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teacher talking time (TTT

in the classroom, pair and group activities and student involvement in the learning process.
A consequence of this was the belief that the teachers presence in the classroom should be

Why reduce TTT?

Strategies for reducing TTT

Positive uses of TTT


Why reduce TTT?

Many training courses based on CLT insisted that teacher talking time (TTT) was
counterproductive and that teachers should reduce TTT for a number of reasons:

Excessive TTT limits the amount of STT (student talking time). If the teacher talks for
half the time in a 60 minute lesson with 15 students, each student gets only 2 minutes
to speak.

A large amount of TTT results in long stretches of time in teacher-to-class (T/class)

mode and a monotonous pace. Student under-involvement inevitably leads to loss of
concentration, boredom and reduced learning.

TTT often means that the teacher is giving the students information that they could be
finding out for themselves, such as grammar rules, the meanings of vocabulary items
and corrections. Teacher explanations alone are often tedious, full of terminology and
difficult to follow. There may be no indication of whether the students have understood.

If the teacher takes the dominant role in classroom discourse in terms of initiating the
topic, allocating turns and evaluating comments, the students role is only that of
respondent. Opportunities for developing the speaking skill are therefore severely

If the teacher is constantly dominant and controlling, the learners take no responsibility
for their own learning but learn what the teacher decides and when. Student autonomy
is thus limited.

Strategies for reducing TTT

The over-use of TTT is often the product of the under-use of communicative techniques in the
classroom. Many activities do not need to be teacher led pair work (PW) or group work (GW)
can be used instead. An activity might be set up in T/class mode, demonstrated in open pairs
(students doing the activity across the class), and done in closed pairs (all the students working
at the same time). Some mechanical activities need to be done individually (IW) but can be
checked in pairs. What is most important is that activities and interaction patterns (T/class, PW,
GW, IW) need to be varied. The amount of time spent in T/class mode will depend on factors
such as the students and how much they know, the stage of the lesson, the time of day and

what is being taught, but a useful guideline is a limit of 30% of a lesson, and no more than 10
minutes at one time.

Other common strategies for reducing TTT include:

Using elicitation rather than explanation. If students are presented with clear examples
and guiding questions, they often do not need to be told. This kind of guided discovery
leads to better understanding and more successful learning. Organising activities as
pair work also means that all the students have the chance to work on the new

The use of body language, mime, gestures and facial expressions rather than words.
The position of the teacher in the classroom can also indicate to the students what is
expected of them at a particular stage of the lesson.

Getting students to give feedback on tasks to each other rather than to the teacher. This
is often done in pairs, but answers can also be checked against a key. Student
nomination, whereby one student nominates another to answer a question, is also a
useful technique. Feedback involving the teacher is therefore limited to problematic
questions rather than every question in an exercise.

Eliminating unnecessary TTT. Grading language is important, but over-simplification can

lead to unnatural models from the teacher. Instructions should be kept simple, while
explanations need to be carefully worded and repeated if necessary rather than
paraphrased. Simple concept questions should be asked to check understanding. If
explanations are clear and concept checking is effective, there should be no need for
re-explanation or interrupting an activity to reteach or re-instruct.

Tolerating silence. Inexperienced teachers in particular tend to fill silences by

unnecessary talking. Silence is important not only when students are working
individually, but also provides processing time between instructions, during
explanations, while waiting for a student to respond, and during monitoring of activities.
Prompting, providing clues and rephrasing the question are often counterproductive
when the student merely needs time to answer.

Positive uses of TTT

In recent years, approaches other than CLT have suggested that TTT may not always be
counterproductive and can be used to good effect. The teacher provides good listening practice
which is not inhibited by the sound quality of a tape or CD player and which is accompanied by
visual clues to aid comprehension. In a monolingual teaching context overseas, the teacher may
provide a valuable source of authentic listening, exposing learners to a limited amount of new
language, and roughly tuning input to assist comprehension. In some circumstances, the
teacher may be the only source of models of good, natural language. Some forms of TTT are
clearly beneficial:

Personalised presentations. Language should be presented in context, and this can be

provided by the teacher rather than through a reading or listening. Listening to the
teacher talking about real issues is more motivating than listening to or reading about
complete strangers talking about people, places or events which, for the students, have

no personal interest. Students are also more likely to pick up knowledge which is
content rather than language based by listening to the teacher introducing a topic.

Questioning. Every teacher question asked during a lesson demands a student

response. Questions need not be language related, and are often the basis of
brainstorming a topic with the class. Frequent questioning holds students attention and
increases learner involvement in the class.

Natural conversation. Conversations taking place during pair and group work are often
loaded towards certain language items or based on an imposed theme. Natural
conversation initiated by the teacher encourages questioning, asking for clarification,
commenting and changing the subject as well as introducing functional and everyday
language which is often overlooked in course materials. Chats outside the classroom
are also valuable and often more memorable to students than lessons. In these
circumstances, teachers should remember to continue to use graded but natural
language rather than to use simplified language to ensure understanding.

Anecdotes. These can be the basis of a presentation, but can also be used at the start
of a lesson, rather than using a warmer activity, as a natural way of engaging the
students. Anecdotes and jokes may also be used to stimulate interest during a lesson.
Anecdotes do not need to be monologues, and students can be encouraged to interrupt
and ask questions.

Storytelling. This can be the basis of a lesson or an ongoing theme throughout a course
and is as appropriate to adult classes as it is to young learners. There is a whole
methodology surrounding storytelling, which is often a stimulating alternative to the use
of a graded reader in the classroom.


There are advantages and disadvantages to TTT. It is not easy to reduce TTT when talking to
the students is a natural thing to do and when there is inevitably a theatrical side to language
teaching. In certain cultures, there is also a tradition of chalk and talk which influences the
expectations and behaviour of both teachers and students. However, bearing in mind the nature
of the communicative classroom, teachers should perhaps be aware of the quality of their TTT
and how it is used rather than trying to reduce it to a bare minimum.

Education Theory
Constructivism and Social Constructivism in the Classroom

General Overview
In the constructivist classroom, the focus tends to shift from the teacher to the students.
The classroom is no longer a place where the teacher ("expert") pours knowledge into
passive students, who wait like empty vessels to be filled. In the constructivist model,
the students are urged to be actively involved in their own process of learning.
In the constructivist classroom, both teacher and students think of knowledge as a
dynamic, ever-changing view of the world we live in and the ability to successfully
stretch and explore that view - not as inert factoids to be memorized.
Key assumptions of this perspective include:

What the student currently believes, whether correct or incorrect, is important.

Despite having the same learning experience, each individual will base their
learning on the understanding and meaning personal to them.
Understanding or constructing a meaning is an active and continuous process..
Learning may involve some conceptual changes.
When students construct a new meaning, they may not believe it but may give it
provisional acceptance or even rejection.
Learning is an active, not a passive, process and depends on the students
taking responsibility to learn.

The main activity in a constructivist classroom is solving problems. Students use

inquiry methods to ask questions, investigate a topic, and use a variety of resources to
find solutions and answers. As students explore the topic, they draw conclusions, and,
as exploration continues, they revisit those conclusions. Exploration of questions leads
to more questions.
There is a great deal of overlap between a constructivist and social constructivist
classroom, with the exception of the greater emphasis placed on learning through
social interaction, and the value placed on cultural background. For Vygotsky, culture
gives the child the cognitive tools needed for development. Adults in the learners
environment are conduits for the tools of the culture, which include language, cultural
history, social context, and more recently, electronic forms of information access.

In social constructivist classrooms collaborative learning is a process of peer

interaction that is mediated and structured by the teacher. Discussion can be promoted
by the presentation of specific concepts, problems or scenarios, and is guided by
means of effectively directed questions, the introduction and clarification of concepts
and information, and references to previously learned material.

Role of the teacher

Constructivist teachers do not take the role of the "sage on the stage." Instead,
teachers act as a "guide on the side" providing students with opportunities to test the
adequacy of their current understandings

The educator should consider the knowledge and experiences

students bring to class

Learners construct their knowledge through a process of active


Discovery is facilitated by providing the necessary resources

Knowledge is actively constructed & learning is presented as a

process of active discovery

Provide assistance with assimilation of new and old knowledge

Learning programme should be sufficiently flexible to permit

development along lines of student enquiry

Due to its interpretivist nature, each student will interpret



information in different ways

Create situations where the students feel safe questioning and

reflecting on their own processes

Present authentic tasks to contextualize learning through realworld, case-based learning environments

Support collaboration





Encourage development through Intersubjectivity

Providing Scaffolding at the right time and the right level

Provide opportunities for more expert and less expert

participants to learn from each other

Role of the student

The expectation within a constructivist learning environment is that the students plays a
more active role in, and accepts more responsibility for their own learning.

