Physics exam on Wednesday? We’ll be ok, we’re self-regulating Sir!

22 May 2018

A rather misleading title for this blog but with the recent publication of EEF guidance on ‘Metacognition and Self-Regulated learning’ (for the purposes of this blog I will be discussing self-regulated learning and its components of cognition, metacognition and motivation).  I thought I would share my own opinions based on the available research.

1- Students will not just develop these skills over time

There is a feeling that these skills are generic and will be acquired and developed by students over time. Low prior attaining students can lack motivation particularly when faced with challenging triple award content.

Motivation includes 2 subcomponents, consisting of self-efficacy and epistemological beliefs. self-efficacy refers to the degree to which a refers to the degree to which an individual is confident that she can perform a specific task (Bandura, 1997). pupils with high levels of self-efficacy are more likely to engage in difficult tasks (Schraw, Crippen and Hartley 2006).

In practical terms teach pupils the problem-solving process and how to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning. This will be covered further in part 4

2-The skills are subject specific and should be developed by specialists

Having engaged pupils with the problem, research suggests that there are 3 general instructional principles for improving problem solving (Chang,1999; Huffman, 1997). The most important one in this context is the acquisition of expert knowledge. This requires organised instruction from an expert (Schraw, Crippen and Hartley 2006) as well as reflective practice under the guidance of a teacher.  There are studies including ‘Inquiry, Modeling and metacognition’ (White & Frederickson) that show low prior attainers benefit most from the development of metacognitive skills.

Practically, this may involve selecting teachers with a high level of subject knowledge, (engaging with current CPD) and self-efficacy to teach within their specialism to the lower prior attaining students. This may be a paradigm shift for some science departments where these teachers tend to be deployed with top set groups.

3-Demonstrate your thought processes- show them how you think

Show pupils how you approach exam questions. There is research that making your thought processes explicit by working through a problem in front of the class can be beneficial. This viral post from John Tomsett set the example on how visualizers could be used to model answering exam questions,

Practically- I personally use an iPad/apple pencil and Apple TV combination to work through examination questions in front of the class. I model the way to tackle the question and the strategies I am trying and how I know if they are successful. I will take live feedback and monitor how successful the approach is and as a class we discuss and adapt. The process builds on what John was illustrating above by focussing as much on the metacognitive talk and justifying the approaches taken with ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions.

With the example above: Low demand for low prior attainers

These are though processes transcribed as they occurred to me

•   Read the question together

•   Ask why the student rubs the rod with the cloth, highlight key word in question “rubbing”, ask what Scientific concept is being discussed here.

•   Discussion around friction, note friction on exam paper

•   Move to diagram, ask students to compare the 2 diagrams. What do they notice? (circles, different numbers, different charges) What is the friction causing? (some circles to move, tease out which ones) Make notes on numbers of charges on before and after sides. Ask about the names of negative charges, recall of key information (electrons)

•   Read question again and highlight “charged”, ask what scientific concept is being discussed here. tease out charge and the rules around this, relate back to the annotated diagram.

•   Highlight key words “cloth “and “rod”

•   Ask what the charge on the cloth is before, ask again after. repeat for rod. Count circles if necessary

•   Model logical process from rubbing to friction causing electrons to move from the rod to the cloth. Describe net charge on cloth and rod

As ever I would welcome comments, particularly from Science colleagues on your experiences of metacognition.

Thank you for reading.


Posted on 22 May 2018
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