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Grant Proposal for 2010 Summer Institute: Developing Metacognition

joycetheriot's picture


joycetheriot's picture

Over the last four summer

Over the last four summer institutes at Bryn Mawr my goal has been to use the heightened understandings I am developing about “how brains work” and integrate those into my science teaching practice. Surrounding my students in inquiry based curriculum; I continue to search for new approaches that I can use to foster science learning. Over the last ten years I have created a number of content delivery systems that have engaged students and enabled them to take higher course levels. Using technology, I have designed differentiated learning structures that allow students to work and be challenged without disengaging from the entire class.

I have judged my variety of student assessment tools to be excellent. I questioned students about their understandings: while they were doing labs, interviewed them one to one about their feelings in my science class, conducted tests and created interesting projects. However after the summer institute of 2009, I began to crystallize elements of a new tactic as fostered by the brain and behavior classes. I realized that as long as I was constructing the model to fit my expectations that students would be constrained to express themselves within my own design. Therefore I decided to experiment toward collecting evidence of student thinking without constraints. Through the first marking period of the 2009 school year I allowed students to “free” doodle while I was reviewing and identifying goals during the first 10 minutes of class. I called it “Braindrains” and the students submitted their work directly after drawing. I would look over all of them after school and just put a check on each for validation and then students were to place each one in the last section of their binder. I also asked that each student put their favorite in within the plastic cover on the outside of the binder. I grade the whole binder every quarter but there was no grade attached to the Braindrains yet this was the one item for which most students sought my opinion.

Braindrains gave me some insight into student thinking but not necessarily around the science content. During the 2010 Summer Institute I conducted further research into “Probing Student Understanding” which led to investigations regarding metacognitive strategies. I thought deeply about my own teaching styles and considered my students learning styles that I’ve experienced. Formally my goal while teaching was to present a number of methods that revealed a “way” to understand science concepts. Most students found one that worked for them and were excited to explain to other students that still didn’t “get it”. The system worked better than most approaches but my own brain evolution throughout Brain and Behavior at Bryn Mawr caused me to probe deeper.

Students need to open up, inform me, or show me what they are thinking but in a more productive method than a simple braindrain. Examining metacognitive strategies gave me some insight into models that I might apply. At first during the 2010 Summer Institute I constructed a frame that would give direction and process for students to analyze their own thinking and develop a “story” about their understanding of a science concept. I continued to develop it into one that would take the student through the process of understanding their partner’s story, then their team’s story and finally leading to a class consensus that was based on the continuous changes made by the interaction of students.

Since leaving Bryn Mawr I have continued to develop this model to make it more appealing and interesting to use for my students. I have purchased large amounts of neon- colored paper and card stock. I bought a paper cutter to use that allows me to cut pieces of each exploratory level to fit together like a puzzle without a picture. I purchased additional drive storage to facilitate some graphic design and a printer that I can use with color to add interest to the model. I needed a card reader to transfer digital photos and am getting some watercolor paints to experiment with a different medium for Braindrains. The printer was the highest cost ($150), paper, drive storage and cutter taking the rest of the $300.00. The remaining amount covered scissors, colored pencils, brushes, and containers.

I will study and then perhaps influence the way students process and perceive, using this and maybe other metacognitive strategies. My hope is that this model can be useful in helping my students to understand their unique learning patterns, thereby increasing their ability to learn science within their own learning style!