Research School Network: Just because it worked once, does not mean it is going to work every time: Approaching metacognitive strategies with high prior attainers. How to explicitly teach pupils metacognitive strategies

Just because it worked once, does not mean it is going to work every time: Approaching metacognitive strategies with high prior attainers.

How to explicitly teach pupils metacognitive strategies

Anna Appleyard, Assistant Headteacher at JSTC, Alford, has an equal passion in addressing disadvantage and sticky learning’. She is currently working with focus groups of high prior attainers, using evidence – based research to support long term memory.

Working in a coastal secondary modern with 50% officially’ pupil premium students, both social and academic disadvantage is one of our main challenges. Through high quality professional development and class teaching, we are constantly striving, like everyone else, to close that disadvantage gap; however, one of our focus areas is the progress of high prior attainers. These are the pupils that have a Key Stage 2 average score over 110 when they join us in Year 7. This translates to GCSE target grades of 6 – 9. Although we often see these students continue to make progress during Key Stage 3, our trends show this slows at Key Stage 4, due to a range of internal and external factors.

The EEF Metacognition and self-regulated learning recommendation 2: Explicitly teach pupils metacognitive strategies, including how to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning’ sets out fundamental questions to explore at each stage of learning and asks students to think carefully about what they do before’, during’ and after’ each task they approach. There is some evidence to suggest that disadvantaged students are less likely to use [metacognitive] strategies therefore providing explicit instruction is integral to supporting the use of these strategies (EEF:2017).

My focus group is 6 Year 10 high prior attaining boys, of which 3 are pupil premium. All an average target grade of 7. We discussed their approach to a general homework task, and subsequently, a more specific one, to qualitatively assess if they could verbalise their own thought process. They transferred this approach to a short assessment task, and it was overwhelmingly clear that although the pupils knew how to approach a task, they did not possess the strategies to monitor their learning, nor evaluate it, because they believed their strategy was working. Equally, they can verbalise what they think is the right’ strategic road, without transferring this into action.

The Dunning-Kruger’ effect; whose research showed that inexpert people overestimate their own performance and what is desirable, so see no need to try to improve’ (Brown et al: 2014, p121) relates to the self-perception of students, who often do not have the sophistication, or experience to successfully assess their own capabilities. Retrieval practice, spaced learning, interleaving; promising strategies and, for my focus group, often proved successful at Key Stage 3, where summative assessments fall neatly at the end of each topic.

Anna 3
An example of the Dunning-Kruger effect (1999)

Fast forward to Key Stage 4, where the depth of knowledge is equal to the breadth of knowledge and the assessment becomes more rigorous, students are unsure why previous (loosely followed) learning strategies are not producing the same, pleasing outcomes. As the EEF states, by explicitly teaching metacognitive strategies, we are able to provide students with the tools to evaluate what is working for them and gain the maturity to change things for the better. This will support students to become more accurate in their assessment of what they know and what they do not know. Simple?

As the evidence suggests metacognitive strategies are best taught through subject content (EEF:2017), ensuring teachers and relevant staff members have high quality, specific professional development is central to success. Using the EEF implementation cycle will ensure that sufficient time is allocated for the training and development of metacognitive strategies through subject content.

Using a simple template of 9 metacognitive questions, adapted from the EEF planning tool and Busch, a triangulation of stakeholders are able to understand the overarching concept of metacognition. Plan, monitor, evaluate’: Before, During, After’; prompts to kickstart metacognitive strategies, starting discussion and using a common language.

As for the focus group, we are making steps away from the I can tell you what you want to hear,’ into the Just because it worked once, doesn’t mean it will work every time’ territory. There is still a long way to go; we are planning how we can integrate these strategies much earlier, but barriers are crumbling. Brick by strategic brick.

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