The Science of Learning Hub

Student Voice & Agency: A Toolkit for Classrooms

Rob Mason

Enabling students to develop a capacity to know what works best for their own learning

Student voice and agency are concepts that historically might have meant allowing your school captain to present merit awards to students in assembly. In recent years, education researchers and practitioners alike have begun to dig deeper into what it means to give students voice and agency in practical and meaningful ways for their learning. It is a concept tied closely to our earlier topics of metacognition and self-regulation; providing meaningful and authentic voice and agency becomes so important when students develop a capacity to know what works best for their own learning.

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Definitions

Before diving too deep into the world of student voice and agency, it’s important to define a few terms:

Student voice

Student Voice refers to the values, opinions, beliefs, perspectives, and cultural backgrounds of individual students and groups of students in a school, and to instructional approaches and techniques that are based on student choices, interests, passions, and ambitions

https://www.edglossary.org/student-voice/

Student agency

Student agency refers to learning through activities that are meaningful and relevant to learners, driven by their interests, and often self-initiated with appropriate guidance from teachers.

https://www.renaissance.com/edwords/student-agency/.

Importantly, listening to and acting on student voice gives students agency and choice in how they learn.

 

What student voice and agency looks like in the classroom:

  • Hearing from all students in a class
  • Providing students with opportunities to collaborate and make decisions with adults about what they learn, how they learn, and how their learning is assessed
  • Giving students the opportunity to make choices in developing their understanding of concepts
  • Building student capacity to provide peer feedback that can be delivered, understood, and used to enhance learning
  • Building student autonomy so that students are able to self-regulate and learn independently
  • Developing students who are agents in their own learning; building self-efficacy and the belief that students have control in their learning outcomes

What student voice and agency isn’t:

  • It is not free reign and choice over all learning experiences. Student voice and agency is about being heard, and learning being negotiated. Engagement is key, but the teacher should be positioned as an expert facilitator, not a dictator.
  • It is not a tokenistic student survey that is collected, collated, but not used to change teacher practice or inform future learning experiences
  • It is not ‘just’ student leadership roles – school or class captains, prefects, etc.
  • It is not asking the vocal few students in a class and using their feedback to change how every student learns
  • It is not auditory forms of communication only. A student’s ‘voice’ can be communicated in a range of different modes. The ‘hearing’ of student voice is the reception of the student’s message by the teacher.

A Toolkit for Classrooms

The following resources represent a range of modern approaches to incorporating student voice and agency into the classroom. They include a combination of case studies, how-to guides, blogs, articles, policy documents, and introductions to education researchers in the area. There are many practical strategies contained within, that will help you picture what student voice and agency might look like in your classroom.

Resource #1: Student voice and agency: A case study at St Albans Secondary College

This video, produced by the Bastow Institute, shows interviews with a number of staff and students at St Albans Secondary College as they discuss how student voice looks at their school. Topics covered include:

  • Collecting student feedback at multiple time points throughout the year and from multiple sources
  • Embedding student feedback into teacher Professional Development Plans (PDPs)
  • The development of a student learning team, where a group of students works collaboratively with teachers to guide and improve learning at the school
  • Building trust between teacher and students, so that feedback is not only possible but valued
Resource #2: Russ Quaglia on student voice

Russ Quaglia is an expert on student voice and aspirations. This video is a good launching pad to explore more of Russ’ work – including his books on student voice titled ‘Student Voice: Turn Up the Volume’ (http://quagliainstitute.org/qisa/library/view.do?id=662). Key points from the video include:

  • Every student has something to teach us
  • Misconceptions about what student voice is
  • How to achieve meaningful and purposeful student voice in the classroom
Resource #3: Responding to student feedback

Resource Link: https://www.aitsl.edu.au/tools-resources/resource/responding-to-student-feedback-illustration-of-practice

 Produced by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), this video shows a secondary mathematics teacher discussing his experience with receiving feedback from students and adapting his practice to meet their needs better. Key points from the video include:

