High impact for very low cost. A ball of potential greatness to be further nurtured and grown in classrooms up and down the country. It’s been termed ‘learning to learn’ and ‘thinking about thinking’, but how can pupils acquire the necessary tools to unlock metacognitive knowledge and skills in an area that ‘holds so much promise?’
The latest EEF guidance draws on research evidence about metacognition and self-regulated learning. It can be found here: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/tools/guidance-reports/metacognition-and-self-regulated-learning
And a handy summary poster here:
The report rounds up the latest research evidence, providing a framework for accessible understanding and use in educational settings.
We work in a changing educational landscape. Keeping abreast of current issues and reliable research evidence keeps teacher reflections fresh and pedagogical practice sharp. Building pupil knowledge and skills with the ultimate goal of growing self-regulated learners is no easy feat. If pupils are to demonstrate understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, teacher modelling of thinking, crafting responses, moving to pupils deliberately practising using the required knowledge and skills, is a must. So here’s the question – what can teachers do, both in their skills set and that of their pupils, to ensure that learners’ evaluation is sharp, insightful and builds towards their self-regulation success?
Metacognition and Cognition
Understanding metacognition is key. The word can be surrounded with scientific complexity and inaccessibility. Erase that. As the EEF guidance identifies, metacognition is ‘pupils understanding how to monitor their own work and take steps to check how successful their work is.’ Cognition is ‘the mental process involved in knowing, understanding and learning.’ For a time now, I have been exploring metacognition and cognition in my classroom, reflecting, refining and responding to pupil learning development – both successes and strategies to change. The EEF recommendation to ‘explicitly teach pupils metacognitive strategies, including how to plan, monitor, and evaluate their learning’ is the area of my pedagogical reflection for this post.
SRSD – Self Regulated Strategy Development
Planning, monitoring and evaluating are all interlinked. For me, evaluating threads through both planning and monitoring and can be evident in the reflective questioning of both pupil and teacher at every stage crossed to meet a shared goal. I have utilised IPEELL (Introduction, point, evidence, explanation, language, links) as a strategy to support the crafting of English literature responses for a time now. It works when there is pupil knowledge to explore and craft a response at every stage of the mnemonic. It’s the long standing debate of knowledge verses skills and much classroom experience tells me students need both.
Planning often draws on the skills of recall, the activating of prior knowledge as a springboard towards a shared goal. Reflective questioning such as ‘what do I know about crafting responses’ or ‘what were my areas to develop in my writing last time’ serve to build a stronger starting block each time planning is deliberately practised. Through the use of modelling my thinking aloud and visibly crafting a paragraph of a response, pupils use metacognition to evaluate their previous IPEELL successes against the new challenge they are presented with. If students are to become masters of their own learning, it is crucial that the planning encompasses what’s gone before, where we want to go and what we do next.
Scoring systems add challenge to crafting a response – the higher the score, the more accurate the response, or is it? Scoring systems only work if the pupil truly knows what they are looking for. ‘One mark for a strong point.’ Tick. ‘Two marks for a relevant piece of evidence supporting your point.’ Tick. Tick. I think this is where pupil metacognitive skill is most prevalent. Pupils have to be secure in what the knowledge and the skill (when expertly applied) looks like. Rewind back to the planning stage – what’s gone before, where do I need to go and what do I do next.’ ‘Reflect on the models, the thinking and apply it to my work.’ In truth, this isn’t easy. A pupil understanding how to monitor their work securely, and the work of their peers, takes time to craft. Every stage of the process is deliberately practised, modelled, re-modelled, pupil work shared, analysed, reflected upon and then the specifics deliberately practised again.
Here’s the test – did the planning and monitoring provide pupils with the tools to evaluate the success of their task completion in comparison to the shared goal? Did it guide students to effectively reflect and question their progress? ‘Was my planning effective in helping me to complete the task?’ ‘Did I show progress in the area I needed to develop last time?’ Looking in the books of my pupils, I see self-marking comments such as ‘I need to grow the idea of conflict in Charge of the Light Brigade’ and ‘when I spotlight a word, I must link it to the big idea in the poem.’ Peer marking has included ‘try and find a synonym for conflict as you have used it four times in the paragraph,’ and ‘consider patriotism and how the soldiers would have felt about the mistaken order.’ In my classroom, this is success – this is cognition flowing around the room in the form of knowledge on how to craft a response. At its backbone? SRSD and IPEELL, strategies that allow for metacognitive monitoring and purposefully directing their learning. As Kylie Minogue was once quoted to say, ‘There’s no shortcut to learning a craft; you just have to put the years in.’ As teachers, we have limited time in which to hone such development in our pupils, so we have to do it well.
Image – bookboon.com