The role of the student to actively participate in their own


Students have to accommodate & assimilate new information with

their current understanding



One important aspect of controlling their own learning process is

reflecting on their experiences

Students begin their study with pre-conceived notions

Students are very reluctant to give up their established

schema/idea & may reject new information that challenges prior

Students may not be aware of the reasons they hold such strong

Learners need to use and test ideas, skills, and information

through relevant activities

Students need to know how to

thinking/learning style





Because knowledge is so communally-based, learners deserve

access to knowledge of different communities

For students to learn they need to receive different 'lenses' to see

things in new ways.

Learners need guidance through the ZDP

In social constructivism tutors and peers play a vital role in


Social Constructivism in the classroom

Reciprocal Teaching

Where a teacher and 2 to 4 students form a collaborative group and take turns leading
dialogues on a topic. Within the dialogues, group members apply four cognitive


This creates a ZPD in which students gradually assume more responsibility for the
material, and through collaboratation, forge group expectations for high-level thinking,
and acquire skills vital for learning and success in everyday life.
Cooperative Learning
More expert peers can also spur childrens development along as long as they adjust
the help they provide to fit the less mature childs ZPD.
Situated Learning
As early as 1929 concern was raised (Whitehead) that the way students learned in
school resulted in a limited, inert form of knowledge, useful only for passing
examinations. More recently several theorists have argued that for knowledge to be
active it should be learned:

In a meaningful context
Through active learning

The general term for this type of learning activity is situated learning. Situated learning
proponents argue that knowledge cannot be taught in an abstract manner, and that to
be useful, it must be situated in a relevant or "authentic" context (Maddux, Johnson, &
Willis, 1997).
Anchored Instruction
The anchored instruction approach is an attempt to help students become more
actively engaged in learning by situating or anchoring instruction around an interesting
topic. The learning environments are designed to provoke the kinds of thoughtful
engagement that helps students develop effective thinking skills and attitudes that
contribute to effective problem solving and critical thinking.
Anchored instruction emphasizes the need to provide students with opportunities to
think about and work on problems and emphasizes group or collaborative problem
Other things you can do:

Encourage team working and collaboration

Promote discussion or debates
Set up study groups for peer learning
Allocate a small proportion of grades for peer assessment and train students in
the process and criteria
Show students models of good practice in essay writing and project work
Be aware of your own role as a model of the way things are done...be explicit
about your professional values and the ethical dimensions of your subject

Constructivists believe that assessment should be used as a tool to enhance both the
student's learning and the teacher's understanding of student's progress. It should not
be used as an accountability tool that serves to stress or demoralise students. Types of
assessment aligned to this epistemological position include reflective
journals/portfolios, case studies, group-based projects, presentations (verbal or poster),
debates, role playing etc.
Within social constructivism particularly there is greater scope for involving students in
the entire process:


Brooks and Brooks (1993) state that rather than saying "No" when a student does not
give the exact answer being sought, the constructivist teacher attempts to understand
the student's current thinking about the topic. Through nonjudgmental questioning, the
teacher leads the student to construct new understanding and acquire new skills

Activating Prior Knowledge

What Is It?
Call it schema, relevant background knowledge, prior knowledge, or just plain
experience, when students make connections to the text they are reading, their
comprehension increases. Good readers constantly try to make sense out of what they
read by seeing how it fits with what they already know. When we help students make
those connections before, during, and after they read, we are teaching them a critical
comprehension strategy that the best readers use almost unconsciously.
Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmerman in Mosaic of Thought (1997), have identified
three main types of connections students make as they read:

Text to self

Text to world

Text to text

Why Is It Important?
Explicitly teaching strategies that proficient readers use when trying to make sense out
of text helps to deepen understanding and create independent readers. Activating prior
knowledge, or schema, is the first of seven strategies that Keene and Zimmerman
identify as key for reading comprehension success.
"Teaching children which thinking strategies are used by proficient readers and helping
them use those strategies independently creates the core of teaching reading." (Keene
and Zimmerman, 1997)
These strategies, identified through research based on what good readers do when
they are reading, help students become metacognitive. They learn to think about their
thinking as they are reading.
When students learn to make connections from their experience to the text they are
currently reading, they have a foundation, or scaffolding, upon which they can place
new facts, ideas, and concepts. As good readers read, they think about what they are
reading and consider how it fits with what they already know. In this way, they build
upon the schema that they already have developed.
When Should It Be Taught?
This comprehension strategy should be taught on an ongoing basis so that students
learn independently to use it as they are reading. It should be taught explicitly and
systematically over an extended period of time, moving from modeling the thinking
process out loud by the teacher, to students using the strategy as a natural part of their
comprehension process.
Prior knowledge should be discussed before reading the text to help set the stage for
what is coming. During reading, students should be encouraged to make connections
to the text from their experience and the teacher should model this process using his or
her own connections. After reading, the discussion should center on how the
connections helped students to better understand the text and how the text helped
them to build their foundation of prior knowledge.
What Does It Look Like?

At the early stages of teaching students the strategy of making connections to their
prior knowledge, the teacher models "thinking aloud." The teacher reads a text to the
class and talks through his or her thinking process in order to show students how to
think about their thinking as they are reading. Slowly, after students have seen and
heard the teacher using the strategy, they are given the opportunity to share their
experiences and thinking. Finally, students make connections to texts independently.
Teachers can check in periodically to have students articulate their thinking, in order to
track progress, spot difficulties, and intervene individually or conduct a mini-lesson to re
teach or move students forward.
As students are activating their prior knowledge and making connections, they use
graphic organizers, such as a concept map, a flow chart, or a KWL chart, to help map
their thinking. Often students keep reflection or response journals where they record
thoughts, feelings, insights, and questions about what they read. Students, in large and
small groups, discuss and write about the connections they are making to texts. (For
examples of these and other graphic organizers, click the link.)

Cognitive Dissonance
What Is Cognitive Dissonance?
In 1957, Leon Festinger published a theory of cognitive dissonance, which has
changed the way psychologists look at decision-making and behavior.[1] At its heart,
cognitive dissonance theory is rather simple. It begins with the idea of cognitions.
Cognitions are simply bits of knowledge. They can pertain to any variety of thoughts,
values, facts, or emotions. For instance, the fact that I like ice cream is a cognition. So
is the fact that I am a man. People have countless cognitions in their heads.
Most cognitions have nothing to do with each other. For instance, the two cognitions
mentioned before (that I am a man and that I like ice cream) are unrelated. Some
cognitions, however, are related. For instance, perhaps I have a sweet tooth and I like
ice cream. These cognitions are "consonant," meaning
that they are related and that one follows from the
other. They go together, so to speak.
However, sometimes we have cognitions that are
related, but do not follow from one another. In fact, they
may be opposites. For instance, perhaps I like ice
cream, but I am also trying to lose weight. These two
thoughts are problematic -- if I eat ice cream, then I
may gain weight, and if I really want to lose weight then
I cannot eat ice cream. These types of cognitions are
referred to as "dissonant."

Sandole explains
paradigms is very difficult and
is often fraught with an
upsurge in violence.

The basic idea behind cognitive dissonance theory is that people do not like to have
dissonant cognitions. In fact, many people argue that the desire to have consonant

cognitions is as strong as our basic desires for food and shelter. As a result, when
someone does experience two or more dissonant cognitions (or conflicting thoughts),
they will attempt to do away with the dissonance.
Eliminating Cognitive Dissonance
There are several key ways in which people attempt to overcome, or do away with,
cognitive dissonance. One is by ignoring or eliminating the dissonant cognitions. By
pretending that ice cream is not bad for me, I can have my cake and eat it too, so to
speak. Ignoring the dissonant cognition allows us to do things we might otherwise view
as wrong or inappropriate.
Another way to overcome cognitive dissonance is to alter the importance (or lack
thereof) of certain cognitions. By either deciding that ice cream is extremely good (I
can't do without it) or that losing weight isn't that important (I look good anyway), the
problem of dissonance can be lessened. If one of the dissonant cognitions outweighs
the other in importance, the mind has less difficulty dealing with the dissonance -- and
the result means that I can eat my ice cream and not feel bad about it.
Yet another way that people react to cognitive dissonance is by adding or creating new
cognitions. By creating or emphasizing new cognitions, I can overwhelm the fact that I
know ice cream is bad for my weight loss. For instance, I can emphasize new
cognitions such as "I exercise three times a week" or "I need calcium and dairy
products" or "I had a small dinner," etc. These new cognitions allow for the lessening of
dissonance, as I now have multiple cognitions that say ice cream is okay, and only one,
which says I shouldn't eat it.
Finally, perhaps the most important way people deal with cognitive dissonance is to
prevent it in the first place. If someone is presented with information that is dissonant
from what they already know, the easiest way to deal with this new information is to
ignore it, refuse to accept it, or simply avoid that type of information in general. Thus, a
new study that says ice cream is more fattening than originally thought would be easily
dealt with by ignoring it. Further, future problems can be prevented by simply avoiding
that type of information -- simply refusing to read studies on ice cream, health
magazines, etc.
Applying Cognitive Dissonance to Conflict
The Role of Cognitive Dissonance in Perpetuating Conflict
Cognitive dissonance can play a tremendous role in conflict -- both in its perpetuation
and in its elimination. Both large-scale and small-scale conflicts can be aggravated
and/or lessened because of cognitive dissonance. An example from ethnic conflict may
help to demonstrate.
A large-scale conflict, particularly one based on identity such as an ethnic conflict, can
be perpetuated by cognitive dissonance. In Northern Ireland, for instance, the image of
Protestants or Catholics as inhuman allows for actions that otherwise might not be

