Checking for Understanding and Encouraging Metacognition
Metacognition, or “thinking about thinking” refers to the mental processes that control and regulate how people think. Metacognition is especially important in project work, because students must make decisions about what strategies to use and how to use them. Marzano’s (1998) research of 4000 different instructional interventions found that those that were most effective in improving student learning were those that focused on how students think about their thinking processes and on how students feel about themselves as learners.
The table below includes an overview of the methods, purposes, and instruments used for checking for understanding and encouraging metacognition. These methods help teachers check for understanding while they help students think about their own learning. The same method can be used for both purposes but teachers must be explicit in helping students think about what and how they are learning through questions and prompts. Links provide more detailed information and specific examples.
|Assessment Method||Purpose||When Used||Instrument|
|Written Journals||Journals are extended written reflections on learning or entries in reaction to prompts. In addition to reflections, prompts elicit specific thinking skills at key points in the project.
||Use throughout the project, at key points and at the end of the project.
|Video and Photo Journals
||These journals capture visual documentation of progress, reactions and reflections or to demonstrate skill development.
||Use throughout the project, but may be integrated into final products or performances.
|Structured Interviews and Observations
||Formal oral interviews are scheduled with individuals or teams to probe for understanding. Interview questions (protocol) ask students to explain and give reasons for their current understanding. Structured observations are similar but are used for skill, process, and performance assessment and can be done by students as well.
||Use structured interviews and observations throughout the project.
|Informal Questioning||Questioning allows students to openly express their ideas and thoughts, enables them to reflect on other students’ explanations, as well as make connections. Use to provide challenges, to assess student understanding, and revise lessons as necessary.||Use throughout the project, often during group work or class discussions.||
|Written and Oral Tests and Quizzes||Tests and quizzes offer direct evidence of knowledge acquisition and comprehension.||Use at key points within the project and at the end of the project.||