Observing Metacognition in Action

In order to promote and facilitate metacognitive thinking, the teacher provides opportunities for both self- and peer assessment throughout the day. In math, this is evident in how they discuss and share both strategies and solutions with one another. In science, this is more evident in the process of exploring and making conclusions about concepts or evidence.

Most peer assessment in our classroom occurs informally by use of strategies such as talking to a ‘shoulder partner’ or ‘face partner’ and checking work for common answers/solutions at a table. This informal peer assessment provides opportunities for metacognition as students engage in conversations about how or why they reached an answer. Aside from discussing answers, it is also a valuable tool for guiding discussions on reading and any sort of conceptual knowledge. The informal sharing allows for students to share both their thoughts and their questions without fear of being ‘wrong’ or ‘dumb’.

In situations where peer assessment is used more formally, the teacher may ask them to have another student sign off or look over their work before placing it in the bin to see if they can help one another catch any common errors or mistakes. This strategy promotes metacognition by engaging a partner in the process of checking over work. I can see myself using this in my classroom because I feel that it positively contributes to the building of a positive community of learners by empowering them to encourage one another in their learning.

Self-assessment occurs more formally within the teacher’s classroom and she utilizes it often by giving students opportunities to check their work. When she is collecting an assignment to use as a formative (not summative) assessment at the end of a lesson or the end of a week, she frequently returns it to students after a ‘reteaching’ day and asks them to check their work again and make any corrections before turning it in for a grade. This strategy promotes metacognition by asking students to revisit previous thinking and to self-reflect on whether it was correct or needs to be redone. By grading these assignments after the second chance, the teacher makes the value of self-assessment clear because students are aware that they are responsible for reflecting on and revising their own work. This strategy is highly effective because students are practicing the content twice – first when they complete the work initially, and second when they have to reapply the strategies and process their mistakes. This aligns with our discussions about a growth mindset and the value of mistakes when deepening learning.

Another formal self-assessment that occurs in the teacher’s classroom is graphing their own fluency growth over the course of the year. Students keep a progress log of their fluency scores, and then at least once a month the class graphs their official score from the teacher to chart their growth. This promotes metacognition because students are actively working towards the personal monthly goal they have set, but then ultimately reflect on their progress by graphing their scores. Additionally, all of the graphs are posted on the bulletin board in the back of the room and this serves as a reminder and motivator for students. Though we are only two months in, I have seen this to be extremely effective because when I work with a fluency guided reading group the students always reference their goals and get excited about wanting to color in more of their chart.

Some ways that self-assessment occurs more informally are through prompts such as “circle any problems on the page that you found to be confusing or more challenging”, “decide which topic this week you need more practice with and pull out work to do before lunch”, etc. These are harder to observe, and often appear as assessment best practices, but still develop the 21st century intrapersonal skills of self-reflection through metacognition.

Overall, reflecting on how the teacher promotes metacognition shows me the value of integrating these practices daily, both informally and formally, but also that it is extremely effective in the release of responsibility from teacher to students. Additionally, I now understand the best practices for encouraging a growth mindset more firsthand because I have seen how encouraging students to learn from their own mistakes increases their learning and also returns more accurate information on the assessment. Lastly, the idea of graphing progress could be used in other subject areas if literacy was not a schoolwide challenge/goal.

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