perpetuated. It can also lead people involved in the conflict to ignore information that
might contradict these viewpoints. For instance, a Catholic may intentionally avoid or
simply be unreceptive to ideas that paint Protestants in a positive light, or vice versa.
Once negative cognitions are in place, they are often reinforced by other similar
cognitions while contradictory thoughts (which would shed light on a situation) are
ignored or avoided.
This all means that a Protestant or Catholic who otherwise may strongly believe in the
notion that "Thou shall not murder" may participate in terrorist activities. Although these
two cognitions are dissonant, this dissonance can be overcome by creating new
cognitions ("they aren't human" or "they're barbarians," etc.) or by emphasizing one
cognition at the expense of the other. Perhaps more importantly, the conflict can be
perpetuated by the fact that these people aren't open to new information that might
dispel these false ideas about the other side. Thus an Israeli may not be willing to hear
about the thoughts, feelings and family of a Palestinian, because these contradict the
Israeli's view of Palestinians as inhuman.
Similar examples can be found on all levels of conflict. Individuals on both sides of the
abortion debate can be unwilling to look at new information about the other side's
stance in an attempt to avoid cognitive dissonance. This concept helps explain why
people are so opposed to counterarguments, especially when it regards a value or
belief that is very important to them. Cognitive dissonance is so unpleasant that
individuals would often rather be close-minded than be informed and deal with the
repercussions of cognitive dissonance.
The Role of Cognitive Dissonance in Reducing Conflict
In spite of people's desire to avoid it, the proper use of cognitive dissonance can be a
useful tool in overcoming conflict. Cognitive dissonance is a basic tool for education in
general. Creating dissonance can induce behavior or attitude change. By creating
cognitive dissonance, you force people to react. In other words, a child can be
encouraged to learn by creating dissonance between what they think they know and
what they actually do -- drawing attention to the fact that they know stealing is wrong
even though they took a cookie, etc. The same idea can be used in adults. By
introducing cognitive dissonance (pointing out the conflict between what people know
and do), we can encourage a change in thought or action.
Turning again to the conflict in Northern Ireland, by pointing out the contradiction
between religious beliefs and terrorism, people can be forced to rethink their actions. A
Protestant or Catholic terrorist can participate in violent activities because they have
dehumanized the other side in their mind. This eliminates any dissonance between
their actions and their beliefs against murder or violence. By introducing new
information -- perhaps emphasizing the humanity of the other side (their families, their
lives, letting the two sides meet in a casual environment, etc.) -- a new dissonance is
created between what they are doing and what they now know to be true. This forces a
reaction. The individual must now either change their actions or readjust their thoughts
to account for this new information.

Similarly, in the abortion debate, the introduction of new information to both sides can
lead to reconciliation through understanding and changes in both action and thought.
Although individuals may never agree on the politics and policy of abortion, the conflict
-- particularly violent conflict -- can be reduced and eliminated.
How to Produce Cognitive Dissonance
Dialogue is one method to produce cognitive dissonance and thus attitude change that
has been used in both these and many other cases. The Public Conversations Project,
in Cambridge, Massachusetts, (U.S.) for instance, has been running dialogues
between pro-life and pro-choice abortion activists for many years. While people do not
leave these dialogues having changed sides, they do come out of them with a new
respect for people "on the other side" and an understanding that logical, rational,
"good" people can feel the opposite way they do about this issue. This tends to tone
down their approach to advocacy, generally making it more constructive than it might
otherwise have been.[2]
Disarming behaviors are another way to create cognitive dissonance. This is done by
simply learning what the other side thinks of or expects of you, and then doing
something very different. For example, if you are considered by the other side to be
uncaring and cruel, make a small gesture that demonstrates that you care about the
other sides' feelings or situation. This causes cognitive dissonance. As is discussed in
the essay on disarming behaviors, just doing this once may not be enough to change
anyone's attitudes or behavior, as they are likely to ignore the dissonant information. If
it is done several times, however, or if the behavior is visible enough that it cannot be
ignored, the results are sometimes striking. Two of the best examples of this process
were Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's unexpected trip to Israel in 1977 and Soviet
Premier Gorbachev's trip to the United States in 1990. Both of these leaders had never
visited the "enemy" country before, and when they did, they were so personable that it
changed the minds of the Israelis and the Americans about the "goodness" and intents
of "the enemy." (More information about these trips can be found in the essay
about disarming behaviors.)
Any way to increase interpersonal communication and contact is another way to
produce dissonance, break down stereotypes, and start building trust where none
existed before. Joint projects, problem solving workshops, prejudice reduction
workshops, and tolerance education all are ways to create cognitive dissonance and
change hostile attitudes between disputants into attitudes that are likely to be more
conciliatory and amenable to conflict transformation.

Alignment of cognitive demand: Peruvian national assessment, mandated

curriculum, teaching and textbook in second grade math

In this study I investigate the degree of alignment in cognitive demand among the
Peruvian national assessment, the mandated curriculum, teaching, and the official
textbook. I used Doyles framework for academic tasks, to analyze the levels of
cognitive demand of the tasks posed to students at each of these levels of curriculum
implementation (Doyle, 1983). I found a significant problem of alignment between the
tasks posed to students in the Peruvian national assessment and the tasks posed at
the other curriculum levels (mandated curriculum, text, and teaching). The test tasks
correspond to the categories of Problem Solving and Comprehension, the mandated
curriculum learning outcomes and the textbook exercises to Comprehension and
Application of Algorithms, and the tasks teachers present to students in classroom are
basically at the level of Application of Algorithms according to the study framework
(Doyle, 1983). Findings in this study coincide with those in previous studies in Peru,
reporting that there are mostly exercises in the workbook for the content area of
Numbers (Cueto, 2003). However, I found that there is a relative alignment between
the percentage of learning outcomes in the mandated curriculum and the amount of
pages and exercises assigned in the workbook for each content area in the
mathematics mandated curriculum (i.e., numbers, geometry and measurement,
probability and statistics).
I found a problem of alignment in terms of cognitive demand between the tasks the
workbook offers to students and those that teachers present to students in classroom.
One of the teachers participating in this study went beyond the workbook and offered
students multiplication problems of higher cognitive demand. In the second observed
classroom, I found that the textbook offered students tasks at a relatively higher
cognitive level as compared to those presented by the teacher in class.
In light of these findings, I recommend a more effective dialogue between the test
developers and the curriculum designers, a revision of the mandated curriculum, the
inclusion of the (revised) mandated curriculum and curriculum materials in teacher
training programs, and further research on teachers mathematics content knowledge.

Competency development

By governing a student organisation or sitting on a committee you will often develop

competencies without being aware of it. To help you become more aware of your
competencies and be able to identify these, the Student Union has recently developed
an information service on competency development.

Competency is a term that been used a lot recently in education and the business
sector. The exact meaning of the term is often unclear. Are competencies just skills? Or
is it more about knowledge and performance? To prevent any confusion about the
meaning of the term competency the Student Union uses the following definition:
A competency is: 'a persons latent ability to effectively perform in a certain task or
problem situation, in a way that is objectively perceptible and assessable.
It's very valuable to be able to state your competencies at job interviews and on your
CV. Awareness of your competencies can lead you to understand your weaknesses,
such as working with other people, but also your strengths. You will learn to use these
At the end of a term, board and committee members often know that they have learned
a lot, but are unable to state their specific competencies. The competency guide can
help students with this and offers a guideline for identifying their competencies. The
guide offers a practical development trajectory and an excellent starting point for
competency development
Meaningful Learning
Meaningful learning is opposed to rote learning and refers to a learning way where
the new knowledge to acquire is related with previous knowledges (Ausubel 2000).
Within the cognitive theory of learning, based on the theory of human information
processing, the 3 core processes of learning are: how knowledge is developed; how
new knowledge is integrated into an existing cognitive system; and how knowledge
becomes automatic.
Ausubel (1967:10) focused on meaningful learning, as "a clearly articulated and
precisely differentiated conscious experience that emerges when potentially meaningful
signs, symbols, concepts, or propositions are related to and incorporated within a given
individual's cognitive structure" (Taka 2008, p. 26)

Meaningful learning refers to the concept that the learned knowledge (lets say a fact) is
fully understood by the individual and that the individual knows how that specific fact
relates to other stored facts (stored in your brain that is). For understanding this
concept, it is good to contrast meaningful learning with the much less desirable, rote
Rote learning is where you memorize something without full understanding and you
don't know how the new information relates to your other stored knowledge. For our
example, lets say we learn 5 facts in a math course during a full semester by rote
learning. This can be illustrated by the figure below. The 5 facts (labeled 1-5) are stored
in memory as separate items although in real life they are related to each other. When

the student rote learned these facts, the brain stored them as distinct, unrelated
knowledge that can only be recalled individually (one fact at a time). When this student
recalls one fact the other 4 facts are not recalled (or activated) at that moment. In other
words, thinking about fact #5 does not lead the student to think about facts #1-4.
Contrast that to the below discussion on recall after meaningful learning.

