Problem solving is a complex behavior. Regardless of how much experience or knowledge a problem-solver has, each new problem situation is in some ways unique, requiring creative application of strategies for posing, solving, and resolving the problem at hand. Metacognition is the awareness and understanding of one's self as a thinker. Expert problem-solvers, and effective thinkers of all kinds are usually self-aware thinkers. They plan strategies for attacking thinking problems. When they hit blind alleys, they stop, analyze, and reflect. Effective thinkers pose alternatives for themselves and choose among them. Students' ability to reflect on their thinking "as thinking" and to analyze their own strategies are their metacognitive skills.
Surprisingly, metacognitive awareness is not uniformly developed in students. In reading, even college age students are unaware of how they can approach texts, plan their studying, or work through problems that have stumped them. In writing, inexpert writers may follow one procedure again and again without flexibility, even in the face of persistent failure.
However, teachers can promote awareness of strategies for thinking by engaging their students in activities that require reflection. Students can keep and share a "process log" where they write about the processes they employ in writing, reading, or problem-solving generally. As students share their entries, they gain an awareness of alternatives to their own processes, and the teacher can direct them to consider specific strategies. Teachers, as expert readers and writers, can also make their thinking strategies explicit by "thinking-aloud" with students as they read and write together. Group work or discussion time can also regularly include a "process observer," namely a participant who agrees to pay attention to how the interaction progresses and to report to the group an analysis of its process. Activities like these, that require students to make the sometimes-invisible work of thinking visible and explicit, help all students to understand that as thinkers, they are in charge. More purposeful, flexible, and creative problem solving is the result.
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Using a Metaphor for Learning to Improve Students' Metacognition in the Chemistry Classroom
Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Vol. 38, Issue: 2, February 2001. pp. 222 - 259
Thomas, Gregory P.; McRobbie, Campbell J.
A constructivist framework was used in conjunction with an interpretive methodology to investigate the effect of an intervention using the metaphor "learning is constructing" on students' metacognition and learning processes. The metaphor was used to communicate with students regarding learning processes consistent with constructivism. Students were initially found to be generally non-metacognitive regarding their learning processes. Despite some students possessing metacognitive knowledge...
Measures of Children's Knowledge and Regulation of Cognition
Contemporary Educational Psychology, Vol. 27, Issue: 1, January, 2002. pp. 51-79
Sperling, Rayne A.; Howard, Bruce C.; Miller, Lee Ann; Murphy, Cheryl
Two studies were conducted to investigate measures of children's metacognition. Experiment 1 presented two versions of a self-report inventory, the Jr. MAI, appropriate for assessing metacognition in children in grades 3-9. Factor analyses are interpreted that illustrate how the items measure components of metacognition. Experiment 2 further addressed properties of the two versions and compared the instrument to other inventories, teacher ratings of children's metacognition, and student...
Intellectual and Metacognitive Skills of Novices While Studying Texts Under Conditions of Text Difficulty and Time Constraint
Learning and Instruction, Vol. 14, Issue: 6, December, 2004. pp. 621-640
Veenman, Marcel V.J.; Beishuizen, Jos J.
This study investigated the nature of the relation between intelligence and metacognitive skillfulness as predictors of novice learning from text studying. Additionally, effects of text difficulty and time constraint were examined. The intelligence of 46 social-sciences students was assessed before studying two texts on different topics. Half of the participants studied the difficult text under time pressure, while the other half did so for the easy text. Metacognition was scored from...
Development of Elementary School Students' Cognitive Structures and Information Processing Strategies Under Long-term Constructivist-oriented Science Instruction
Science Education, Vol. 89, Issue: 5, September 2005. pp. 822 - 846
Wu, Ying-Tien; Tsai, Chin-Chung
The main purpose of this study was to explore the effects of long-term constructivist-oriented science instruction on elementary school students' process of constructing cognitive structures. Furthermore, such effects on different science achievers were also investigated. The subjects of this study were 69 fifth graders in Taiwan, while they were assigned to either a constructivist-oriented instruction group or a traditional teaching group. The research treatment was conducted for 5 months...
Although Galguera's essay, as part of the FOSS Newsletter e-library, focuses on science students learning English as their second language, it also contains valuable information and strategies to assist all students of science. He describes scaffolding, modeling, and bridge building as techniques to ensure that all learners become autonomous and successful.
Describes briefly and clearly three basic elements of metacognition: developing a plan, maintaining/monitoring the plan, and evaluation the plan. An appropriate list to give to students to assist them in their problem-solving success.
This site contains a short list of teacher strategies to facilitate students becoming more metacognitive in their approach to problem solving.