How Do We Build Metacognitive Thinking Through Self-Assessment

We can all agree that metacognitive thinking is obviously beneficial. The environment in which a student feels comfortable enough to be a self assessor can be tricky. What does that look like? What is the goal?

Getting away from the time-honored question, “Is this the right answer?!”

As former students, this is probably the question that motivated most adults as young learners. The response of, “Yes, you are correct!” or “No, you need to work harder.” always seemed to hold a finality of the lesson.

That is where we all decided that we were “great at math” or that we would be lifelong math strugglers. We all have those memories.

So how do we as teachers change that narrative? How do we facilitate students in becoming their own teachers? How do we give them a voice and the confidence to speak to their own capabilities and shortcomings and how is that beneficial?

Learning Goals and Scales

Reflecting back to John Hattie’s book, “Visual Learning”, there are questions that guide a student through the self-assessing process.

Relating to the content each student should ask themselves:

  • Where am I going?
  • How am I going to get there
  • Where to next?

Keeping those guiding questions in mind each student is given a Learning Goals and Scales chart for each chapter studied.

The goals and scales are based on a combination of Common Core Standards and State of Florida Item Descriptors.

Seen within the items are leveled abilities. This is important to guide the learners in their self-evaluation. It is also very helpful for the students to keep the chart throughout the chapter.

This is not a summative assessment or checklist to use at the end of the chapter. The students should have access to help guide their thinking and goals. The goals and scales are written in “kid-friendly” language as “I can” statements.

This is done to make ownership of the goals easily relatable to elementary-age students. In reading each statement the student is then able to designate the color that best fits their comfort level for that item.

As it relates to their feelings about a topic:

  • Red indicates that the student feels that they are not confident in this skill. They feel that they require more work in this area.
  • Yellow indicates that the student feels somewhat comfortable with the statement. They can be effective when leading in whole group scenarios, or with partner support, but may still have questions.
  • Green indicates that the student feels very comfortable with this skill. Not only could they complete the tasks at hand, they could also explain them to a classmate.

Support through Discussion

Learning Goals and Scales and Think!Mathematics US

The students’ responses to their Scales and Goals can be seen below. Those are then used to guide the students through self-assessment by applying the goals to different examples that have been either created in their Math Journal or through concrete examples that the students can demonstrate and explain.

Examples below show the students reflecting on their goals for their first chapter in their mathematics classroom this year.

Students Reflecting on Their Goals and Think! Mathematics US

The students were allowed to use their goals and scales to keep track of their thoughts and their own accountability and then relate those directly to examples.

These discussions are truly the cornerstone of metacognition for the students. Being told that their thinking is more valued than a simple score is the first step in supporting a student in seeing themselves as not just as a spectator in their education but as their own teacher.

Initial Teacher Takeaways

Having a specific routine for this method of accountability and reflection is crucial. There must be a procedure put in place that helps the student guide themselves independently. If these steps are not taken students become distracted in the implementation of the task and the quality of the actual reflection is lost. 

Providing the students with the Scales and Goals (I can statements) is the first step, but the teacher contribution in creating those goals must be instructionally sound and purposeful.

Something as simple as incorporating the math topic in the journal headings allows students to organize their thoughts for their accountability discussions with their teacher.

For example, if the first three “I Can” statements relate to place value and the student feels that they can prove that they are comfortable with that topic, looking back in their journal headings that address Place Value will give them a place to reflect and prove their thinking.

It should also be said that in some of the discussions and pictures seen below you can see that through the interactions the students actually change their ability levels from their initial thinking. That might be the most profound takeaway with these strategies early in the school year.

Accountability and Reflection and Think!Mathematics US