When meaningful learning occurs (using our example of 5 math facts) the facts are
stored in a relational manner (see figure below). That is, the brain stores them together
because they are related to each other. Now, when one fact is recalled, the other facts
are also recalled at that moment (or shortly thereafter). In other words, recalling fact #5
activates the memory for facts #2 and #4, and this in turn leads to recalling facts #1
and #3. This phenomenon is called the spread of activation. This is the gist of
meaningful learning. Problem-solving for this student would be easier than for the
student who rote learned the same 5 facts. Which one of these students would you like
to hire for your company? Some suggestions on how to ensure meaningful learning
appear below the figure.

1. Make sure what you learn is in your proximal zone.
2. If in doubt, ask the instructor how some new knowledge is related to other course
3. Have a study partner ask you questions that require recall of related material.
4. Make a figure that illustrates what you should know about a specific topic and its
related material.

Self-Directed Learning
What is Self-Directed Lerning?
Self-directed learning, which has its roots in adult education, is an approach that has
also been tried with learners in elementary and secondary schools. There may be slight
variations in how different educators define SDL, but a survey of the literature on the
subject identifies several tenets that are central to the concept.

As the term suggests, SDL views learners as responsible owners and

managers of their own learning process. SDL integrates self-management
(management of the context, including the social setting, resources, and actions) with
self-monitoring (the process whereby the learners monitor, evaluate and regulate their
cognitive learning strategies) (Bolhuis, 1996; Garrison, 1997).

SDL recognizes the significant role of motivation and volition in initiating and
maintaining learners' efforts. Motivation drives the decision to participate, and volition
sustains the will to see a task through to the end so that goals are achieved (Corno,
1992; Garrison, 1997).

In SDL, control gradually shifts from teachers to learners. Learners exercise a

great deal of independence in setting learning goals and deciding what is worthwhile
learning as well as how to approach the learning task within a given framework (Lyman,
1997; Morrow, Sharkey, & Firestone, 1993).

Teachers scaffold learning by making learning 'visible.' They model learning

strategies and work with students so that they develop the ability to use them on their
own (Bolhuis, 1996; Corno, 1992; Leal, 1993).

SDL is, ironically, highly collaborative. Learners collaborate with teachers and
peers in (Guthrie, Alao & Rinehart; 1997; Temple & Rodero, 1995).

SDL develops domain-specific knowledge as well as the ability to transfer

conceptual knowledge to new situations. It seeks to bridge the gap between school
knowledge and real-world problems by considering how people learn in real life
(Bolhuis, 1996; Temple & Rodero, 1995).

What are the Benefits of Self-Directed Learning?

The benefits of SDL are best described in terms of the type of learners it develops. The
literature on SDL asserts that self-directed learners demonstrate a greater awareness
of their responsibility in making learning meaningful and monitoring themselves
(Garrison, 1997). They are curious and willing to try new things (Lyman, 1997), view
problems as challenges, desire change, and enjoy learning (Taylor, 1995). Taylor also
found them to be motivated and persistent, independent, self-disciplined, self-confident
and goal-oriented.
Self-directed learning allows learners to be more effective learners and social beings.
Guthrie, et al. (1996) noted that the self-directed learners in a Concept-Oriented
Reading Instruction (CORI) program demon-strated the ability to search for information
in multiple texts, employ different strategies to achieve goals, and to represent ideas in
different forms (drawing and writing). Morrow, et al. (1993) observe that with proper
planning and implementation, self-directed learning can encourage students to develop
their own rules and leadership patterns

In psychology, decision-making is regarded as the cognitive process resulting in the
selection of a belief or a course of action among several alternative possibilities. Every
decision-making process produces a final choice that may or may not prompt action.
Decision-making is the process of identifying and choosing alternatives based on the
values and preferences of the decision maker

Metacognition: An Overview

"Metacognition" is one of the latest buzz words in educational psychology, but what
exactly is metacognition? The length and abstract nature of the word makes it sound
intimidating, yet its not as daunting a concept as it might seem. We engage in
metacognitive activities everyday. Metacognition enables us to be successful learners,
and has been associated with intelligence (e.g., Borkowski, Carr, & Pressley, 1987;
Sternberg, 1984, 1986a, 1986b). Metacognition refers to higher order thinking which
involves active control over the cognitive processes engaged in learning. Activities such
as planning how to approach a given learning task, monitoring comprehension, and
evaluating progress toward the completion of a task are metacognitive in nature.
Because metacognition plays a critical role in successful learning, it is important to
study metacognitive activity and development to determine how students can be taught
to better apply their cognitive resources through metacognitive control.

"Metacognition" is often simply defined as "thinking about thinking." In actuality,

defining metacognition is not that simple. Although the term has been part of the
vocabulary of educational psychologists for the last couple of decades, and the concept
for as long as humans have been able to reflect on their cognitive experiences, there is
much debate over exactly what metacognition is. One reason for this confusion is the
fact that there are several terms currently used to describe the same basic
phenomenon (e.g., self-regulation, executive control), or an aspect of that phenomenon
(e.g., meta-memory), and these terms are often used interchangeably in the literature.
While there are some distinctions between definitions (see Van Zile-Tamsen, 1994,
1996 for a full discussion), all emphasize the role of executive processes in the
The term "metacognition" is most often associated with John Flavell, (1979). According
to Flavell (1979, 1987), metacognition consists of both metacognitive knowledge and
metacognitive experiences or regulation. Metacognitive knowledge refers to acquired
knowledge about cognitive processes, knowledge that can be used to control cognitive
processes. Flavell further divides metacognitive knowledge into three categories:
knowledge of person variables, task variables and strategy variables.

Metacognitive Knowledge
Stated very briefly, knowledge of person variables refers to general knowledge about
how human beings learn and process information, as well as individual knowledge of
one's own learning processes. For example, you may be aware that your study session
will be more productive if you work in the quiet library rather than at home where there
are many distractions. Knowledge of task variables include knowledge about the nature
of the task as well as the type of processing demands that it will place upon the
individual. For example, you may be aware that it will take more time for you to read
and comprehend a science text than it would for you to read and comprehend a novel.
Finally, knowledge about strategy variables include knowledge about both cognitive
and metacognitive strategies, as well as conditional knowledge about when and where
it is apprpiate to use such strategies.

Metacognitive Regulation
Metacognitive experiences involve the use of metacognitive strategies or metacognitive
regulation (Brown, 1987). Metacognitive strategies are sequential processes that one
uses to control cognitive activities, and to ensure that a cognitive goal (e.g.,
understanding a text) has been met. These processes help to regulate and oversee
learning, and consist of planning and monitoring cognitive activities, as well as
For example, after reading a paragraph in a text a learner may question herself about

the concepts discussed in the paragraph. Her cognitive goal is to understand the text.
Self-questioning is a common metacognitive comprehension monitoring strategy. If she
finds that she cannot answer her own questions, or that she does not understand the
material discussed, she must then determine what needs to be done to ensure that she
meets the cognitive goal of understanding the text. She may decide to go back and reread the paragraph with the goal of being able to answer the questions she had
generated. If, after re-reading through the text she can now answer the questions, she
may determine that she understands the material. Thus, the metacognitive strategy of
self-questioning is used to ensure that the cognitive goal of comprehension is met.

Cognitive vs. Metacognitive Strategies

Most definitions of metacognition include both knowledge and strategy components;
however, there are a number of problems associated with using such definitions. One
major issue involves separating what is cognitive from what is metacognitive. What is
Can declarative knowledge be metacognitive in nature? For example, is the knowledge
that you have difficulty understanding principles from bio-chemistry cognitive or
metacognitive knowledge? Flavell himself acknowledges that metacognitive knowledge
may not be different from cognitive knowledge (Flavell, 1979). The distinction lies in
how the information is used

Recall that metacognition is referred to as "thinking about thinking" and involves

overseeing whether a cognitive goal has been met. This should be the defining criterion
for determining what is metacognitive. Cognitive strategies are used to help an
individual achieve a particular goal (e.g., understanding a text) while metacognitive
strategies are used to ensure that the goal has been reached (e.g., quizzing oneself to
evaluate one's understanding of that text). Metacognitive experiences usually precede
or follow a cognitive activity. They often occur when cognitions fail, such as the
recognition that one did not understand what one just read. Such an impasse is
believed to activate metacognitive processes as the learner attempts to rectify the
situation (Roberts & Erdos, 1993).

