Using training in metacognitive skills (question strategies) to enhance constructivist science learning

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Montana State University - Bozeman, Graduate School


Constructivist approaches to education involve giving students the tools they need to assimilate new information into knowledge constructs that they have previously established, modifying those constructs accordingly. The ability to recognize and regulate that process is advantageous in that it gives students the expertise to direct their own learning. Such metacognitive ability can be developed through the use of direct lessons in questioning techniques and subsequent reinforcement through the use of both oral question-and-answer discussions and written questions, as well as oral and written responses. Thus, a series of lessons were conducted in order to instruct seventh grade students in the identification of types of questions, relevant signal words, and a rubric for coding depth and complexity of questions. It was hypothesized that the lessons in question strategies would result in higher level questions posed and answers given as well as higher summative assessment scores and an increase in student confidence in science class. The rubric was used to codify questions and answers collected through a variety of means. Specifically, prior to and following the intervention, students used anonymous exit slips to ask questions about content; coding showed that students asked higher level questions after being taught question strategies. Oral questions, culled from transcriptions of audio-recorded classroom discussion, also showed higher level questioning in the post-intervention unit. Answers transcribed and coded from audio-recordings did not show much improvement, but written reflective answers did show higher level responses from pre- to post-intervention units. Summative test scores weakly supported the study's objective in that scores improved from 2011 to 2012 seventh grade classes, and there was considerable improvement in performance on one question targeted at a misconception problem. Finally, students did show a confidence increase from the pre- to post-treatment units as assessed by means of a Likert-type survey and interviews.




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