  • Receiving feedback from students can be confronting, but is ultimately helpful
  • The importance of not just listening but acting on what students say
  • Adopting the use of technology to reduce teacher talk time in the classroom in response to student feedback
Resource #4: Amplify: Empowering students through voice, agency and leadership

Resource Link: https://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/school/teachers/teachingresources/practice/Amplify.pdf

Amplify is a document produced by the Victorian Department of Education and Training in 2018. It outlines ways in which student voice, agency and leadership can improve student learning and motivational outcomes, and situates these within the Victorian Government’s Framework for Improved Student Outcomes (FISO) framework and the Victorian Teaching and Learning Model. Within this document, resources include:

  • A list of links to other tools and resources for promoting student voice and agency (p. 25)
  • Case studies involving three Victorian schools and their efforts to integrate student voice and agency into their regular practice (p. 27-29)
  • A handy checklist for teachers to use when reflecting on their readiness to promote student voice (p. 21)
Resource #5: A collaborative learning space

Resource Link: https://www.aitsl.edu.au/tools-resources/resource/a-collaborative-learning-space-illustration-of-practice

Another video from AITSL, this time following a year 1 teacher in Queensland as she explains her approach to a unit of work in which students are included in the planning process. Students are given ownership over decisions throughout the storytelling project, including the types of writing and presentation involved.

Resource #6: Connect Magazine

Resource Link: https://research.acer.edu.au/connect/

Connect is an independent publication that supports student agency and participation. It is freely available as a PDF download from the above link to the Australian Council for Educational Research website. The most recent issue, published in August 2019, includes a focus on students and teachers co-designing learning. Of particular interest is the case study of Bundoora Secondary College on pages 16-19, titled Taking Control and the Power of Choice. Points of interest here include:

  • The school’s PACE21 (Passion, Achievement, Choice and Empowerment for 21st Century Skills) program was established with the aim of giving students choice and control over their learning. Intended outcomes are both academic and more holistic (persistence, collaboration, critical thinking, etc.)
  • Students are given free selection of subjects after their first year at the school. Even the two remaining core subjects, English and Maths, include options within them for students to select based on their abilities and preferences.
  • An increased focus on student voice and agency has also noticeably shifted the school’s approach to teaching – away from a ‘chalk and talk’ method to a much more student-centred environment.
Resource #7: What do you mean when you say student agency?

Resource Link: https://education-reimagined.org/what-do-you-mean-when-you-say-student-agency/

This blog post, by Jennifer Davis Poon of the Center for Innovation in Education, unpacks the term ‘student agency’. The author suggests that student agency occurs when students are involved in the goal-setting process. It is proposed that components of student agency include:

  • Setting advantageous goals
  • Initiating action towards those goals
  • Reflecting on and regulating progress towards those goals
  • A belief that one can act with agency

The article goes on to break down each of these steps, listing skills required for success at each stage.

Resource #8: Thinking routines

Resource link: http://www.visiblethinkingpz.org/VisibleThinking_html_files/03_ThinkingRoutines/03a_ThinkingRoutines.html

A major factor in ensuring the success of student voice in your classroom is in providing space for it to occur. One teaching strategy developed to encourage student voice in the classroom is Harvard Project Zero’s Thinking Routines. The routines are adaptable to different contexts and classrooms, and provide opportunities for all students – not just the most vocal – to be heard. Thinking routines could be used to gather feedback on teaching, to evaluate changes made as part of student feedback, or simply as a mechanism to promote class or group discussion about learning.

View our Past Blogs

Metacognition 101

Teaching students how to learn. The first in a series of blogs on learning science research from the University of Melbourne’s Science of Learning Hub.

Read More »
About

The Science of Learning Partnership Schools Initiative connects research and practice, to enhance educational outcomes in Victorian Schools.

If you have any questions please email: luke.mandouit@unimelb.edu.au

Not all questions are created equal

Exploring higher-order questioning using the SOLO taxonomy

Rob Mason

Generating Higher-Order Questions to Promote Student Learning

Teachers typically ask a few hundred questions to their students every day. These serve a variety of purposes: to check for understanding, to refocus a chatty student, or to facilitate class discussion. Research suggests that most questions asked in a typical classroom are surface-level, requiring students to recall facts or processes without engaging in critical thinking (Wilen, 1991). Another pattern seen in education research is that questions are asked with the intention of obtaining a correct answer; only 5-10% of the time are incorrect answers used to further student learning (Tulis, 2013).

