I have often spoken to colleagues about issues that prevent students from achieving in physics and completely agree that how they think is a big barrier. The most successful post-16 students are those that use more body language in their explanations because they are picturing what they are talking about. I know I am very expressive in class as I feel out how the electricity is flowing or how sound goes from high to low due to the Doppler effect, that is because I am thinking about the models that can help my understanding.
However, the way that metacognitive questioning was introduced at school has confused and put off many members of staff. The responses received vary from "not another bolt-on to our lessons" to "we do that already". I always feel uncomfortable with the "we do that already" response. It is very rarely true in my experience: the best teachers never use that excuse, they reflect on what they do and use every piece of evidence to improve their practice. I also worry about the "not another bolt-on" comments; are teachers in our outstanding school really doing things in lessons they think don't add value to the learning just to tick boxes?
In departmental discussion about metacognition the issue of outstanding observation scores came up time and again. I am very upset by this: my aim is for students to get a good understanding of science, not for me to score points with management because I get a high score in a lesson observation. (Although I would like to get good scores too).
What am I going to do? I am already teaching segue in year 9, so using the 5 or 7 E approach. I want to see how I can use the structure with key stage 4 and 5. The evaluation section is (from what I can tell) the opportunity for the students to reflect and for me to use metacognition questioning. Whether I will use the questions that have been suggested to us is another thing. The framework for questioning we have been given is below:
Example framework for metacognitive questioning: to raise levels of awareness
1. Describe what kind of thinking you did
• What kind of thinking did you do?
• What do you call this kind of thinking?
• Was this kind of thinking .........? (name a kind of thinking)
2. Describe how you did your thinking
• How did you do this thinking?
• What did you think about? Why?
• Did you have a plan (or strategy)?
3. Evaluate your thinking
• Was your thinking good? Why?
• Did you have a good plan (or strategy)?
• How could you improve your thinking next time?
(adapted from Schwartz & Parks, 1994)
Metacognitive reminders for students
We must remember to:
• Get ourselves in a learning mood.
• Talk about what we have to do.
• Look and listen carefully.
• Decide who is going to do what.
• Stop and think - work for several minutes without talking
• Work on the task - have a go - allow everyone to speak - listen to what they say - ask questions
• Check our work.
• Think ahead.
(adapted from Quicke & Winter 1994)
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