Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Students Thinking about Their Learning: Assessment to Improve Learning

Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Students Thinking about Their Learning: Assessment to Improve Learning

Article excerpt

This project investigated the impact of using reflective and metacognitive strategies in self-assessment, on the learning of primary teacher education students. The strategies included various reflective activities focussing on learning and thinking. Those strategies - written reflections, selfassessment, co-operative group work and concept mapping were found to be effective for increasing learners 'awareness, evaluation and regulation of their learning and thinking.

First year teacher education students were asked to reflect on the development of their own thinking and learning within the major compulsory first year subject of the B.Ed (Primary) course at Melbourne University, Australia. That subject explored the nature ofchildren and childhood, the curriculum, teaching and learning. It included one day per week in schools.

The project investigated ways in which student involvement in the assessment process - through reflective and metacognitive strategies - might impact upon their learning. The strategies - written reflections, concept mapping, self-assessment and co-operative group learning were used for developing reflective and metacognitive thinking. Each student assessed their own learning and development throughout the year as part of the teaching program.

Defining metacognition

As long ago as 1933 Dewey spoke of "reflective self awareness: active, persistent and careful consideration of beliefs and knowledge", but Flavell (1976) was the first to use the term 'metacognition', referring to it as an individual's awareness, consideration and control of his/her own cognitive processes and strategies. However, despite growing interest in metacognition there is still disagreement, and Fogarty claims, even mystery and hostility (1997, viii), over the definition of the concept. The working definition of metacognition used in this report is: an awareness individuals have of their own thinking and their ability to evaluate and regulate their own thinking (Wilson, 1997: 5).

The model below represents the way metacognition is used in this paper. It shows three aspects of metacognition: Awareness, Evaluation and Regulation of one's thinking. Awareness and Evaluation are components of Monitoring - a thinking activity. Reflection is the mediating process whereby Awareness may become Evaluation and whereby Evaluation may bring about Regulation of the thinking processes.

Metacognitive Awareness relates to an individual's awareness ofhis/her progress, his/her knowledge about personal learning strategies and his/her state of knowledge, and an awareness of requirements of the situation. Metacognitive Evaluation refers to judgements made regarding one's thinking capacities and limitations as these are employed in a particular situation or as self-attributes, e.g., individuals judging the effectiveness of their thinking and strategy choice. Metacognitive Regulation occurs when individuals modify their thinking. They make use of metacognitive skills to direct their knowledge and thinking.

Learners who are metacognitively aware, have developed metacognitive skills, are able to access their metacognitive knowledge, and thus have the capacity to monitor and direct their own learning. Regulation (often referred to as control) is associated with active reflection on one's own thinking and involves deliberate decision making about what to do and how to act. When learners monitor their thinking, make judgements about their own thinking or consciously decide to act upon their reflections, they have been metacognitive.


The project was a case study of the introduction of a teaching innovation and used a qualitative, naturalistic methodology based on the constructivist paradigm. As lecturers teaching the subject, the researchers were able to act as participant observers. The approaches taken fitted with their philosophical position about the value of descriptive, detailed accounts of everyday life situations as the basis for grounding theory in reality. …

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