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While there is always a place for asking questions to build surface-level knowledge and check for understanding, a vital tool in a teacher’s questioning toolkit is an ability to ask higher-order questions that promote student learning moving from surface to deep. This article will explore ways to think about and generate higher-order questions, with the use of the SOLO taxonomy.

What is Surface and Deep Learning?

Surface

Surface learning is the foundational stage of acquiring knowledge, and is when students are exposed to facts, concepts, skills and knowledge they were previously not familiar with.

Deep

Deep learning occurs when students are able to consolidate and build upon the surface level learning they have previously done, although it is true that surface and deep learning can occur at the same time (Hattie & Donoghue, 2016). Deep learning might involve integrating or comparing pieces of knowledge, or expanding upon previously acquired knowledge to move it into new contexts.

What is the SOLO taxonomy?

The SOLO taxonomy was developed by Biggs and Collis (1982) as a way to categorise student learning outcomes. You might be more familiar with Bloom’s taxonomy – SOLO is similar, but has some advantages. In a nutshell, and in John Biggs’ own words, SOLO enables us to assess the quality of student knowledge, “not of how many bits of this and of that they have got right”.

 

The SOLO taxonomy consists of four levels of complexity. The first two are considered surface, while the third and fourth are considered deep. They are:

Unistructural​

Where the student can work with one aspect of new knowledge – such as being able to identify or name a concept or skill.

Multistructural​

Where the student can work with several independent aspects of knowledge. This might involve being able to describe or list a number of different concepts or skills, but does not involve being able to work with them as a combined whole.

Relational

Where the student is able to bring together several independent aspects of knowledge into an organised structure. This might involve comparing, analysing, relating or justifying. This is where higher-order questioning typically begins.

Extended abstract

Where knowledge is brought together and synthesised to create or extend on what is known. This might involve hypothesising, theorizing or reflecting.

How can I use SOLO to ask deeper questions?

Questions can be formulated at each level of the SOLO taxonomy to ask progressively deeper, or higher-order, questions. For example, consider the following four questions about the solar system (adapted from Hattie & Purdie, 1998):

 

Unistructural: “Which planet is furthest from the sun?”. Here, students are asked to deal with one piece of knowledge independent of other pieces of knowledge.

 

Multistructural: “Is Venus or Mars warmer?”. This question requires students to use two independent pieces of information.

 

Relational: “How does the movement of the Earth relative to the sun define day and night?”. This question requires students to make a connection between a planet’s movement and sun position, to the experience of night and day on the planet.

 

Extended abstract: “How does the Earth’s position relative to the sun affect the Earth’s climate and seasons?” This question requires students to use the information available to them to hypothesise about a concept they may not have learned about.

 

Used at the right time, deeper questions, such as those at the relational and extended abstract levels of the SOLO taxonomy, may promote deeper student learning and engagement in the classroom. The SOLO taxonomy also provides an appropriate scaffold for the generation of test and exam items.

Next Time

In the next article we will consider how to promote self-regulated learning in the classroom by taking an in-depth look at a science of learning research paper.

View our Past Blogs

Metacognition 101

Teaching students how to learn. The first in a series of blogs on learning science research from the University of Melbourne’s Science of Learning Hub.

Read More »

Bibliography & suggested further reading

Biggs, J. B., & Collis, K. F. (1982). Evaluation the quality of learning: the SOLO taxonomy (structure of the observed learning outcome). New York: Academic Press.

 

Hattie, J. A., & Donoghue, G. M. (2016). Learning strategies: A synthesis and conceptual model. npj Science of Learning, 1, 16013.

 

Hattie, J.A., & Purdie, N. (1998). The SOLO model: Addressing fundamental measurement issues. In Dart, B. & Boulton-Lewis, G. (Eds.). Teaching and Learning In Higher Education. Herndon, VA: Stylus Publishing.

