QLC “Same Page” TeachMeet: Independent Learning and Metacognition

I recently attended a TeachMeet at Severn Vale School in Gloucester. The purpose of this was to meet other teachers from across our partnership of schools who are interested in developing the same areas of practice and pedagogy, to make connections, share ideas and perhaps come away with some new ones along with some contacts with whom to collaborate! I was part of the group that discussed Independent Learning and Metacognition. Here is a picture of some of the points discussed:

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The literature review produced by Meyer et al. was of great use and helped with some questions we had. Independent learning is described as self-regulated learning with students planning, self-monitoring, controlling, and evaluating learning activities. We found it closely linked to an alternative discussion group findings around Growth Mindset with delegates attending both sessions suggesting we should combine forces in our efforts.

The skills required of independent learners are (again from Meyer here):

  • Cognitive skills such as memory and problem-solving
  • Metacognition skills – learning to learn
  • Affective skills such as motivation (and closely linked to a growth mindset and how to develop)

My own experience of teaching metacognition comes from Building Learning Power (BLP) which was introduced during my NQT year in my first post. I still talk about the fours R’s (Resilience, Resourcefulness, Reciprocity, and Reflectiveness) with my students today and many aspects of identifying steps in learning have been part of the reflecting aspect of KS3 Science in Wales since 2006:

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Advice was shared when talking about developing independent learners within the classroom – that teachers must move from being the sage on the stage and aim to be the guide on the side was felt to be a great way of describing the shift in thinking about lessons. It was pointed out however that the recent Sutton Report concludes that quality of instruction (including effective questioning and assessment) is one of two factors with the strongest evidence of improving pupil attainment. (It’s ok to be the sage sometimes).

Primary colleagues already discuss the challenge of any particular task in terms of how students cope: If it is easy then they are in the green zone, too hard and it is in the red zone – if the challenge is enough to stretch but not to cause panic then they are in the purple zone and they are purple learners. This explains why year seven students have been talking about being purple learners!

Currently, our year seven team and students are focussing on how to be resilient learners, what to do when you get stuck (4Bs), and that getting stuck is part of learning – to expect it in fact! My own year seven class appear confident, as a group, approaching any task and support each other very well in lessons.

A great aspect coming out of the discussion is that we are already doing a great deal to develop independent learners, in both the primary and secondary phases, and that pupils going through QLC are developing into independent learners giving them exactly the springboard for college and beyond that they need to be a success. A common “language of learning” used by our teachers needs to be shared and staff will be sharing activities that will help develop some of the skills discussed. I personally would like to observe primary colleagues developing purple learners and their use of success criteria.

Developing life long learners is really what teaching is all about – its only content that gets in the way! This was a feeling within our group, that time was so precious, using it to develop the skills of independent learners may impact on covering all material (especially following recent changes). Many delegates felt there are activities that do both – students cover content whilst developing the skills. These activities are what our group intend to develop – I will share successful activities here.