Metacognitive and cognitive strategies may overlap in that the same strategy, such as
questioning, could be regarded as either a cognitive or a metacognitive strategy
depending on what the purpose for using that strategy may be. For example, you may
use a self-questioning strategy while reading as a means of obtaining knowledge
(cognitive), or as a way of monitoring what you have read (metacognitive). Because
cognitive and metacognitive strategies are closely intertwined and dependent upon
each other, any attempt to examine one without acknowledging the other would not

Knowledge is considered to be metacognitive if it is actively used in a strategic manner

to ensure that a goal is met. For example, a student may use knowledge in planning
how to approach a math exam: "I know that I (person variable) have difficulty with word
problems (task variable), so I will answer the computational problems first and save the
word problems for last (strategy variable)." Simply possessing knowledge about one's
cognitive strengths or weaknesses and the nature of the task without actively utilizing
this information to oversee learning is not metacognitive.
Metacognition and Intelligence
Metacognition, or the ability to control one's cognitive processes (self-regulation) has
been linked to intelligence (Borkowski et al., 1987; Brown, 1987; Sternberg, 1984,
1986a, 1986b). Sternberg refers to these executive processes as "metacomponents" in
his triarchic theory of intelligence (Sternberg, 1984, 1986a, 1986b). Metacomponents
are executive processes that control other cognitive components as well as receive
feedback from these components. According to Sternberg, metacomponents are
responsible for "figuring out how to do a particular task or set of tasks, and then making
sure that the task or set of tasks are done correctly" (Sternberg, 1986b, p. 24). These
executive processes involve planning, evaluating and monitoring problem-solving
activities. Sternberg maintains that the ability to appropriately allocate cognitive
resources, such as deciding how and when a given task should be accomplished, is

Metacognition and Cognitive Strategy Instruction

Although most individuals of normal intelligence engage in metacognitive regulation
when confronted with an effortful cognitive task, some are more metacognitive than
others. Those with greater metacognitive abilities tend to be more successful in their
cognitive endeavors. The good news is that individuals can learn how to better regulate
their cognitive activities. Most often, metacognitive instruction occurs within Cognitive
Strategy Instruction programs.

Cognitive Strategy Instruction (CSI) is an instructional approach which emphasizes the

development of thinking skills and processes as a means to enhance learning. The
objective of CSI is to enable all students to become more strategic, self-reliant, flexible,
and productive in their learning endeavors (Scheid, 1993). CSI is based on the
assumption that there are identifiable cognitive strategies, previously believed to be
utilized by only the best and the brightest students, which can be taught to most
students (Halpern, 1996). Use of these strategies have been associated with
successful learning (Borkowski, Carr, & Pressley, 1987; Garner, 1990).
Metacognition enables students to benefit from instruction (Carr, Kurtz, Schneider,
Turner & Borkowski, 1989; Van Zile-Tamsen, 1996) and influences the use and

maintenance of cognitive strategies. While there are several approaches to

metacognitive instruction, the most effective involve providing the learner with both
knowledge of cognitive processes and strategies (to be used as metacognitive
knowledge), and experience or practice in using both cognitive and metacognitive
strategies and evaluating the outcomes of their efforts (develops metacognitive
regulation). Simply providing knowledge without experience or vice versa does not
seem to be sufficient for the development of metacognitive control (Livingston, 1996).
The study of metacognition has provided educational psychologists with insight about
the cognitive processes involved in learning and what differentiates successful students
from their less successful peers. It also holds several implications for instructional
interventions, such as teaching students how to be more aware of their learning
processes and products as well as how to regulate those processes for more effective

Assessment and Feedback

Assessment and feedback are not simply methods of grading, judging and reporting on
student performance. When designed effectively, they can engage students and
facilitate learning, provide the opportunity to develop skills and help students to reflect
on, improve or build confidence in their academic ability.
Rowntree (1987, pp.15-31) identified six primary purposes of assessment and


maintaining standards

motivation of students

feedback to students

feedback to the teacher

preparation for life

The Quality Assurance Agency, in their Understanding Assessment guide (2012)

'Assessment serves a number of purposes. The main purpose of summative
assessment is to measure student learning in a way that recognises it through
the award of credits or equivalent (the combination of which can then lead to a
named qualification).'

'However, of equal importance is the recognition that assessment should also be

an integral part of learning, or that summative as well as formative assessment
can, and does, facilitate student learning

Planning an Assessment
There are a number of considerations from a theoretical and practical view in preparing
an assessment, which can be addressed by considering the questions Derek Rowntree
(1987) poses in his definition of the five dimensions of Assessment:
Why do we assess?
Assessment should be part of an overall strategy for learning: each individual
assessment should be aligned to one or more of the Intended Learning Outcomes
(ILO). Avoid assessment for assessments sake.
What to assess?
What are the assessment criteria that you will need to mark against to check that the
ILOs have been met? Are you assessing the process or the product? Timing and type
of assessment are important choices which can make the difference between an
assessment which is part of the learning trajectory, and one which is apparently bolted
How to assess?
Are all markers agreed on a set of marking criteria? Are staff involved in the









Are you over assessing and creating a large administrative overhead? What impacts
on your marks? How will you address the challenges of marking? Check that the
assessment is valid and reliable.
Mark schemes and rubrics are useful here: they set out in clear terms, both for the
student and the marker, what is required for each mark or grade.

Giving Feedback
The quality of feedback provided to students about their academic performance is a
fundamental element of the University of Leicester's approach to learning and teaching
as articulated in the Student Feedback Code of Practice.
Good feedback can be as valuable a learning method as any teaching; in the case of
distance learning programmes, feedback is often one of the main teaching and learning
activities. To be useful to the student, feedback needs to be:

Timely. It is of no use to the student if they dont receive feedback on their first
submission before they have to submit their second. Overarching that, the University
requires campus-based programmes to return feedback within 21 calendar days, and
distance learning programmes within 28 days.

Clear. Feedback should be easy to read, and written in a compact but directand-to-the-point style.

Relevant. Feedback should relate specifically to the student and skills

assessed. For each piece of feedback, a student should be able to see exactly what
they need to do to improve or develop before the next submission. Phrases such as
be more critical are common, but next to useless if the student doesnt know how to
be critical already (or what that means).

Positive. Feedback shouldnt be provided with rose-tinted glasses, but it should

always focus on improving, rather than confirming poor performance. Focus on a
solid base, and provide feedback to help the student take steps in the right direction.
As with Assessment Criteria, its important to provide students with opportunities to
engage in reflective dialogue (with peers, tutors and , indeed, themselves) in order to
unpack and make sense of feedback. Such dialogue and reflection can enable
students to engage more fully and consider ways in which they can develop their




tasks. Student


Development provide

resources and advice on how to integrate opportunities for reflection and dialogue into
mainstream learning and teaching practice.

A Democratic Classroom Environment

A democratic classroom environment: Using the class meeting to engage students
in shared decision making and in taking responsibility for making the classroom the
best it can be.
Key Ideas
1. Creating a democratic classroom environment means involving students, on a
regular basis and in developmentally appropriate ways, in shared decision
making that increases their responsibility for helping to make the classroom a
good place to be and learn.
2. A democratic classroom contributes to character because it:

Provides an ongoing forum where students' thoughts are valued and

where any need of the group can be addressed

Creates a support structure that calls forth students' best moral selves
by strengthening community and holding them accountable to practice
respect and responsibility

Mobilizes the peer culture on the side of virtue, because students are
working with the teacher in a continuing partnership to create the moral
culture of the classroom.

The chief means of creating a democratic classroom environment is the

class meeting, a face-to-face circle meeting emphasizing interactive
discussion and problem solving.

Teaching Strategies
1. Meetings go better when there are clear rules for talking and listening and
consequences of breaking them, and when students help to set the agenda.
2. Meetings can deal with problems (cutting in lunch line, put- downs, homework
problems) or help to plan upcoming events (the day, a field trip, a cooperative
activity, the next unit).
3. Problem-solving class meetings have the best chance of helping students go
beyond "saying the right words" to actually improving their moral behavior

The teacher poses the problem in the collective voice: "How can we,
working together, solve this problem?"

After a solution is reached, asks: "What should we do if someone

doesn't keep our class agreement?"

Writes up the agreement and consequence(s) as a Class Agreement or


Has everyone sign it to show personal commitment.

Posts it in a visible spot for easy reference.

Plans with the class when to have a follow-up meeting to assess how
the new plan is working; then follows through.

Creating a Classroom Atmosphere for Better Student Engagement

What is the best way to boost student engagement in the classroom? While some
studies have shown that a classroom with more student engagement can be more
productive, it doesnt eliminate the need for teachers to spend time with individual
students who need extra help. In short, teachers need to find ways to engage all their
Most teachers already know that they must direct and guide the classroom with a
positive learning environment. But the methods that they should use are not always
clearly defined.
Classroom management vs. learning communities
Learning often falls into two broad categories: instruction and classroom management.
The term classroom management refers to the structure and control of the classroom.