 

Tulis, M. (2013). Error management behavior in classrooms: Teachers’ responses to student mistakes. Teaching and Teacher Education, 33, 56-68.

 

Wilen, W. W. (1991). Questioning skills, for teachers. What research says to the teacher. Washington DC: National Education Association.

About

The 2018 Science of Learning Partnership Schools Initiative connects research and practice, to enhance educational outcomes in Victorian Schools.

If you have any questions please email: luke.mandouit@unimelb.edu.au

Practical tips for integrating metacognition and self-regulated learning into the classroom

The evidence is clear that metacognition and self-regulated learning can accelerate student learning, but what does this look like in the classroom?

Rob Mason

Building Student Self-regulation and Metacognition

In our first two blog posts, we took a look at two related concepts from the world of learning science: metacognition, and self-regulated learning. We explored types of metacognitive knowledge and skills, the three phases of self-regulated learning, and some of the benefits of using these approaches for student learning outcomes.

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In this blog post, we’ll take it one step further and start to think about some practical ways to grow your students’ ability to self-regulate and develop metacognitive skills and knowledge. The evidence is clear that metacognition and self-regulated learning can accelerate student learning, but what does this look like in the classroom?

3 strategies to promote self-regulation and metacognition in the classroom

2. Explicitly modelling different strategies and discussing how and when they can be useful
3. Building student capacity to self-assess and work towards goals independently

1. Building metacognitive reflection into your lessons as a regular process

Evidence suggests that metacognitive skills can be taught (Schraw, 1998), but a critical part of this is providing opportunities for students to build their skills over time in reflecting upon and evaluating their own learning. Just as a piano student won’t improve their scales if they don’t rehearse them, students who aren’t given the opportunity to reflect on the effectiveness of their learning will not improve these reflective abilities.

 

One way to do this may involve providing exit tickets for students as the lesson comes to a close. While not a new concept, building a library of possible exit ticket questions and using these regularly can help students to tap in to and grow their metacognitive knowledge.

 

Questions could be centred around each of the three elements of metacognitive knowledge. For example:

  • What strategies did you use to complete today’s task? (Knowledge of strategies)
  • Did the strategy work for today’s task? Would it work as well for (last week’s/a different) task? (Knowledge of task)
  • How easy/difficult did you find today’s task overall (1 = very difficult, 10 = very easy)? How could you make the task easier next time? (Knowledge of the learner)

 

The possibilities with exit ticket questions to promote metacognitive thinking are endless. However, the important part is that students are given regular opportunities to consider a range of questions designed to help them reflect on their learning. Evidence suggests that it can take some time for students to start thinking about their learning when the concept is first introduced – but as the habit develops and they become familiar with the approach, they begin to adopt it autonomously (Tan, Dawson & Venville, 2008).

2. Explicitly modelling different strategies and discussing how and when they can be useful

In order for students to develop a ‘menu’ of strategies from which they can select, an important first step is explicitly teaching these strategies. Often, the most relevant strategies in one subject are different to those in another subject, so it can be useful to discuss metacognitive strategies in the context of a particular learning situation rather than running generic “one-size-fits-all” sessions on learning strategies.

 

As an example, consider the use of think aloud routines. These involve the teacher narrating through their own internal thought processes when working through a learning task, such as completing a maths problem or constructing a paragraph. Articulating the thinking required to plan, monitor, and complete a task can serve as a model for students to then begin to think aloud through their own tasks.

 

Encouraging students to begin to model strategies themselves is the next step in creating comfortability and familiarity with metacognitive thinking in the classroom. Get students sharing what works for them, and what they’re thinking about when completing a learning task. Having a student think aloud through a maths problem themselves can not only be a useful task for the student presenting, but for other students who may recognise effective methods or even misconceptions that they also hold.

3. Building student capacity to self-assess and work towards goals independently

Several methods can help students to monitor their own progress towards learning goals, a key element of self-regulated learning. By providing students with checklists, marking rubrics, and exemplar pieces of work to compare to their own, we can develop their capacity to self-assess.

