on metacognition, pedagogy, and the language of teaching …

'Scaffolding' photo (c) 2007, Maurice Koop - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Quite a lot has been written about the power of teaching students to think metacognitively.  Larry Ferlazzo, one of my favorite education bloggers, has curated a nice list of The Best Posts on Metacognition. Interestingly … understandably, actually … posts on metacognition are almost always about students thinking metacognitively, but rarely do we talk about the need for teachers to think “metacognitively.”  I suppose that most people writing about teachers and learning would write about “pedagogy” because the orientation is about how teachers shape and/or influence the learning experience for students.  What about, though, when teachers are the ones doing the learning?

We have been working on a very exciting new project with our frosh biology teaching team.  Students are working in teams to research a development in DNA biotechnology and share/communicate/teach what they have learned to the rest of their class.  Each team is required to collaboratively create a topical blog, but the content and the media embedded in their posts are very much up to students.  Students appear to be highly engaged in the research, topic exploration, and creation process, but equally exciting for me has been the exploration and learning process that our teachers have engaged in as well!

Because of our very traditional school culture and curriculum, this venture into project-based learning has been challenging and, understandably,  for our teachers, very anxiety inducing. They most certainly are to be lauded for their courage and GRIT! As we have delved into the project, teachers are realizing the need to be aware of a whole host of process oriented issues.

How should students take notes collaboratively?  NoodleTools? Google Docs? As separate posts in Blogger?

Are students adequately noting sources as they enter notes into their shared Google Docs to insure that their collaborators and/or teacher can visit the original source for the content for purposes of verification or exploration or to follow-up on a followed source?

What is the best way to have access to students’ projects?

How do I deal with Shared With Me folder bloat in Gdrive?

How do I deal with formative assessments? Summative?

Even as teachers are in the throes of completing the project with their current students, I am incredibly impressed at the thought that is going into their planning for “when we do this project next year …”

As we engage informally on these questions I am ever more convinced that teachers want to be creative, but they’d like help with the structure and work flow issues.  Our teachers would be very well served by a metacognitive framework (some scaffolding, if you will) for developing a project-based learning module.

It’s in the works.  More to come!

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