It is rooted in an industrial model of education consisting of rigid schedules with

classroom bells and large class sizes. Some school leaders and advocates now
wonder if this is the best approach. In recent years the classroom management term
has been dropped in some educational circles in favor of a term thats thought to
suggest a more positive relationship with studentsa learning community.
What are some of the differences between a learning community and classroom

Classroom management: Are rules mandated or negotiated?

Power: Should power be unquestioned or given with respect?

Effectiveness: Is an effective classroom passive and quiet or lively and with

student engagement?

Classroom control: Should the teacher provide feedback when it is punitive in

nature or positive reinforcement?

Teachers role: Should the teacher demand absolute attention or be a source of


A brief look at the differences between classroom management and learning

communities can make things more clear. Could it be a matter of nurturing relationships
over institutionalization and indoctrination of our students? Teachers must create a
learning climate that exhibits respect to the student with high-quality personal
relationships with both adults and peers.
Creating a learning environment
While its important to study and continue education in regards to student engagement,
students should lead the way in the strategies teachers use. Students often share what
they like about learning, but teachers, administration, and college professors dont
always hear it.
The growth of our students requires their ability to interact with others in the classroom.
Talking should be encouraged. But for some students, one-on-one personal
interactions are not easy because they have been heavily influenced by personal
technology. Teachers should acknowledge those students interests in technology and
encourage them to share it by interacting with other students.
Also, students often wonder how school lessons are relevant to real life. If a teacher
can apply the lesson to a function outside of the classroom such as a career, student
engagement increases.
The classroom environment should also be comfortable on a physical level. Adjust the
room temperature so students can concentrate. Lighting should not be intrusive. Make
the classroom inviting. As student comfort increases, so does learning.

As the need to increase student engagement is addressed, teachers are challenged to

define what student engagement means to their students. Today, no clear set
standards or rules are provided on this subject, but teachers and students intuitively
know what it feels like to be in a classroom that connects. Listen to your students and
follow your instincts and you will create an engaging learning environment where
students can thrive
Jean Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development
Jean Piagets prominent work is his theory on the four stages of cognitive development.
He was one of the most influential researchers in the area of developmental
psychology in the 20th century whose primary interest was in biological influences on
how we come to know, and the developmental stages we move through as we acquire
this ability (Singer & Revenson, 1997, p. 13).
Piaget (1973) believed that the child plays an active role in the growth of intelligence
and learns by doing. He regarded the child as a philosopher who perceives the world
only as he has experienced it. Therefore, most of Piagets inspiration in cognitive and
intellectual development came from observations of children. In fact, Piaget observed
and studied his own three children through each stage of their cognitive development.
The theory of cognitive development focuses on mental processes such as perceiving,
remembering, believing, and reasoning. Reasoning is the essence of intelligence, and
reasoning is what Piaget studied in order to discover how we come to know (Singer &
Revenson, 1997, p. 13). Piaget believed that cognitive development is cumulative; that
is, understanding a new experience grows out of a previous learning experience.
Description of Piagets Theory on the Stages of Cognitive Development
Piaget (1973) developed a systematic study of cognitive development in children. His
work included a theory on cognitive development, detailed observational studies of
cognition in children, and a series of tests to reveal differing cognitive abilities.
Through his work, Piaget (1973) showed that children think in considerably different
ways than adults do. This did not mean that children thought at a less intelligent
degree, or at a slower pace, they just thought differently when compared to adults.
Piagets work showed that children are born with a very basic genetically inherited
mental structure that evolves and is the foundation for all subsequent learning and
knowledge. He saw cognitive development as a progressive reorganization of mental
processes resulting from maturation and experience.
Piaget (1973) believed children will construct an understanding of the world around
them, and will then experience discrepancies between what they already know and
what they discover in their environment.
To explain his theory, Piaget used the concept of stages to describe development as a
sequence of the four following stages:

Sensory-Motor Stage
Preoperational stage
Stage of Concrete Operations
Stage of Formal Operations
Singer and Revenson (1997) explain that these stages unfold over time, and all
children will pass through them all in order to achieve an adult level of intellectual
functioning. The later stages evolve from and are built on earlier ones. They point out
that the sequence of stages is fixed and unchangeable and children cannot skip a
stage. They all proceed through the stages in the same order, even though they may
progress through them at different rates (p. 18).
At each stage, the child will acquire more complex motor skills and cognitive abilities.
Although different behaviours characterize different stages, the transition between
stages is gradual, and a child moves between stages so subtly that he may not be
aware of new perspectives gained. However, at each stage there are definite
accompanying developmental changes in the areas of play, language, morality, space,
time, and number (Singer & Revenson, 1997).
Main Elements of Piagets Cognitive Development Theory
There are three elements to Piagets theory:
The four processes that enable the transition from one stage to another
The four stages of cognitive development
A schema is the basic building block of intelligent behaviour, a form of organizing
information that a person uses to interpret the things he or she sees, hears, smell, and
touches (Singer & Revenson, 1997). A schema can be thought of as a unit of
knowledge, relating to one aspect of the world including objects, actions, and abstract
(theoretical) concepts. We use schemas to understand and to respond to situations.
We store them and apply them when needed.
A child is considered to be in a state of equilibrium or in a state of cognitive balance
when she or he is capable of explaining what he or she is perceiving (schema) at the
The dual processes of assimilation and accommodation (described below) are the
building blocks to forming a schema.

The Four Processes:

The four processes that enable the transition from one cognitive stage to another are
assimilation,accommodation, disequilibrium, and equilibration.Educators generally view
these processes as an explanation of cognitive learning processes, not just those that
lead to major shifts in cognitive ability (Piaget, 1973, p. 36).
Together, assimilation and accommodation are processes of adjustment to changes in
the environment and are defined as adaptation, the continuous process of using the
environment to learn. And, according to Piaget, adaptation is the most important
principle of human functioning.
The Four Stages of Cognitive Development:
Piaget identified the following four stages in development of cognition:
Sensory-Motor (Ages Birth Through Two)
Preoperational (Ages Two Through Seven)
Concrete Operations (Ages Seven Through Eleven)
Formal Operations (Ages Eleven Through Sixteen)

Moral Development
Kohlberg's Theory
Traditionally, psychology has avoided studying anything that is loaded with value
judgements. There is a degree of difficulty involved in trying to be unbiased about
things that involve terms like "good" and "bad!" So, one of the most significant aspects
of human life - morality - has had to wait quite a while before anyone in psychology
dared to touch it! But Lawrence Kohlberg wanted to study morality, and did so using a
most interesting (if controversial) technique. Basically, he would ask children and
adults to try to solve moral dilemmas contained in little stories, and to do so outloud so
he could follow their reasoning. It wasn't the specific answers to the dilemmas that
interested him, but rather how the person got to his or her answer.
One of the most famous of these stories concerned a man named Heinz. His wife was
dying of a disease that could be cured if he could get a certain medicine. When he
asked the pharmacist, he was told that he could get the medicine, but only at a very
high price - one that Heinz could not possibly afford. So the next evening, Heinz broke
into the pharmacy and stole the drug to save his wife's life. Was Heinz right or wrong
to steal the drug?

There are simple reasons why Heinz should or should not have stolen the drug, and
there are very sophisticated reasons, and reasons in between. After looking at
hundreds of interviews using this and several other stories, Kohlberg outlined three
broad levels and six more specific stages of moral development.
Level I: Pre-conventional morality. While infants are essentially amoral, very young
children are moral in a rather primitive way, as described by the two preconventional
Stage 1. We can call this the reward and punishment stage. Good or bad depends
on the physical consequences: Does the action lead to punishment or reward? This
stage is based simply on one's own pain and pleasure, and doesn't take others into
Stage 2. This we can call the exchange stage. In this stage, there is increased
recognition that others have their own interests and should be taken into account.
Those interests are still understood in a very concrete fashion, and the child deals with
others in terms of simple exchange or reciprocity: "I'll scratch your back if you scratch
mine." Children in this stage are very concerned with what's "fair" (one of their favorite
words), but are not concerned with real justice.
Level II: Conventional morality. By the time children enter elementary school, they
are usually capable of conventional morality, although they may often slip back into
preconventional morality on occasion. But this level is called conventional for a very
good reason: It is also the level that most adults find themselves in most of the time!
Stage 3. This stage is often called the good boy/good girl stage. The child tries to
live up to the expectations of others, and to seek their approval. Now they become
interested motives or intentions, and concepts such as loyalty, trust, and gratitude are
understood. Children in this stage often adhere to a concrete version of the Golden
Rule, although it is limited to the people they actually deal with on a day-to-day basis.
Stage 4. This is called the law-and-order stage. Children now take the point of view
that includes the social system as a whole. The rules of the society are the bases for
right and wrong, and doing one's duty and showing respect for authority are important.
Level III: Post-conventional morality. Some adolescents and adults go a step
further and rise above moralities based on authority to ones based on reason.
Stage 5. The social contract stage means being aware of the degree to which much
of so-called morality is relative to the individual and to the social group they belong to,
and that only a very few fundamental values are universal. The person at this level
sees morality as a matter of entering into a rational contract with one's fellow human
beings to be kind to each other, respect authority, and follow laws to the extent that
they respect and promote those universal values. Social contract morality often
involves a utilitarian approach, where the relative value of an act is determined by "the
greatest good for the greatest number."

