Metacognition – constructive controversies


This week my students engaged in a “constructive controversy” using the Endangered Species topic we have been covering. This activity was designed to encourage the development of students’ critical thinking skills using “controversial statements”  that have no right or wrong answer (a Socratic Questioning approach). In order to actively  (and physically) engage my students, they were also required to move around the room (to a Yes/No/Maybe station) when responding to a controversy.  Increasing the blood flow to the brain (neuroscience) and moving away from a “hands up for yes” approach made for some interesting observations:

1.As a teacher, I was situated in the middle of the room – the action took place around me

2. Students, as part of their learning, were visually engaged with each other, instead of me 🙂  🙂

3. Students who would normally be described as reticent contributors, became quite verbal when explaining how they came to a particular decision.

4. Debates raged across the classroom, with the students asking the “How” , “Why” and “What if” questions!!!  These questions required their peers to further elaborate upon their reasoning with others becoming involved in order to present alternative viewpoint s, or support a classmate’s reasoning.

I  just sat back and, to use a hackneyed phrase, “enjoyed the ride”. It was one of those classroom moments that you wish you could bottle! Absolutely loved being a part of this, and so proud of them 🙂

I taught myself out  of my teaching role!!!  They did not need me – they did not ask me to intervene and explain a point. All I was required to do, was read out the next controversy. In fact, some of the “controversies” were not read out because the students, as a result of their debates, came up with these themselves. Next time, I have to film this activity 🙂 so that they can see themselves modelling crtitical thinking skills.

Later that day, we reviewed some of the learning achieved in the morning (revision works best in the afternoon – Le Messurier). It was heartening to observe just how much the class as a whole, had benefited from the morning’s activity. This helped when the students negotiated the criteria for the next summative task, a poster (using ICT) on an endangered animal.

Another thought – reflecting upon the “I taught myself out  of my teaching role!!!” comment, isn’t that what we are aiming for as educators? Not a literal redundancy of our “role” but an understanding of ourselves as facilitators of student learning. Anyway – it was a lot of fun! 🙂

It will be interesting to mark their posters (due 2 wks from now) and assess how this learning activity may have informed their ability to synthesise information relevant to the topic. The poster is designed to be an educational resource aimed at students their own age, as such, my students must also include learning activites incorporating Bloom’s taxonomy into the poster.


About Kate Pill

I am a Secondary School teacher who is passionate about developing students' ability to answer the "who, what, when, why, how, what if and what next" questions over the course of their learning. A "mature starter" (read as - late!) to the teaching game, I am still developing my IT street smarts. This blog will chart my own journey through the metacognition landscape as I facilitate my students' understanding of not only WHAT they are learning but HOW they are learning it. Wish me luck!

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