Leadership programme

Wired to ignite: developing learning powers through metacognition

Gloria Gomez Barrera

Year 1 Teacher

Atelier 21 Future School

Hello, fellow educators and curious minds! My name is Gloria Gomez Barrera, and I am a Year 1 teacher and part of the Next Big 10 Change Team for Atelier 21. In this blog, I am excited to share with you some insights into how we unlock learning powers in our students through metacognition at our school.

At Atelier 21, we strongly believe that learners have the ability to plan, monitor, evaluate, and adjust their own learning behaviours. By emphasizing metacognition, our students learn to make decisions, take responsibilities for their actions and ultimately improve their learning outcomes. Metacognition involves two dimensions: metacognitive knowledge, which is what learners know about learning and metacognitive regulation which is how learners control their learning processes. These help learners overcome challenges and enhance their learning experiences.

Recently, our Year 1 students have been exploring the concept of metacognition without necessarily mentioning the word 'metacognition', and we had the pleasure of celebrating our achievements with our families during our Spring Big Share Day at school. Our Big Share days are days in which the children and educators invite our families in, and share with them those key learning moments that have been happening at school during the term. It was truly rewarding to see the children acknowledging their learning processes and talking about various coaching tools to improve their writing skills and overall motivation.

At the beginning of the academic year, we encountered a lack of motivation towards writing among the students. By setting goals and gradually introducing writing challenges, we focused on developing habits and creating a positive attitude towards writing. Following the Learning Power Approach developed by cognitive scientist Guy Claxton, we integrated metacognition into our daily practices to foster a growth mindset and enhance learning experiences.

Throughout this journey, we encouraged the children to reflect on their beliefs, habits and learning processes. By adopting different perspectives (first, second, and third positions), the students were able to observe their progress, evaluate their writing activities and make meaningful connections between their actions and outcomes:

  • First position: the children were totally associated to the experience and seeing the world through their own filters ‘Writing is boring and hard.'
  • Second position: is the position for learning and modelling. When modelling from a state of not knowing you step into the shoes of ‘an expert.' The children can explore models of different types of writing and become familiar with them by being exposed to them in our learning environment, as well as by modelling from the teacher through collaborative writing, and having a first attempt with some guidance, for example friendly letters, short stories, character/setting descriptions etc. From what we now know from neuro-science, we activate mirror neurons in our nervous system that are behaviourally dormant in us but have the same function as the neurons that are active in the ‘expert.' The second position accelerates and deepens the learning process.
  • Third position: is where we assume an objective observer position. In this position, we see and hear ourselves and others outside of us as if on a cinema screen. The third position is useful when we want to shift from emotionally charged experiences to get an objective view. Third position is also useful for stepping back and getting insights into situations and seeing and hearing the bigger picture. The metaphor of the iceberg helped the children visualise what a person visiting the classroom a few weeks ago would have observed during their writing activities. The idea was to compare the surface-level observations made during the previous visit with the current observations. The metaphor suggested that just like an iceberg, there is more beneath the surface that may not be immediately visible. By using this metaphor, the children could reflect on how their writing process had evolved and what changes could be noticeable to an observer.

As educators, we are constantly reminded of the value of time and patience in fostering meaningful learning experiences and changing beliefs. This is something that requires time and dedication. It does not happen overnight. I wanted to be there for my pupils and most importantly, I wanted to see them discover the power of their inner human skills (what Claxton refers to as Learning Powers). By encouraging mindfulness, reflection and exploration, we create a supportive environment where students can thrive and develop their innate learning powers. Our commitment to honouring learner agency and valuing individual growth, influences every aspect of our teaching practices.

I am grateful for the opportunity to witness the transformation of our students' attitudes towards writing and learning. By promoting metacognition and instilling lifelong skills, we empower our students to face challenges, embrace opportunities and become resilient learners in an ever-changing world.

I would encourage other teachers to explore the world of metacognition in education and to consider how you can inspire and support your students in developing their learning powers. Let's continue to create meaningful moments, foster curiosity and empower our learners to reach their full potential.

Gloria Gomez Barrera Year 1 Teacher, Atelier 21

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This blog is from a school taking part in The Next Big 10, a programme for schools who are transforming education against strong headwinds

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