Stage 6. This stage is referred to as the stage of universal principles. At this point,
the person makes a personal commitment to universal principles of equal rights and
respect, and social contract takes a clear back-seat: If there is a conflict between a
social law or custom and universal principles, the universal principles take precedence.
Kohlberg's original work was done with boys. When the research began to include
girls, they found the girls to be less morally "developed" than the boys! Psychologist
Carol Gilligan, involved in that research, began to notice that it wasn't so easy to
distinguish "good boy/good girl" from "universal principles", especially in the girls. Since
then, psychologists have readjusted their work to take into account for the fact that girls
often express their morality in terms that emphasize personal caring more than abstract
What is Social-Emotional Development?
Social & Emotional Development
How do children start to understand who they are, what they are feeling, what they
expect to receive from others? These concepts are at the heart of their socialemotional wellness. They contribute to a childs self-confidence and empathy, her
ability to develop meaningful and lasting friendships and partnerships, and her sense of
importance and value to those around her. Childrens social-emotional development
influences all other areas of development: Cognitive, motor, and language development
are all greatly affected by how a child feels about herself and how she is able to
Professionals sometimes define healthy social-emotional development in young
children as early childhood mental health. Healthy social-emotional development
includes the ability to:

Form and sustain positive relationships

Experience, manage, and express emotions

Explore and engage with the environment

Children with well-developed social-emotional skills are also more able to:

Express their ideas and feelings

Display empathy towards others

Manage their feelings of frustration and disappointment more easily

Feel self-confident

More easily make and develop friendships

Succeed in school

Social-emotional development provides the foundation for how we feel about ourselves
and how we experience others. This foundation begins the day we are born and
continues to develop throughout our lifespan.

The greatest influence on a childs social-emotional development is the quality of the

Positive and nurturing early experiences and relationships have a significant impact on
a childs social-emotional development. They also influence how the young childs brain
develops. An attachment relationship is an enduring one that develops during the first
few years of the childs life. It is built upon repeated interactions between the infant and
the primary caregiver. These interactions mainly involve attempts by the infant to
achieve physical and emotional closeness and the caregivers responses to these
attempts. They have a lasting influence on how the child feels about himself, how he
the thinks and interacts with his world, and what he comes to expect from others -

Structure of the Education System

The Peruvian Educational System is divided into:
- Basic or Initial Education
- Primary Education
- Secondary Education
- Higher Education
Initial education is offered in crches (under 3 years of age), nursery schools (from 3 to
5 years) and through non-school programmes aimed at poor children in rural and
marginal urban areas. According to the Constitution of 1993, one year of initial
education is mandatory for the population of 5 years of age.
The next level is primary education, which has a duration of 6 years. It should be said
To pass on from primary education, students need an average mark of 11 (20-point
evaluation system) and to have passed at least language or mathematics.
Secondary education is organised in two cycles: the first applies to all pupils, lasts two
years and is mandatory. This, together with primary education, constitute the obligatory
block of education. The second cycle, lasting three years, is diversified, with arts,
science and technical options. It is provided in two modes: for adolescents (12-16 year
age group) and adults. According to the 1993 Constitution, secondary education is also

Higher education is provided in higher schools and institutes, higher postgraduate

centres and universities. The institutes offer training programmes for teachers and a
variety of technical training options in courses lasting not less than four or more than
ten academic semesters. Institutes and higher schools award professional, technical
and expert diplomas and also those for second and subsequent professional
specialities. The universities award bachelors and masters degrees and doctorates,
as well as professional certificates and degrees, including those for second and
subsequent professional specialitie


Metacognition: a way towards learning how to learn

En este artculo se aborda el tema de la metacognicin como una alternativa viable
para formar alumnos autnomos, sobre la base de una educacin que potencia la
conciencia sobre los propios procesos cognitivos y la autorregulacin de los mismos
por parte de los estudiantes, de manera tal, que les conduzca a un "aprender a
aprender", es decir, a autodirigir su aprendizaje y transferirlo a otros mbitos de su

En los ltimos aos se ha incrementado notablemente la preocupacin de
educadores y psiclogos por abordar el problema del aprendizaje y del
conocimiento desde la perspectiva de una participacin activa de los sujetos, cuyo
eje bsico lo constituyen: la reflexividad, la autoconciencia y el autocontrol.
En este contexto, se hace cada vez ms necesario que nios, adolescentes y
jvenes mejoren sus potencialidades a travs del sistema educativo formal
"aprendiendo a aprender" y "aprendiendo a pensar", de manera tal que, junto con
construir un aprendizaje de mejor calidad, ste trascienda ms all de las aulas y
les permita resolver situaciones cotidianas; en otras palabras, se trata de lograr que

los estudiantes sean capaces de autodirigir su aprendizaje y transferirlo a otros

mbitos de su vida.
Para lograr los objetivos de "aprender a aprender" y "aprender a pensar", en los
ltimos aos se ha revelado como especialmente eficaz la formacin de los
educandos en la adquisicin y utilizacin oportuna de estrategias de aprendizaje
cognitivas, entre las cuales se destacan las orientadas al autoaprendizaje y al
desarrollo de las habilidades metacognitivas.
En Chile, los esfuerzos investigativos por incorporar la dimensin metacognitiva en
el proceso educativo son incipientes, particularmente en su aplicacin al proceso
educativo en el mbito de las Ciencias Naturales.
En la Pontificia Universidad Catlica de Valparaso, la doctora Corina Gonzlez
recientemente realiz su Tesis de Doctorado en la Universidad de Mnchen sobre
Metacognicion en Enseanza de las Ciencias con alumnos de Primer Ciclo de
Enseanza Media, lo cual le ha permitido generar una lnea de trabajo en este
En la Universidad de La Frontera, Temuco, dentro de la lnea de investigacin en
Enseanza de las Ciencias, de larga data, actualmente se est desarrollando el
Proyecto Fondecyt 1070256 que apunta a insertar la dimensin metacognitiva en el
proceso educativo en Biologa en alumnos de Segundo Ciclo de Enseanza Media en
Comunas de alta vulnerabilidad (Osses 2007). El marco terico de este Proyecto
constituye la base del presente artculo.
Antes de abordar el tema de la metacognicion, y como un antecedente necesario
para su mejor comprensin, comenzaremos por definir conocimiento como "el
conjunto de representaciones de la realidad que tiene un sujeto, almacenadas en la
memoria a travs de diferentes sistemas, cdigos o formatos de representacin y
es adquirido, manipulado y utilizado para diferentes fines por el entero sistema
cognitivo que incluye, adems del subsistema de la memoria, otros subsistemas
que procesan, transforman, combinan y construyen esas representaciones del
conocimiento" (Mayor et al. 1995: 13).
conocimiento cientfico o disciplinar,compilacin del conocimiento en un rea de la
realidad ms o menos extensa; conocimientorepresentacional que, desde una
perspectiva individual, es el conjunto de representaciones de la realidad
almacenadas en la memoria y, conocimiento construido, es decir, compartido por
diversos sujetos especialistas en un campo determinado o por la mayor parte de los
sujetos de una comunidad siendo, en este caso, el conocimiento, producto de una
construccin social. El conocimiento representacional se ha convertido en el eje de
la psicologa cognitiva, de la ciencia cognitiva y la psicologa de la instruccin.
Segn Palmer y Kimchi (1986); Rumelhart y Norman (1988) y Mayor y Moivas
(1992), existen cinco sistemas para representar el conocimiento:

El sistema proposicional. Su unidad bsica es la proposicin, es decir, un

enunciado que se puede evaluar como verdadero o como falso.

El sistema analgico, constituido, fundamentalmente, por la imagen mental.

El sistema procedimental. Consiste en el conocimiento de un conjunto de

procesos cognitivos para llevar a cabo alguna accin. Se caracterizan porque:
a) poseen una estructura jerrquica cuyo objetivo global se logra mediante el
establecimiento de subobjetivos; b) se ejecutan en cascada, es decir, algunos
de los pasos producen resultados intermedios necesarios para los pasos
posteriores; c) la memoria activa controla al mismo tiempo, los datos exteriores
y los procedentes de la memoria a largo plazo; d) el criterio de ejecucin es la
correcta finalizacin de la tarea y no el trmino de uno de sus pasos.

El sistema distribuido y paralelo: se basa en las conexiones neuronales e

implica un procesamiento masivo en paralelo, no localizado, sino distribuido por
todo el sistema.

