Reflecting on my research process – getting to the point

Getting to the point and the fine line of my purpose in researching is something I do not think I always do well but this time, doing research, I am being a lot more thorough and open to where it takes me.  However, I also find that I end up with so many ideas about what my resulting project will be that I cannot refine it enough to be a good piece of academic writing that someone else can gain something from.

So how to I make sense of my ideas and my research and reading? It is evident from my critical reflections recorded on this blog how I’ve been trying to make sense of my research and reading.  I have been prolifically reading through articles based on the search terms I started with, including: metacognition and goal-setting; critical reflection and goal-setting; and, metacognition and critical reflection.  However, from the literature uncovered as a result of those searches, I started research other things such as: goal theory; judgements of confidence (JOC); self-regulation and goal-setting theory; and,  metacognitive awareness in goal-setting and critical reflection.  As I’ve read my knowledge of these topics has grown and so I’ve found my ideas about the focus of my project for uni getting confused but also refined.

As I’ve read these many articles I’ve copied sections of particular interest and relevance from them and put them into a Word document that records the article they are from and page numbers and I have now got a long paper trail of my research and reading, which I can reflect on and make notes from.  I am also recording my ideas for my project rationale and method in a separate note on my computer and will continue to develop it.  The purpose of my project has always been about helping my students to set deep, highly thoughtful goals that increase their learning outcomes and metacognitive awareness along the way.  However, as I’ve read more I’ve had my focus being refined and changed to consider looking at it from the angle of ‘what is it that is stopping my students from setting deep, highly thoughtful goals now?’ or ‘why do my students set very superficial, broad goals that do not identify what they really want to achieve?’.  I’ve been considering whether or not I should look more at the the psychological hinderances to good goal-setting that my students might be experiencing as well.

I will continue to work on a solid rationale for my project by critically reflecting on my the sections of the literature that I have gathered and see where it leads me.  The gaps that the literature has identified gives me a starting point but I am only doing one project, not several.

 

Metacognitive prompts = Metacognitive Awareness = Improved Student Goal Setting

I have been focusing my research efforts on structures for developing students’ metacognitive knowledge and skills but when I began it, and when I wrote my annotated bibliography, I wrote it addressing the proposal that my project would look at the role of critical reflection in developing students’ ability to effectively set goals and be aware of their own metacognition.  I was thinking of incorporating metacognitive prompts into students’ learning experiences to help them develop their metacognitive knowledge and be able to critically reflect on their goals and lessons learned.

What are metacognitive prompts?

From my research, I have deduced that a metacognitive prompt is similar to a scaffold.  It is a question most of the time, but prompts the student to ask themselves about what it is they are thinking and doing during the task they are completing.  For students familiar with metacognition, a metacognitive prompt could simply be an icon to which they identify a specific question, action or thought to which they cognitively turn to reflect on their metacognition.

Metacognitive awareness

When students are metacognitively aware, they are able to identify how they are learning and the connections they are making cognitively, that bring about that learning.  Once students are able to identify the cognitive processes they utilise in their own learning,  they can then learn to regulate them, making use of their own optimum cognitive strategies (Rayne et al., 2004). This is what it looks like when a student has metacognitive awareness.

Effective goal setting

It is my belief that effective goal settings involves students:

  • being aware of where they currently stand with their knowledge and understanding of topics and concepts they are experiencing in learning opportunities;
  • recognising and identifying the gaps in their knowledge and skills;
  • being able to identify where their knowledge and skills should be;
  • determining the pathway they need to take in order to acquire new knowledge and skills; and,
  • critically reflecting at regular intervals until such time as they can identify successful attainment of identified new knowledge and skills.

This will be my focus now but I would very much like to continue pursuing other ideas and strategies to help my students attain metacognitive confidence and skills.  I would love to develop a whole range of resources for this topic, however, I will focus on this topic as a way of seeing if the metacognitive knowledge they have now is sufficient for successful goal setting or if they require explicit instruction in metacognitive knowledge.  I will perhaps implement my project with an older year group or with a senior and a junior year group.

References

Rayne A. Sperling , Bruce C. Howard , Richard Staley & Nelson DuBois (2004.) Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning Constructs. Educational Research and Evaluation: An International Journal on Theory and Practice, 10(2), p. 117-139.