Schraw (1998) proposes a series of questions in a checklist that students can use to help plan, monitor, and evaluate their learning. These include:

 

Planning

  • What is the goal of my task?
  • What kind of information do I need?
  • How much time will I need?

Monitoring

  • Do I have a clear understanding of what I am doing?
  • Am I moving towards the learning goals?
  • Do I need to change strategies?

Evaluating

  • Have I reached the learning goal?
  • What worked? What didn’t?
  • What would I change for next time?

 

Additionally, providing students with a copy of the marking rubric – provided that it contains sufficient detail for the student to judge their work against it – helps to make success clear to students. Avoiding arbitrary letter or number grades in rubrics, and instead creating clear level descriptors that articulate what is required at each level of performance, will help to make rubrics a more useful tool in developing self-regulation.

 

For example, students may not know the difference between a 3 and a 4 out of 5 when being marked on shooting a basketball, but can more readily understand the difference between “can make a layup with dominant hand” compared to “can make a layup using either hand”. This clarity helps them to be able to use a rubric to self-assess performance without the need for external feedback.

View our Past Blogs

Metacognition 101

Teaching students how to learn. The first in a series of blogs on learning science research from the University of Melbourne’s Science of Learning Hub.

Read More »

Bibliography & suggested further reading

Owen, D., & Vista, A. (2017). Strategies for teaching metacognition in classrooms. Retrieved from: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/education-plus-development/2017/11/15/strategies-for-teaching-metacognition-in-classrooms/

 

Schraw, G. (1998). Promoting general metacognitive awareness. Instructional Science, 26(1/2), 113-125.

Tan, K., Dawson, V., & Venville, G. (2008). Use of cognitive organisers as a self regulated learning strategy. Issues in Educational Research, 18(2), 183-207.

 

Another useful resource is the Victorian State Government’s High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) website. Their page on metacognitive strategies can be found here:

https://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/classrooms/Pages/approacheshitsmeta.aspx

For further reading on creating descriptive developmental rubrics, see:

Griffin, P. (2014). Assessment for teaching. Port Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.

About

The Science of Learning Partnership Schools Initiative connects research and practice, to enhance educational outcomes in Schools.

If you have any questions please email: luke.mandouit@unimelb.edu.au

Self-regulated learning 101: Building autonomy in the classroom

We regularly teach our students algebra and  chemistry – but how can we teach them to learn?

Rob Mason

Metacognition and the Self-regulation Puzzle

In our last blog, we covered the basics of metacognition – what it is, the types of knowledge involved, and the evidence.

In this article, we’ll zoom out a little to cover the broader topic of self-regulated learning. Of course, metacognition is a major part of self-regulation puzzle. But, as we’ll see, self-regulation is a little broader.

  • Watch our video on self-regulated learning
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Self-regulated learning involves the learner’s ability to monitor and self-direct efforts to interact with both internal and external information and environments. Learners who possess self-regulation skills are able to learn autonomously.

Along with elements of metacognition – such as knowing which learning strategies to use, when, and for what tasks – self-regulated learning also describes a student’s ability to motivate themselves, set goals, measure progress towards goals, stay focussed, and reflect on their learning.

Three phases of self-regulation

Forethought

In the forethought stage, students develop beliefs about their self-efficacy as a learner (often with experiences from previous tasks in mind), set goals, develop motivation to reach the goals, plan their learning tasks, and identify strategies they might use to successfully complete the tasks.

Performance

In the performance stage, students monitor their progress on the task and the effectiveness of the strategies they have selected (a type of metacognition), while also using self-control strategies to remain focussed and reduce the likelihood of task avoidance – including procrastination!

Self-Reflection

In the self-reflection stage, learners reflect on the strategies they used, their success with the task, and their motivation to complete the task. Students may develop beliefs about their success on the task (or otherwise) during this stage – they might note a particularly successful strategy and remember for next time that it worked well, or they might avoid future tasks because of a developed belief that they weren’t successful and so cannot do well next time.

What are the benefits?

