Supporting Metacognitive Development in Early Science Education: Exploring Elementary Teachers' Beliefs and Practices in Metacognition

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Date
2016-08-19
Authors
Braund, Heather
Keyword
Metacognition , Teachers' Beliefs , Student Learning , Elementary Science
Abstract
Metacognition is the understanding and control of cognitive processes. Students with high levels of metacognition achieve greater academic success. The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to examine elementary teachers’ beliefs about metacognition and integration of metacognitive practices in science. Forty-four teachers were recruited through professional networks to complete a questionnaire containing open-ended questions (n = 44) and Likert-type items (n = 41). Five respondents were selected to complete semi-structured interviews informed by the questionnaire. The selected interview participants had a minimum of three years teaching experience and demonstrated a conceptual understanding of metacognition. Statistical tests (Pearson correlation, t-tests, and multiple regression) on quantitative data and thematic analysis of qualitative data indicated that teachers largely understood metacognition but had some gaps in their understanding. Participants’ reported actions (teaching practices) and beliefs differed according to their years of experience but not gender. Hierarchical multiple regression demonstrated that the first block of gender and experience was not a significant predictor of teachers' metacognitive actions, although experience was a significant predictor by itself. Experience was not a significant predictor once teachers' beliefs were added. The majority of participants indicated that metacognition was indeed appropriate for elementary students. Participants consistently reiterated that students’ metacognition developed with practice, but required explicit instruction. A lack of consensus remained around the domain specificity of metacognition. More specifically, the majority of questionnaire respondents indicated that metacognitive strategies could not be used across subject domains, whereas all interviewees indicated that they used strategies across subjects. Metacognition was integrated frequently into Ontario elementary classrooms; however, metacognition was integrated less frequently in science lessons. Lastly, participants used a variety of techniques to integrate metacognition into their classrooms. Implications for practice include the need for more professional development aimed at integrating metacognition into science lessons at both the Primary and Junior levels. Further, teachers could benefit from additional clarification on the three main components of metacognition and the need to integrate all three to successfully develop students’ metacognition.
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