Teaching metacognitive processes to accelerate cognitive development

Year: 1994

Author: Tanner, Howard, Jones, Sonia

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The ability to think formally and to generalise and explain should underpin the mathematics curriculum. Recent research studies using problem-centred learning suggest that cognitive acceleration is possible in early adolescence. There is also evidence to suggest that pupils' metacognitive development can be enhanced.

This paper describes an action research project to accelerate pupils' cognitive development through the use of teaching approaches which encourage the maturation of the metacognitive skills of planning, monitoring and evaluation.

Underpinning the approaches is a continual emphasis on the need for pupils to articulate their thoughts: to explain rather than describe; to hypothesise and test; and to justify and prove. Although the action research paradigm was used for the development of teaching approaches and materials, a range of techniques was necessary to gain access to pupils' understanding of their own mathematical processes. Three hundred and fifty children aged between 11 and 13 from 12 classes in six secondary schools in Wales were compared with an equal number of matched control groups using pre-tests, post-tests, structured interviews and participant observations. Instruments were devised to assess pupils' levels of cognitive development, and their ability to use strategic skills. Metacognitive processes were assessed through written tests and structured interviews with pupils carrying out practical tasks. Statistical data were triangulated with participant observations made and recorded during intervention lessons.

Cognitive acceleration is facilitated by the structured development of metacognitive skills.