John R. Frederiksen
Educational Testing Service, Division of Cognitive and Instructional Sciences
Barbara Y. White
University of California at Berkeley, Graduate School of Education
We introduce a method for promoting reflective conversations during collaborative work which enables participants to explore their cognitive goals and processes and thereby develop a metacognitive understanding of their practice. This method, termed "cognitive facilitation," seeks to provide a conceptual and linguistic basis for metacognitive reflection by "seeding" conversations with a cognitive vocabulary that is carefully chosen to promote the collaborative inspection of cognitive activity. We illustrate the usefulness of cognitive facilitation in two situations: middle-school students designing and carrying out scientific inquiry projects, and apprentice teachers seeking to understand inquiry-oriented science teaching through analyzing videotapes of classrooms.
Keywords--metacognition, collaborative learning, inquiry, science teaching
In this paper, we introduce a method for promoting reflective conversations during collaborative work so that these conversations lead to a metacognitive understanding of the goals and processes implicit in problem solving. Our proposal is to provide a conceptual and linguistic basis for metacognitive reflection by "seeding" such conversations with a cognitive vocabulary that is carefully chosen to promote a collaborative inspection and analysis of cognitive activity. We will use two problem-solving contexts to illustrate this method: (1) middle school students learning how to engage in scientific inquiry as they collaboratively design and carry out research projects ( White & Frederiksen, in press), and (2) apprentice teachers learning how to teach inquiry- oriented science classes by watching and evaluating video recordings of science classes. In each case, the problems are ill structured and open to multiple approaches. And in each case, learning to solve problems includes developing not only technical knowledge of concepts and methods of practice, but also a knowledge of one's knowledge and how it can be employed in solving problems.
In our earlier work in which we analyzed videotapes of students undertaking collaborative inquiry projects or of teachers discussing video exemplars of teaching (e.g., Frederiksen, 1994), we have found that the metacognitive content of reflective conversations in these situations is fairly sparse. We conjecture that this may be due to the lack of an explicit language and conceptual base for supporting such discussions. Schön ( 1987) emphasizes this crucial role of language in his analyses of coaching. The coach needs to "initiate students into 'traditions of the calling' and help them by 'the right kind of telling' to see on their own behalf and in their own way what they need most to see (p. 17)." The right kind of telling incorporates a language for talking about the goals one has adopted during problem solving (the ends to be sought), the methods or processes one is using (the means to be employed), and evaluations of one's current problem-solving approach or model (a critical examination of the framing goals and processes in relation to current outcomes). Much of the discourse between coaches and students is seen by Schön as a search for convergence in meaning, which will allow them to communicate in this way about practice. Collaborative work between a coach and student or, we add, within groups of apprentice practitioners depends on establishing a convergence in meaning for this language of practice.
These considerations lead us to propose a method for promoting the development of metacognitive skills