Bright Spots – Metacognition

Metacognition is notoriously tricky to implement and by extension tricky to uncover in action. However, as part of our continued efforts at Durrington to make metacognition part of teachers’ habitual practice and students’ everyday thinking I have been dropping into lessons this week. My purpose was to see what examples of metacognition I could uncover. Below are some of the bright spots I found:

In year 7 geography Evie Steele was completing a recap quiz at the start of the lesson. The metacognitive element here came through the questioning of students regarding their answers. Evie asked the students how they had arrived at the answers they gave. This required the students to reveal their thought processes and thereby consider where the knowledge came from and how they knew what they knew. Part of metacognitive regulation is evaluating your knowledge in order for you to know your relative strengths and weaknesses, this sort of questioning helps students to build that.

Dropping into Lucy Wakeling’s year 9 Spanish lesson I found students completing a vocab translation task from memory. What was interesting here was having conversations with the students about their relative confidence and competence with different words. Some of the students I spoke to were able to recognise the reasons they found the cognates easier to translate than other words. They were also able to explain why they found certain words harder to remember for reasons such as lack of use or complex meaning. Here the students were not simply saying “I’m rubbish at Spanish” but able to identify and explain they specific reasons for success and failure with the task.

In science Alex Mohammed was teaching year 10 about drugs trials. Alex was taking the class through the various stages that drugs go through before they are released for public use. During his explanation Alex was asking the students a number of questions. In this class Alex has fostered a culture of interrogation and enquiry. The students were not simply accepting the knowledge offered and making notes, but asking Alex deeper questions as to the reasons for certain parts of the process, potential pitfalls and “what if” scenarios. The metacognitive element here is that these students were thinking deeply about the knowledge, connecting it to existing knowledge and assimilating it into schemata. By doing so they were increasing the chances that they would remember it accurately.

Year 8 were preparing for an assessment during Maddie Foster’s English lesson. This type of lesson often lends itself naturally to the explicit teaching of metacognitive strategies. This is because the teacher is often trying to develop procedural knowledge in students, and this process is made easier by explicitly teaching metacognitive strategies that give a structure to these procedures. In this case the metacognitive procedure had already been taught in a previous lesson; how to deal with a quote using a what, how, why approach that would in turn structure the writing to follow. Maddie was able to ask students about this strategy and they were able to confidently articulate the procedure. Here then was the students demonstrating knowledge of particular strategies that would help them with a particular type of extended writing.

In maths Jamie Veness was spending some time with year 10 recapping various question types. Speaking to one student I found he was able to confidently articulate the strategy he was using and why it was effective. Interestingly, when Jamie gave the answer to the question this student had not given a complete answer. He had the right answer but not to the right “significant number”. This then led to a discussion as to why a “correct” answer could be wrong. Here then is an example of where a student may build their own metacognitive regulation. Through a structured evaluation of where a task has gone wrong, students can be taught to self-correct similar mistakes in the future.

In year 9 music Max Gasson was helping students to read music. He had given students two strategies with which to identify notes, both mnemonics that many of us would recognise. However, he also asked students if there was a simpler way to identify the notes. Here he was leading students to look for repetitions to avoid having to work out each note individually. Drawing out this realisation from the students helped them to evaluate the strategies they were using rather than using them simply because they were given the instruction to.

Chris Runeckles

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