Increasing Teachers' Metacognition Develops Students' Higher Learning during Content Area Literacy Instruction: Findings from the Read-Write Cycle Project

By Curwen, Margaret Sauceda; Miller, Roxanne Greitz et al. | Issues in Teacher Education, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

Increasing Teachers' Metacognition Develops Students' Higher Learning during Content Area Literacy Instruction: Findings from the Read-Write Cycle Project


Curwen, Margaret Sauceda, Miller, Roxanne Greitz, White-Smith, Kimberly A., Calfee, Robert C., Issues in Teacher Education


Introduction

Success in the 21st century, for individuals and societies, requires competence in comprehending and communicating in the academic disciplines-the natural sciences, history, geography, and more. The Read-Write Cycle (RWC) Project, a three year longitudinal research study conducted from 2005-2008 in ten public elementary schools in southern California, explored the effectiveness of curriculum and instructional strategies that integrate literacy with disciplinary knowledge with the simultaneous goals of (a) enhancing students' literacy outcomes and (b) broadening and deepening knowledge of the content area. Funded by the U.S. Institute of Education Sciences, the RWC Project concentrated over years one and two on 1,024 students in grades three through six and the ongoing professional development of 18 classroom teachers. This documentary account focuses on one aspect of the larger project, specifically the RWC Project's effect on teachers' metacognition about their own practice leading to upper elementary grade students' higher learning by developing students': (1) metacognition and reflection; (2) exploration and depth in content domains; and (3) integration of literacy in content areas.

Theoretical Framework

The Read-Write Cycle Project research and professional development team members represent varied backgrounds in education and psychology and, as such, each contributed a distinct theoretical and/or practical perspective on content area literacy teaching and learning. However, consistent among all team members was a shared belief in and commitment to the following key constructs: constructivistic views of teaching and learning, emphasizing metacognition in instruction, using multiple strategies for reading comprehension, and the role of the teachers as co-learners in the process.

Constructivism and Metacognition

Our views are consistent with long-standing constructivist theories (Anderson, Spiro, & Anderson, 1978; Hayes & Flower, 1980; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1982; Spiro, Bruce, & Brewer, 1980) and recent constructivist approaches (Afflerbach, Pearson, & Paris, 2008; Duke & Martin, 2008; Kintsch & Kintsch, 2005; Pressley, 2002) supporting the proposition that the effective learner is an active problem solver, one that engages cognitively around the problem at hand and in understanding the thought processes surrounding the solution of the problem. We believe the engaged learner demonstrates deliberateness and conscious decision-making in taking "active control over cognitive processes" (Gama, 2004) and that this level of consciousness in decision-making must be achieved through leading students to be metacognitive during their learning experiences. We use Pressley's (2002) description of metacognition as thinking about thinking or in other words, an awareness of one's thought processes that evaluate the effectiveness of choices made in the present as well as the long range outcomes.

Unlike cognition, which is merely the act of knowing, metacognition is the learner's reflection about what he or she already knows or is in the process of learning (Smith, 2004), which we contend is a missing link in instruction in most classrooms today. Recent research suggests that the further development of cognitive to metacognitive thinking enhances both retention and comprehension for the learner, and that the ability to think metacognitively is the critical distinction between low and high achieving students (Pogrow, 2004) such as those we serve in the Read-Write Cycle Project. In exploring metacognition's role in comprehension, Pressley asserts it is "knowledge about reading and how reading is accomplished" (2002, p. 304). Although the research supports the enhanced benefits of metacognitive instruction in classrooms, without appropriate teacher professional development, few of these comprehension strategies transfer to or persist in many classroom settings (Boulware-Gooden et al. …

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