Summary of the 26.02.2014 #ELTChinwag on Metacognitive Skills

For those not in the know, ELTChinwag discussions, organised by ELT Ireland, take place on Twitter twice a month on Mondays at 20.30pm GMT, under the hashtag #ELTChinwag.  The focus is decided in advance and publicised on the hashtag, where you can also make topic suggestions. The topic on the 26th February was Metacognitive Skills. I suggested the topic and had intended to participate, but by the time I got home soon after 9 (Italian time, so in time!) I had clean forgotten about it! On the plus side, I’m participating now by writing up the discussion. Here, then, is a summary of it (NB: I have expanded contracted Tweet-speak into full sentences, to make it easier to read!):

The obvious starting point, of course, was to thrash out a definition… 

What do we understand by ‘Metacognitive Skills’?

  • For me, metacognitive skills is the ability to think about how we think about, find out about and remember things (@LahiffP)
  • Knowing what you don’t know and how to go about knowing it? (@EAPStephen)

  • .. and how you might go about being more effective in getting to know it? (@LahiffP)

This raised another question.

Are our students of how they remember and understand, or get to know things?

Response to this question, as you would expect, was mixed…

  • Adults tend to be more so than young learners. Teenagers – well it depends on them. Although some adults are totally not either. (@KateLloyd05)
  • i think most students are aware of lack of memory but not techniques nor learning style. (@Noreen_Lam)

  • “I know it doesn’t work but not what I might do about it.” Can they develop techniques to help though? (@LahiffP)

  • Yes they need suggestions because they may not be aware of methods. Some just think they’re not trying hard enough! (@Noreen_Lam)

  • Mine are mainly teens and I often ask what they find better when learning and what they don’t. Some have insight. (@LahiffP)

  • Mine are adults 22-50,  only some of them actually want to learn what they could do to learn better, faster. (@MihaelaOlarlu)
  • Adults, mostly European, and they were reluctant to do weekly reflection but they’re getting more into it now. (@Jane_Seely)

Further questions and issues were raised and suggestions made…

  • But do they have the self-awareness that would allow them to regulate that? (@LahiffP)

  • “I know it doesn’t work but not what I might do about it.” Can they develop techniques to help though? (@LahiffP)
  • Sometimes they are quite pessimistic see English as mainly as content rather than a  set of skills. Very few of them are willing to reflect on their learning and observe what they’re missing out on. (@Noreen_Lam)

  • Some educational contexts mean they are not encouraged to reflect (@KateLloyd05)

  • I think everyone has capacity to reflect. Some do it naturally with learning. Others do it in other areas of their life. E.g. most people would reflect if they erred in social situation. Perhaps a case of helping students transfer existing skills. (@EAPStephen)

  • “Helpful to try to find other aspects more relevant to them in which they reflect and then extrapolate.” (@EAPStephen)

  • Yes, they need suggestions because they may not be aware of methods. Some just think they’re not trying hard enough!

This allusion to the necessity of scaffolding led on very conveniently to the next question…

What can we do to help our students develop their metacognitive skills?

  • I’ve noticed that with reflection you have to give them some freedom as to the form and type of feedback. (@LahiffP)
  • I designed a questionnaire to appeal to different student learning types, in week 5 now so need to tweak a bit (@Jane_Seely)

  • In teacher training raising awareness of trainees own learning process is a big part of it. (@LahiffP) (So important! If teachers themselves aren’t aware of their own learning process or haven’t developed the skill of reflecting on it, how can they help their learners to develop this?)

  • Often interesting to get them to reflect on others in class – e.g. find someone who exercise. Who is good at remembering vocab. Then find them and ask them how they do it. (@EAPStephen)  (I love this idea!! Can’t wait to try it out! Watch this space!)

  • A reflection questionnaire? (@LahiffP)

  • I like an activity where they give each other study advice, “If I were you I would …” and do a class study guide (@LahiffP) (Another on the list of new things to try asap!)

  • Expectation management too, given high level topics, students worry about understanding, less about how it’s done. (@MihaelaOlarlu)

  • Sometimes it is better not to call it a reflection I find, Learner diary is not a great term either. (@LahiffP) (I wonder what labels do work?)

  • Recorded presentations, self scoring for writing,  reflection on missed items listening skills.They find it beneficial and encouraging, they can cope with mistakes as long as there are reasons. (@MihaelaOlarlu)

  • Possibly a Pandoras box. Get them to reflect on the lessons. What activities they enjoyed, found helpful. (@EAPStephen)

  • I did project about learner diaries few years back and v. interesting results with kids and adults. (@Noreen_Lam) (I would love to know more about this!)

The last question, food for thought to finish on:

Is it worth pushing our students to take part in regulating their own learning? 

Of course, anyone who reads my blog will know what my views on this are! 😉

  • Absolutely! If you do it consistently over time it rubs off on them. (LahiffP)

  • it depends on the type and reason for learning. EAP is easier to push them, GE in home country, less so. Just for fun. (@KateLloyd05)

  • Definitely, done properly they know it’s worth it. (@MihaelaOrlarlu)

  • Pushing but for their benefit! Giving them tools to learn better and tailored ideas. Makes it easier and less boring. (@Noreen_Lam)

  • Maybe it’s fundamental!! (@ESLBrain)

To finish off with, here are the links that were thrown up during the discussion:

How wonderful to see a bunch of teachers being enthusiastic about metacognition and metacognitive skill development. I would love to sit down with them all in a pub and chat about it! In my experience, metacognitive skill development is beneficial and the students do appreciate it. Of course it’s not an overnight thing, persistence is key, as is motivation management.  

If you are interested in learning more about metacognition and metacognitive skill development, then I highly recommend Vandergrift, L. and Goh, C. Teaching and learning second language Listening: metacognition in action published by Routledge. It is an accessible introduction to the theory behind metacognition and contains lots of practical suggestions for putting it into practice. The focus is on listening skill development, as the name would suggest, but the principles can be applied in other areas. 

Finally, a small plug: In early April I will be doing an International House World Organisation live online workshop on the topic of metacognition. Only IH teachers can participate live but the recording will eventually become available to all, if I’m not mistaken. More information nearer the time… 🙂

Shhh...I'm thinking! Picture from commons.wikipedia.org licensed for commercial reuse with modification.

Shhh…I’m thinking about my thinking! Picture from commons.wikipedia.org licensed for commercial reuse with modification.

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One thought on “Summary of the 26.02.2014 #ELTChinwag on Metacognitive Skills

  1. Pingback: How Do We Create Compelling eLearning Design That Supports Learners? - EslbrainEslbrain

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