Last week I had an observed lesson and I included a specific bit of work on metacognition. It was to do with how to approach practical work. What things to think about when considering your set up and measurement taking. Some students in this group have struggled with the practical assessments this year and our focus since the exams is to work on practical skills ready for year 13.
I decided to use this approach after attending Northern Rocks 2015 and listening to the fantastic John Tomsett talk. He talked about metacognition, along with other things, as I’ve already detailed in my northern rocks review. An inspiring talk.
Clearly, getting students to understand how to approach practical work in a thoughtful, meticulous, considered way is about more than 10 mins work at the start of a lesson. In fact, since understanding a bit more about metacognition myself, I know it’s something covered quite routinely when going over exam questions, for example (a process now called DIRT, but something that has always been done to some extent). It’s not a process I have ever focussed on specifically though. It’s always been part of reviewing work.
What we did was this:
- Given practical outline, students plan what and how they are going to measure
- then we go through the plan I made and how I thought about all the different aspects of measurement
- students then improve or redo their plan
- students carry out practical
For interested folk, the practical was intensity of radiation over distance. Very simple practical, aimed at getting them to apply their knowledge of how to plot a straight line graph from a power law. The following lesson was a practical on Charles’ Law to challenge their practical skills a bit more.
The new part is where I talk them through my thought process. So far I think it’s having a good effect on my students. The seem to be approaching practical work in a way that is more in line with how they ‘should’ be doing it. Of course this could be down to a number of factors: pressure is off in terms of assessment, maturity of students, experience of students has increased, my attempts at helping improve their skills. I can’t say for sure but hope (as always) my efforts are really helping.
I got a graded ‘good’ for the lesson. Can’t be ‘outstanding’ because some students are not on target. Nearly ‘requires improvement’ because some students off target. Ho hum. The question of if students are truly on target or not will be answered when they get AS results in August. I’m hoping a few found some last minute motivation in the weeks before the exams!
I was happy with this new metacognitive addition to my teaching and I hope to use to to good effect in the future.