Students who are able to self-regulate their own learning experiences are better prepared to:

  • work independently
  • adapt to new situations or challenges
  • develop resilience so that they are able to persist with challenging learning tasks in the future (a concept sometimes referred to as ‘grit’)
  • set goals and self-motivate to reach those goals
  • complete learning tasks more efficiently, particularly as they continue to reflect on learning experiences and modify future strategies

What does it look like in the classroom?

Developing your students’ ability to regulate their own learning requires time and effort. Often, it can feel like there’s so much curriculum to cover that it’s impossible to spend too much time developing self-regulated learning skills in your students. However, the investment of time in explicitly instructing and modelling self-regulated learning skills will pay large dividends for students as they progress through their learning.

Strategies for developing self-regulated learning skills in your students include:

  • Modelling what it looks like to set goals, select strategies, or monitor progress towards goals for a particular subject or task – it is often more effective to teach self-regulation in the context of individual subjects rather than global skills
  • Building students’ ability to reflect on their learning
  • Scaffolding or modelling language around the evaluation of learning strategies
  • Provide opportunities for students to reflect on prior learning and previously successful strategies

Next Time

In our next post, we’ll explore some more practical strategies for helping learners develop metacognitive and self-regulatory skills.

View our Past Blogs

Metacognition 101

Teaching students how to learn. The first in a series of blogs on learning science research from the University of Melbourne’s Science of Learning Hub.

Read More »

Bibliography & suggested further reading

Zimmerman, B. J. (2002). Becoming a self-regulated learner: An overview. Theory Into Practice, 41(2), 64-70. doi:10.1207/s15430421tip4102_2

 

The Education Endowment Foundation’s Evidence for Learning website contains a wealth of information about the effectiveness of metacognition and self-regulated learning: https://evidenceforlearning.org.au/teaching-and-learning-toolkit/metacognition-and-self-regulation/

 

Another good resource for evidence on educational interventions is the Visible Learning MetaX website. It’s a free online resource that brings together a great deal of John Hattie’s Visible Learning work in an easy-to-use online format:

http://www.visiblelearningmetax.com/

 

Most good educational psychology texts contain some basic information and implementation advice. For example:

 

Snowman, J. & McCown, R. (2015). Psychology applied to teaching (14th ed.). Stamford: Cengage Learning.

About

The Science of Learning Partnership Schools Initiative connects research and practice, to enhance educational outcomes in Schools.

If you have any questions please email: luke.mandouit@unimelb.edu.au

Metacognition 101: Teaching students how to learn

Welcome to the first in a series of blogs on learning science research, designed to help you start thinking about research evidence and how it could look in your classroom.

Rob Mason

What is Metacognition?

To begin to understand the term, it’s helpful to break it into two parts: 

Meta is a prefix of Greek origin, indicating that something is ‘above’ or a layer of abstraction beyond the original concept.

Cognition refers to the way we interact with incoming information, including:

  • attending to it
  • recognising its importance
  • encoding or processing it in a way we can understand
  • storing it in our memory
  • retrieving it at a later time
  • using it effectively

 

 
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In this case, metacognition refers to thinking about thinking. It is what we know about how we think (our cognition), and how we use knowledge of our own learning to guide future learning processes.

Early research in this area was pioneered by John Flavell, who published a paper in 1979 that explained why two different age groups of students (younger and older) select different strategies for learning the same task. He found that younger students had less awareness about how effective their learning had been, while older students were more experienced in knowing which strategies to select and whether they had been effective. That is, they had developed greater metacognition.

Three Parts of Metacognitive Knowlegde

Learning Strategies

Typically, metacognition is thought of as a knowledge of learning strategies that work in a particular context. As an example, consider a year 8 student who is studying history. If the student has strong metacognitive knowledge, they might know that a graphic organiser such as a mind map is a useful way for them to effectively organise and consolidate their knowledge about the Ottoman Empire.

When to Use Each Strategy

However, there is more to metacognition than just knowing which learning strategies work. A student with strong metacognitive knowledge also knows when to use each strategy – is a strategy effective in both history and maths tasks? At the start of a unit and at the end? Task difficulty is another important factor in knowing when to use each strategy. It is a skill to be able to look at a task and decide which features make it easy or difficult, and select a strategy as appropriate.

Strength and Beliefs about Learning

Students with metacognitive knowledge may also be aware of their own strengths and beliefs about learning – do they find written tasks more difficult than solving equations? Are they confident in their ability to take effective notes? Early primary students, for example, are usually unaware of their own abilities to recall something after it is studied. The year 12 student who believes they can cram everything effectively the night before an exam probably also has low metacognitive knowledge!

Another element of metacognition is metacognitive skill – being able to actually put the above knowledge into practice to plan, monitor, and evaluate learning.

What does the research say?

There is a large and growing body of evidence to suggest that metacognition has a medium to large positive impact on student learning. Often, the biggest impact is found when encouraging students to plan and organise their learning, including planning which strategies to use and when.

View our Past Blogs

Metacognition 101

Teaching students how to learn. The first in a series of blogs on learning science research from the University of Melbourne’s Science of Learning Hub.

Read More »

Bibliography & suggested further reading

Flavell, J.H. (1979). Metacognition and cognitive monitoring: A new era of cognitive-developmental inquiry. American Psychologist, 34(10), 906-911.

The Education Endowment Foundation’s Evidence for Learning website contains a wealth of information about the effectiveness of metacognition and self-regulated learning: https://evidenceforlearning.org.au/teaching-and-learning-toolkit/metacognition-and-self-regulation/

Another good resource for evidence on educational interventions is the Visible Learning MetaX website. It’s a free online resource that brings together a great deal of John Hattie’s Visible Learning work in an easy-to-use online format:

http://www.visiblelearningmetax.com/

Most good educational psychology texts contain some basic information and implementation advice. For example:

Snowman, J. & McCown, R. (2015). Psychology applied to teaching (14th ed.). Stamford: Cengage Learning.

About

The Science of Learning Partnership Schools Initiative connects research and practice, to enhance educational outcomes in Schools.

If you have any questions please email: luke.mandouit@unimelb.edu.au

Play Video

Implementing Effective Feedback in the Classroom

Teachers are constantly giving their students feedback.  The problem is that students are often telling us that they aren’t receiving feedback, and if they aren’t receiving feedback they cannot use it or act on it.  So how can we improve both the feedback that we give and the capacity of our learners to receive and act upon feedback?    

In this interview, Luke Mandouit from the University of Melbourne discussed effective classroom feedback practices with Dr Cam Brooks from the University of Queensland.

The Science of Learning Partnership Initiative brings together leading education experts with school communities in metropolitan, regional, and rural areas, to translate and disseminate proven learning science research into pedagogical practice.

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White Water Writers

An Educational Intervention Turning Young People into Published Authors in One Week

By Dr Irina Grossman | Science of Learning Hub, Melbourne Graduate School of Education

  • October 15, 2018

Writing a novel is hard for anyone, but for children or teenagers to work together to write, edit, and publish one in five days seems impossible.  Yet one research team in the UK is allowing them to do just that through an innovative program called ‘White Water Writers.’  The program has been run with children, teenagers, and young adults in schools, universities, foster homes, and prison.  Their voices and personal experiences are crafted into their stories and the novels are published and available for purchase online. The success of authorship provides young people with new skills, friendships, and motivation for future accomplishments. 

We interviewed Dr Yvonne Skipper, a Lecturer in the School of Psychology at Keele University and have paraphrased her answers for the article below.

“To watch the pupils grow in confidence through this process has been a humbling and enlightening experience. As the week progressed there was a growing dynamic in the classroom that kept the pupils on task during the research and writing processes – a dynamic which became more and more self-directed and self-managed by the pupils.”

Carmel Martin, Head of English at Blackfriars School.

The story of the White Water Writers Program

The story of the White Water Writers program began several years ago when computer scientist Dr Joe Reddington asked the question – can we write books the way that programmers write code? 

Creating software typically involves the creation of millions of lines of code by 100s of developers, each contributing their own bit.  For successful software, all of those little bits need to fit together.  The process relies on a mix of leadership, planning, and systems which facilitate effective collaboration. 

To enable similar processes for writing books Dr Reddington worked together with Dr Douglas Cowie – an author and an English lecturer, to design a process and a program to facilitate collaborative story-writing.  When education researchers and psychologists Professor Patrick Leman and Dr Yvonne Skipper joined the group, the program’s potential for the empowerment of students through the success of authorship was unlocked; allowing groups of 8 – 10 students to work collaboratively to write a book in one week. 

Since commencing the program they have helped more than 1000 young people become published authors, from children as young as 8 years of age to university students. This has included young people with special education needs and disabilities, children in foster care, siblings of children with life limiting conditions, and young offenders.  The White Water Writer’s program has recently received funding from Higher Horizons to allow them to employ Richard Seymour to deliver the project with young people who live in areas of low educational aspiration

Three of the books published through the White Water Writers Program.  The books can be purchased on Amazon by following this link.  Images provided by: Dr Yvonne Skipper

How Do They Write a Book in five Days?

           On the first day (Monday) the group of students is told that they will write a book in five days: often they don’t believe it.  Some of them think that it is some sort of ‘trick’ and that they will be given an existing story to modify.  But that is not the case. Participants are sometimes given a very rough concept, on half a page, with the genre, theme, or an idea.  At other times they work up their ideas from scratch.  Then they brainstorm ideas.  Here some of the problems associated with teamwork become visible – sometimes certain plot lines are discounted in favour of others.  While this is a group decision, it can be challenging for a writer when their idea is not chosen.  The program leaders overcome this by ensuring that each writer has an area of responsibility such as a character whose fate they are responsible for.

          Young writers tend to really enjoy the Monday, planning out all the exciting things which will happen in their story.  On Tuesday they begin to write and they often feel a bit daunted.  To overcome this, the program takes advantage of psychological research about learning and motivation.  Each task is broken down into small sections and students are given several different activities to do.  They are also motivated by the freedom to make all the decisions about plot and content within the framework provided by the program and are encouraged by how quickly their word counts move upwards.  By Wednesday afternoon a full, but very rough draft of the book is complete.

           Thursday is proofreading day and it is often the most challenging for the writers, who often have very little experience in doing this.  However, on Friday when the book is nearly complete and has a title and cover the energy comes back up, and by 3:30 pm the book is complete. By the end of Friday evening, it is published and available for purchase online. 

           A key guiding principle is that no adult touches a key or offers ideas on the plot so the work really belongs to the writers themselves.  The young writers are often really amazed at what they have achieved in a short space of time and make comments like, “I’m not taking a B in English anymore. I am practically JK Rowling!

           Several weeks later, they host a book signing, an event that allows students to celebrate their achievement and inspire them to think about their longer-term goals.  The writers receive professionally printed copies of their novel which is when they really see that it is a ‘real book’. Their friends and family come to celebrate with them and local press is usually present doing interviews and taking pictures.  Many of the writers and their families are amazed at how big the book is and how professional it appears.  At a book signing at a special school, one of the parents commented that her son does not really enjoy school as he struggles with writing. However, every day of the White Water Writers Program he came home to tell her about the story and what he was writing, even though he generally did not discuss school work with her. She was so proud of how much he improved over the week and delighted to see how much he enjoyed the process.  

           When White Water Writers worked in a young offenders institute this typical positive experience of the book signing was even more important.  Quite a few of the parents were crying and said that it was lovely to be called in to celebrate such an amazing achievement with their sons, rather than being called in for more negative reasons. 

 

Monday• 8 – 10 children, teenagers, or young adults commence the program

• ½ page brief provided containing a very loose idea for the book.

• Brainstorm ideas for the novel

• Each writer takes charge of one character
Tuesday• Young writers collaboratively write their novel using proprietary software.

• They do not write a chapter each but move between chapters regularly to ensure the book has a consistent ‘voice.’
Wednesday• Continue collaborative writing.

• By day’s end produce a draft of their novel. Primary school students often produce drafts with 10,000 words, whilst drafts by secondary students are often twice as large.
Thursday• Students proof read their work.

• The young authors write their biographies.
Friday• Final check of book

• Design cover and write blurb

• 3:30pm – time up – book complete!