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Ernst R., Ghysels J. and Nijhof P.: The META-method: an experimental evaluation of a three-sided didactical approach to reinforce metacognition among secondary school students

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Working Paper

To stimulate learning, both cognitive and metacognitive strategies are believed to be effective. This contribution reports on the experimental evaluation of an approach to develop metacognitive skills among students in secondary school. In the experiment 653 students of two schools and three age levels (14-15-16) participated. They experienced in their math and economics classes the three aspects of the META-method: metacognitive charts, mindmapping and exchanging opinions on metacognitive theory. The method intends to stimulate stepwise metacognitive thinking, by letting students develop mindmaps and metacognitive charts in class. The attention given to metacognitive theory is meant to foster this learning process supplying the students with scientific insights on brain functioning and learning.
The experiment shows promising results, clearly improving the self-reported metacognitive practice and skills like self-regulation, elaboration and critical thinking among the intervention students. Yet, regarding the cognitive outcomes (math tests), it reveals statistically significant effects only for students in the second quartile, i.e. students who –in the pretest- performed below average, but not dramatically so. For other students the method does not improve, neither harm the learning outcomes. This result is more modest than earlier, small-scale experiments, which may stem from incomplete adoption of the method by teachers, who report to need more time to incorporate the method in their teaching practice. Future longer term research will be able to confront this issue.

Key words:
Experiment, secondary school, metacognitive skills, metacognitive knowledge, training

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