The perfect combination – organisation theory and critical reflection

It turns out that I have chosen two fantastic courses to start my Masters degree with, Educational Institutions as Organisations and Critical Reflection in Practice.  With each module and each week of study I can see the connection between the two and the understanding of one needed to move forward in the other.  This was summed up perfectly at the start of ‘Smart thinking : developing reflection and metacognition‘ by Wilson & Jan (2008) when they wrote:

If schools are to develop and implement effective teaching of how to think, within student-centred, constructivist classrooms, across and within all areas of the curriculum, it is advisable that teachers acknowledge, discuss and act upon four aspects relating to school culture: beliefs and understandings, teaching choices that promote reflective practice, a shared language, and assessment. (p. 8)

My project is going to be to design a series of lessons that teach metacognitive knowledge and apply it to critically reflecting on learning in a subject for a group of students in a particular year group.  It will require students having an understanding of certain aspects of the school culture to feel it and understand it to be a valid and important task for them to complete I believe.  Therefore, I will need to address some aspects of school culture with them as I help them also understand metacognitive knowledge and how to be critical reflective thinkers.

All of this supports my strong belief that teachers need to be seen to actively model habits/activities they want their students to be utilising as well.  Our school places a high value on independent learning and developing lifelong learners, and our school motto/goal for the year has incorporated that element within it very strongly.  It is also part of our culture that teachers be always actively engaged in lifelong learning activities and students are often able to visibly observe these occasions due to their location within the school. This is a great example of the culture of our school and how it can positively influence the students’ learning habits.

My passion is to help students find the value in employing critical reflection as a habit in helping them develop their metacognition and self-regulation in order to become more effective lifelong learners.  I think one step towards that will be for me to model it for students, talk and think aloud about what I am doing and learning to model metacognition and self-regulation as critical reflection.

Exciting opportunities await and I am keen to start working towards this goal and critically reflecting on its effectiveness as it progresses.

Reference

Wilson, J., & Jan, L. W. (2008). Smart thinking: Developing reflection and metacognition. Curriculum Press.

Metacognition and cognitive self-regulation – Developing student prompts

In working on my project ideas and study for my critical reflection subject, I have been exploring the idea of how to facilitate greater depths of critical reflection in my own students and I have been questioning what it takes to facilitate the development of this. What scaffolds and curriculum structures are required to increase metacognition and self-regulated cognition?

Metacognition is one of those terms that has had one theorist after another proceed to try and provide a succinct definition for it without success when it comes to the succinctness of such as definition.  Kitchener (1983) points out in her article ‘Cognition, Metacognition, and Epistemic Cognition: A Three-Level Model of Cognitive Processing’ that metacognition definitions can include any combination of and inclusion of such words as: “‘cognitive monitoring’, ‘executive processes’, ‘self-communication’, and ‘knowledge about knowledge’” (p. 222).  Kitchener (1983) included the word ‘monitoring’ in much of her article, which guides my direction somewhat in considering the kinds of prompts I might need to think about in terms of facilitating metacognition in my own students.

On the Tools of the Mind website, they define self-regulation like this:

“Self-regulation is a critical competency that underlies the mindful, intentional, and thoughtful behaviors of younger and older children alike. The term self-regulation (sometimes also called executive function) refers to the capacity to control one’s impulses, both to stop doing something, if needed (even if one wants to continue doing it) and to start doing something, if needed (even if one doesn’t want to do it).” (Tools of the Mind, 2014)

 

So more than being able to monitor one’s own cognitive processes, it is essential that students learn the skills to make adjustments when they are needed as well.  Just like in the book I recently finished, including a experience-based account of The Choice Map, I want students to be able to recognise when their learning processes and thoughts are not on track to goal and outcome success and be able to adjust it accordingly.  The question on how to do this is what I am pondering and reflecting on as I read further into metacognitive prompts and critical reflection.

Metacognitive knowledge is defined as:

“[...]one’s stored knowledge or beliefs about oneself and others as cognitive agents, about tasks, about actions or strategies, and about how all these interact to affect the outcomes of any sort of intellectual enterprise.” (Flavell, 1979, p. 906)

I’ll also consider what part metacognitive knowledge will play in the overall facilitation of critical reflection and metacognition.

references

Flavell, J. H. (1979). Metacognition and cognitive monitoring: A new area of cognitive–developmental inquiry. American psychologist34(10), 906.

Kitchner, K. S. (1983). Cognition, metacognition, and epistemic cognitionHuman development26(4), 222-232.

Tools of the Mind. (2014, ). Self-Regulation. Retrieved April 16, 2014, from Tools of the Mind: http://www.toolsofthemind.org/philosophy/self-regulation/

Strategies for developing successful thinking students

Whilst raiding the teacher reference section at school I came across a great book called ‘Thinking Strategies for Student Achievement: Improving learning across the curriculum, K-12‘ that outlines 30 strategies for enhancing the level, purpose and experience students have with thinking.  I have a keen interest in metacognition and assisting students to become more aware of their thinking processes, as indicated in other blog posts, however, the problem is what strategies to use.  So when I came across this book I was hopeful that it would equip me with the tools for implementing appropriate strategies with my own students to facilitate increased reflection.

Here are some of the strategies that I already use and how I perceive it to be increasing my students’ thinking skills:

  • Graphic organisers – these are fantastic skills for breaking down a task, a text or a concept.  Breaking down and compartmentalising sections of these require students to demonstrate critical thinking in categorising the elements into each section of the graphic organiser.
  • Jigsaw – a jigsaw activity is when students are numbered and then they discuss a question, concept or critically reflect on something and discuss with starting group and then break off into groups that are all the same numbers.  Within this new group the information is shared on what their original groups discussed and so each student collects a new understanding and new perspective that they will then take back to their original group.  This kind of activity requires a lot of thought and processing of thoughts expressed by various other students in discussions.
  • KWL chart – a KWL chart is for students to reflect on their background knowledge under the ‘K’ for know.  After reflecting on their background knowledge, students need to reflect on the gaps that still exist in their knowledge of a particular topic that is being addressed in class.  The ‘W’ stands for want to know and then the ‘L’ represents the outcomes and new knowledge and skills gained that students can identify upon reflection at the end of a unit.

I thought forward to reading this book in its entirety as it seems like it will be a very practical tool for helping me develop ways of integrating more intentional opportunities for reflection into lessons at school.

References

Nessel, D. D., & Graham, J. M. (2006). Thinking strategies for student achievement: Improving learning across the curriculum, K-12. SAGE.

My Modes and Models of Reflection – Modelling for others

In order to facilitate greater levels of critical reflection in my colleagues and students, I’m aware that I may need to model it in a highly explicit way that is both transparent and effective in the outputs it produces, e.g. clear goals for moving forward.  My critical reflections are currently in the mode of blog posts on this very blog and don’t particularly take any one set format for how write or why but tend to be very informal reflections on what I am learning and thinking about and how I could use it in my future teaching and learning.  What if I were to adopt a particular scaffold, model or format for my blog posts that are intended to be critical reflections on something?  What would that look like?

Curating lots of research and resources over the last few weeks on critical reflection and models of reflection has culminated in a Pinterest board of many different diagrams that outline the work of such researchers as Gibbs (1988), Kolb (1984), Dewey (1938), Schon (1983), Eby (1992) and many more adaptions from work of other educators and philosophers.  Reflecting on these models, I might adapt one or more to help shape my blog posts more effectively.

Gibbs’ (1988) model of reflective practice initiates the following 6 steps: description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusion and a question about future iterations.  To expand on these steps, the description is specifically based on an event or episode so it could be that I might reflect on a particular lesson at school or professional development session.  The second step is to reflect on the feelings generated during said event or episode, as well as to consider the thoughts that went with those feelings.  If it was a particularly difficult lesson where everything went wrong then I would probably be feeling frustrated and thinking ‘there has to be a more effective way of doing this’.  The process would continue to be scaffolded by this model and the questions it poses, but my question is, does it prompt my thinking and critical reflection enough?

Schon (1983) is even more simplified than Gibbs (1988) so I’m not sure that it would be sufficient enough as a scaffold for myself or my students, however, it is possible that it may work as a foundational stepping stone in developing more detailed consideration of stages in critical reflection.  I could utilise the three stages emphasised in Schon’s model in the first few lessons on critical reflection with students and then progress to another model that facilitates more depth in the reflections.

Healey and Jenkins (2000) outline how Kolb’s experiential learning theory can be applied as a model for critical reflection and what I found particularly useful and practically applying the model was the set of questions for each stage that the authors used in their discussion paper.  The summary of this can be seen in Figure 4 of the discussion paper and it is especially effective in its breakdown of pre-experience, within experiences, post-experience and consideration of substitute experiences.  I think this is a model I would love to use when doing action research cycles or critical reflection for a very specific purpose but it may be too much for the classroom.

There is still much work to be done in order to assist my colleague and students in becoming reflective practitioners and learners, however, studying critical reflection alongside organisational theories is proving very valuable in equipping me with the skills to integrate more scaffolds and plans for reflective practice.

References

Healey, M. & Jenkins, A. (2000) Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory and Its Application in Geography in Higher EducationJournal of Geography, 99, pp.185-195

Kodesia, S. (2013, August 16). JCU Workplace Educators Resource Package: Reflective Practice. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from James Cook Univeristy Australia: http://www.jcu.edu.au/wiledpack/modules/fsl/JCU_090342.html

Schön, D. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner. New York: Basic Books

How can I get my students to think for themselves?

This question is one I’m sure many teachers have asked themselves on a daily basis.  I teach at a school with wonderful students and great academic success, however, I don’t see my students self-regulating their learning and demonstrating an understanding of their thought processes very much for themselves.  I hear questions in almost every lesson from students along the lines of: “Miss, what to we have to do?”, “What’s the answer to this question?”, “Can you tell me what to write for this ____ please Miss?” and other variations of the same.  Answering these questions is frustrating, I will admit, but to spark their curiosity and get their thought process self-regulating, I will ask them a question back and leave them to ponder it a little more.  What else can I do to help students understand their own thought processes more?

At school, we utilise scaffolds a lot such as the FILIRUC, KWL chart, Venn diagrams and so many more. (I have got a list below of some of my favourite scaffolds and have a Pinterest board of graphic organisers that have similar scaffolds on it.)  Are scaffolds enough to promote self-regulation and metacognition, without spoon-feeding?  Cuevas, H. M., Fiore, S. M., & Oser, R. L. (2002) conducted research on scaffolding cognition and metacognition for learners and discovered that “diagrams effectively scaffolded participants’ metacognition, improving their metacomprehension accuracy (i.e., their ability to accurately monitor their comprehension)” (p. 433).  However, their study goes on to explore the role of scaffolding more and identifies that when it comes to knowledge transfer diagrams as scaffold are effective but are limited when trying to facilitate students’ mastery of information.  So this continues to pose the question, what will help facilitate the development of student cognition and metacognition?

Hmelo-Silver, Duncan, & Chinn (2007) take a slightly different approach in their research but still look at the concept of scaffolding.  They look at the different impacts that direct guidance instruction and minimally guided instruction has on the learning of students. Their research explicitly analyses the impact of research conducted by Kirscher, Sweller and Clark (2006) who concluded that “minimally guided instructional approaches are ineffective and inefficient” (p. 99).  However, as is pointed out by Hmelo-Silver et al. (2007), there are flaws in this conclusion as such learning methodologies as project-based learning and inquiry-based learning are minimal in the explicit instruction given but I have seen the metacognition and outcomes produced through both of these and they are certainly not ineffective or inefficient.

More reflection on these ideas and perhaps a cycle of action research will be necessary to make my own conclusions I feel.


My favourite scaffolds

References

Cuevas, H. M., Fiore, S. M., & Oser, R. L. (2002). Scaffolding cognitive and metacognitive processes in low verbal ability learners: Use of diagrams in computer-based training environmentsInstructional Science30(6), 433-464.

Hmelo-Silver, C. E., Duncan, R. G., & Chinn, C. A. (2007). Scaffolding and achievement in problem-based and inquiry learning: A response to Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006)Educational Psychologist42(2), 99-107.