Saturday, December 6, 2014

Measuring Metamatacognition!

Six weeks ago I waxed poetic about a new word I had developed - metametacognition.  I'm happy report that the continued study of thinking about thinking about thinking continues,and is actually alive and well in my classroom -- even if nobody has actually used the word in my presence since its inception at the end of October. 
Regardless,  (as opposed to irregardless, which ISN'T A WORD, people...) focusing 50 high school students on reflecting about their own thinking, and my subsequent planning to make them think about their thinking and then documenting same for my magical  required by the state SLO, first terrified me.  After all, how do you MEASURE thinking?

Metametacognition Update..

If you talk to most educators, assessment is based upon quantitative observation, usually judged by a rubric or performance average on a written test.  Trying to challenge kids to think about their own thinking AND produce something that indicates that they have been successful at the challenge initially seemed impossible.

After much discussion, (and I mean MUCH discussion -- I chatted with colleagues in the math department to have them clue me in on how to assign numerical values to performance without designing some weird rubric, chatted with dozens of people within the gifted world, and explored some options with some of my friends who teach on the college level), I determined that using yet ANOTHER measurement tool, originally designed to aid teachers in what can only be described as the 21st Century version of Bloom's Taxonomy - Webb's Depth of Knowledge.

Through written reflections by the students on specific independent study projects they were working on, I was able to identify the language they were using to describe their process, and subsequently classify those descriptors in the related "Level" on the DOK chart.  The kids were unaware that I was doing this, which kept the entire evaluation process from September to December something that only I was aware of.  Those that are not particularly strong linguistically were prompted in discussions to describe, in discussions with me, to flesh out and fully explain what had been shared.

Last week, we were once again working on our Da Vinci unit, and focusing on the art of Mind Mapping.    The learners practiced using a simple object -- pizza, a belt, a wonderful memory, Apple products, and let their minds wander, mapping what they were thinking and where they went.  They went further and analyzed similarities, common concepts, etc., and drew conclusions about their thinking.  Are they artists or scientists?  Are they logical or creative in their thinking?

The next step was to apply the same mind mapping concept to their independent projects.  Initially, I had planned for them to use the mind-mapping activity to structure their thinking prior to writing.  And this time I showed them Webb's DOK and shared with them what they'd already accomplished -- as nearly all had moved from Level 1 to Level 3 since starting their projects in September.

But the teacher once again learned from the learner.  The maps were so insightful that there was no reason, in my opinion, to go further.  Their mind-maps showed me exactly where they were, and illustrated to them exactly what they needed to do to complete their projects prior to their final presentations in January.

It's a huge relief to me that I have wandered in the SLO desert and found a way to be able to assess skills of gifted students and demonstrate that learning is taking place through the metacognitive process.  It's exciting to me that the kids seem to see the growth as well, through this visual representation!