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


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.


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