your choice of
strategies, choice of language and structure visible and audible to
students. Also show monitoring and evaluation – go back cross things
out, rub them out, rewrite things . Students need to be aware of this.
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