You are a Form Five history teacher and your students are well-behaved but very passive and academically weak. Usually they sit in class quietly and when asked questions, they usually look blank or just try to find the answers from the textbook. They have difficulties understanding and they have problems when asked to interpret information or to understand the relationships among different events. One day, a group of Form Five students came and here is what they said:
We find little interest in what we are studying and it is difficult to understand all the complicated information. Usually we just try to memorize the information, but we just cannot remember all the notes even though we study hard. Information gets mixed up easily. Teachers often complain that we did not attempt the questions properly. We thought we have included the material from the notes in our answers, but the teachers did not give us marks for it. Sometimes we simply did not have time to answer all the questions.
What would you do as a teacher to help these students? How can the idea of metacognition help?
Leslie is a Primary Mathematics teacher and he is very serious in how well his students achieved upon daily teaching practices. No matter which topic he teaches, he used to draw students attention starting from their prior knowledge and the whole learning process is undergone via stepwise instruction.
Once something has been learnt, he will provide assignments of differential degree of difficulties and students can selectively complete those according to their self-evaluated understanding of the concepts.
Teachers' concerns: My students are very hardworking, but they do not have high order thinking and don’t know how to study and learn well. What can I do?
Setting: ABC Academy (self-funded post-secondary education institution), Student A (without metacognition), Student B (with metacognition).
Student A and Student B will have German vocabulary quiz tomorrow and need to remember 3000 words in one day. Student A gets stuck on the revision of German vocabulary items while Student B sees the word pattern and do the revision efficiently. Student B is able to break the German word “Wörterbuck“into 2 parts for the ease of memorization. To Student B, Wörter(words) and buch (book) refers to a book with many words and this link to the English word “dictionary”. Now let’s see how they discuss the forthcoming German vocabulary quiz.
Student A: We will have German test tomorrow. There are many things for revision. I’m so perplexed and my mind is bombarded with the textbook content. With bunch of information in textbook, I can’t believe I can memorize it even though I study it till midnight.
Student B: Well, be positive. No one can study all lexis in one language not to mention the native speakers. You should remember that you are the one who know best where your interest and talent lies. Just prepare a study plan based on your interest and talent and you will be fine.
Student A: I don’t know how to begin with.
Student B: You should set priority about which content to study first and find a study method which caters to your own need.
Student A: how do you set such plan for yourself?
Student B: I’m keen on analyzing the words, so I just study by breaking up the word units and this helps me in memorizing the words efficiently. Let’s say, the word “dictionary” in German is Wörterbuch. If you break it into 2 word units, Wörter (words) and buch (book) refer to a book with many words. So the combination of these word units realizes the meaning of the word "dictionary.”. Does it make sense to you?
Student A: Yes. Anything else for your study plan?
Student B: I will also buy some exercise books to assess my vocabulary learning from time to time. That’s how I monitor my own learning process.
What makes the differences between Student A & Student B?
It is how they apply the strategies in their revision to remember words better. These strategies refer to the concept of metacognition.
Metacognition plays an important role in a student's learning strategies, and refers to:
Metacognition comprises three related sets of skills (Flavell ,1979):
Today, most learning theorists believe that when otherwise similar, students with better metacognitive abilities are likely to be better learners. Therefore there is a logical interest in helping students to learn metacognitive strategies.
According to Dirkes (1985), the basic metacognitive strategies are:
Young children are cognitively capable of monitoring their activities on simple tasks (Kuhn, 1999). Teachers can help students to develop their metacognitive skills. Children develop metacognitive abilities through interactions with parents and teachers (Langer & Applebee, 1986).
Merlo et al. (2007) proposed an overall pedagogical design for teaching metacognitive skills:
The items of each exercise are:
According to NCREL (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory):