Student metacognition and critical reflection as a catalyst for greater teacher reflection

In conversation with my principal yesterday about my studies in critical reflection, we discussed the fact that students do not intuitively know how to critically reflect and be metacognitive and that they need to be shown and taught how.  However, many teachers are not given to critically reflecting either and may not have adequate skills to teach or facilitate increased levels of critical reflection in their students.  My principal and I came to the conclusion that it may be that should students increase their critical reflection, they may act as a catalyst for greater teacher reflection activities.  This has me thinking about the project which I am to develop for my uni course on critical reflection and I wondered if perhaps I should explore this issue a little further, the increase in student critical reflection and the impact this has on staff critically reflecting.

Many questions are raised when I think about this project and how I might set it up to get the best indication of what will work longterm.  As was also part of my conversation with the principal, critical reflection cannot happen in isolation from the subjects and context on which students are critically reflecting, it needs to be embedded in the right contexts. Desautel (2009) conducted a study in a not too dissimilar situation and said that in order build a program around developing student reflection, it was “implemented sequentially and augmented with instruction in self-description, mentalistic vocabulary, and the habit of thinking about oneself (what we in the classroom came to call “looking in”) (p. 2005).

These observations prompted me to think that perhaps I could utilise iPlan lessons (independent study) to teach more about self-description, the right mentalistic vocabulary and ways to articulate thoughts about oneself to students.  Then students could engage in reflection activities within specific KLAs and in a followup iPlan lesson I could conduct student interviews where I ask them to reflect critically.  My students have been getting into the habit of setting SMART goals, however, they do not do it very well and a lot of the research suggest that goal setting is paramount to effective critical reflection (McAlpine et al., 1999).  Desautel (2009) identifies that one of the key issues in getting students to set successful goals is to understand how to be specific.

All throughout my reading of Desautel (2009), my thoughts on students as a catalyst for increased critical reflection amongst teachers was solidified.   The author reports that  “as they [students] developed, to varying degrees, an awareness of the process associated with the phrase [looking within], it took on new meaning for me as well: I began to “look within” the minds of my students, too” (p. 2006) and the author also began to delve more into understanding metacognition thoroughly as well.

What I also got out of this reading was a great tool in the form of Schmitt’s (1990) Metacomprehension Strategy Index (MSI) diagnostic tool and how it can be used to code student reflections.  I still want to do more reading and research on this but I feel it could be very valuable to both the development of student reflection and to our school’s strategic goal to improve and increase student inference abilities.


McAlpine, L; Weston, C; Beauchamp, J; Wiseman, C. & Beauchamp, C. (1999). Building a metacognitive model of reflectionHigher Education, 37, 105-131.

Desautel, D. (2009). Becoming a Thinking Thinker: Metacognition, Self-Reflection, and Classroom Practice. Teachers College Record, 111(8), 1997-2020.


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