Los modelos mentales: constituyen una modalidad de representacin analgica,

sin embargo, se tiende a concebirlos como un sistema de representacin
especfico y diferenciado de los citados anteriormente .

Segn Newell (1990) y Brachman, Levesque y Reiter (1992) el sistema

procedimental representa mejor el conocimiento implicado en destrezas y
habilidades y, en particular, el conocimiento metacognitivo.


A continuacin, teniendo en vista la relacin entre conocimiento y aprendizaje,
entre aprendizaje y estrategias cognitivas y metacognitivas y entre stas y el
enfoque del aprendizaje propuesto por Ausubel et al. (1973), haremos referencia a
algunos aspectos de dicha perspectiva terica, la cual, en los ltimos aos, ha ido
adquiriendo creciente relevancia en el mbito educativo.
Ausubel distingue entre aprendizaje receptivo y aprendizaje por descubrimiento y
entre aprendizaje memorstico y aprendizaje significativo. A ellos se refieren Romn
y Diez (2000) en los siguientes trminos.
En el aprendizaje receptivo, el alumno recibe el contenido que ha de internalizar,
sobre todo, por la explicacin del profesor, el material impreso, la informacin
audiovisual u otros medios.
En el aprendizaje por descubrimiento, el estudiante debe descubrir el material por
s mismo, antes de incorporarlo a su estructura cognitiva. Este aprendizaje puede
ser guiado por el profesor o ser autnomo por parte del estudiante.
El aprendizaje memorstico (mecnico o repetitivo) se produce cuando la tarea del
aprendizaje consta de asociaciones arbitrarias o cuando el aprendiz lo hace

arbitrariamente. Supone una memorizacin de los datos, hechos o conceptos con

escasa o nula relacin entre ellos.
El aprendizaje significativo se genera cuando las tareas estn relacionadas de
manera congruente y el sujeto decide aprender; cuando el alumno, como
constructor de su propio conocimiento, relaciona los conceptos a aprender y les da
un sentido a partir de la estructura conceptual que ya posee. Dicho de otro modo,
cuando el estudiante construye nuevos conocimientos a partir de los ya adquiridos,
pero, adems, los construye porque est interesado en hacerlo.
De acuerdo a los planteamientos anteriores, se pueden distinguir las siguientes
situaciones en el aprendizaje escolar:

Aprendizaje receptivo repetitivo-memorstico. Los conceptos se aprenden por

mera repeticin mecnica a partir de la explicacin del profesor, pero no se
ubican en la estructura conceptual que ya posee. Se trata de aprendizajes

Aprendizaje repetitivo-memorstico por descubrimiento guiado. En este caso, el

profesor se limita a orientar y ensear estrategias y tcnicas, descuidando los
conceptos y sus marcos de referencia. Se supone que el alumno aprende a
aprender porque sabe utilizar de manera adecuada tcnicas activas. La
mediacin del profesor es metodolgica, pero no conceptual. Supone una mera
aplicacin de frmulas (tcnicas metodolgicas) para resolver problemas de la
vida o del conocimiento. Generalmente la actividad "investigadora" en el aula se
convierte en un "activismo" que a los alumnos resulta interesante .

Aprendizaje repetitivo-memorstico por descubrimiento autnomo. Esta

situacin es similar a la anterior. El alumno como investigador elabora trabajos
monogrficos "sistematizando" lo que observa o estudia, pero sin detenerse a
conceptualizarlo ni enmarcarlo en lo que ya sabe. Carece de un marco
conceptual y reflexivo de su actividad.

Aprendizaje significativo receptivo. Se suele producir a partir de la clase

magistral y la metodologa expositiva. Pero slo es significativo cuando la
informacin que se recibe se enmarca en la estructura conceptual que el
alumno posee, por tanto, implica una progresiva reelaboracin de los

Aprendizaje significativo por descubrimiento guiado. Subyace a este tipo de

aprendizaje una metodologa activa e investigadora. La actividad est guiada
por el profesor desde las perspectivas procedimental y conceptual. El profesor
gua al alumno para que construya procedimientos y conceptos.

Aprendizaje significativo por descubrimiento autnomo. El estudiante construye

sus propios conocimientos bajo las modalidades, por ejemplo, de informes o
trabajos monogrficos de un tema dado. Su investigacin y actividad est
orientada, pues tiene claro adonde va y los medios para conseguirlo.

En cuanto al profesor, es un facilitador de los aprendizajes del alumno y, para ello,

selecciona materiales didcticos significativos.

Segn Ausubel, las condiciones bsicas del aprendizaje significativo son: la

disposicin del sujeto a aprender significativamente y que el material a aprender
sea potencialmente significativo.
Segn Glaser (1994), la metacognicin es una de las reas de investigacin que
ms ha contribuido a la configuracin de las nuevas concepciones del aprendizaje y
de la instruccin. A medida que se han ido imponiendo las concepciones
constructivistas del aprendizaje, se ha ido atribuyendo un papel creciente a la
conciencia que tiene el sujeto y a la regulacin que ejerce sobre su propio
Flavell (1976: 232), uno de los pioneros en la utilizacin de este trmino, afirma
que la metacognicin, por un lado, se refiere "al conocimiento que uno tiene acerca
de los propios procesos y productos cognitivos o cualquier otro asunto relacionado
con ellos, por ejemplo, las propiedades de la informacin relevantes para el
aprendizaje" y, por otro, "a la supervisin activa y consecuente regulacin y
organizacin de estos procesos, en relacin con los objetos o datos cognitivos sobre
los que actan, normalmente en aras de alguna meta u objetivo concreto". As, por
ejemplo, se practica la metacognicin cuando se tiene conciencia de la mayor
dificultad para aprender un tema que otro; cuando se comprende que se debe
verificar un fenmeno antes de aceptarlo como un hecho; cuando se piensa que es
preciso examinar todas y cada una de las alternativas en una eleccin mltiple
antes de decidir cul es la mejor, cuando se advierte que se debera tomar nota de
algo porque puede olvidarse.
Carretero (2001), por una parte, se refiere a la metacognicin como el
conocimiento que las personas construyen respecto del propio funcionamiento
cognitivo. Un ejemplo de este tipo de conocimiento sera saber que la organizacin
de la informacin en un esquema favorece su recuperacin posterior. Por otra,
asimila la metacognicin a operaciones cognitivas relacionadas con los procesos de
supervisin y de regulacin que las personas ejercen sobre su propia actividad
cognitiva cuando se enfrentan a una tarea. Por ejemplo, para favorecer el
aprendizaje del contenido de un texto, un alumno selecciona como estrategia la
organizacin de su contenido en un esquema y evala el resultado obtenido.
Esta distincin entre el conocimiento metacognitivo y el control metacognitivo es
consistente con la distincin entre el conocimiento declarativo relativo al "saber
qu" y el conocimiento procedimental referido al "saber cmo".
En consecuencia, es posible diferenciar dos componentes metacognitivos: uno de
naturaleza declarativa (conocimiento metacognitivo) y otro de carcter
procedimental (control metacognitivo o aprendizaje autorregulado), ambos
importantes para el aprendizaje y relacionados entre s.
El conocimiento metacognitivo se refiere: a) al conocimiento de la persona. En este
caso, se trata del conocimiento que tenemos de nosotros mismos como aprendices,
de nuestras potencialidades y limitaciones cognitivas y de otras caractersticas
personales que pueden afectar el rendimiento en una tarea; b) conocimiento de la

tarea. Hace alusin al conocimiento que poseemos sobre los objetivos de la tarea y
todas aquellas caractersticas de sta, que influyen sobre su mayor o menor
dificultad, conocimiento muy importante, pues ayuda al aprendiz a elegir la
estrategia apropiada; c) conocimiento de las estrategias. El aprendiz debe saber
cul es el repertorio de estrategias alternativas que le permitirn llevar a cabo una
tarea, cmo se aplicarn y las condiciones bajo las cuales las diferentes estrategias
resultarn ms efectivas.
En cuanto al control metacognitivo o aprendizaje autorregulado, la idea bsica es
que el aprendiz competente es un participante intencional y activo, capaz de iniciar
y dirigir su propio aprendizaje y no un aprendiz reactivo. El aprendizaje
autorregulado est, por tanto, dirigido siempre a una meta y controlado por el
sujeto que aprende (Arguelles y Nagles 2007).
Hoy se tiende a defender una concepcin de la instruccin y el aprendizaje, segn
la cual, los alumnos pueden mejorar su capacidad para aprender, usando
selectivamente estrategias motivacionales y metacognitivas; pueden seleccionar
proactivamente, e incluso, crear ambientes ventajosos para el aprendizaje y pueden
jugar un papel significativo en la eleccin de la forma y cantidad de instruccin que
necesitan (Zimmerman 1989).
A partir de estas afirmaciones es posible inferir que el aprendiz competente emplea
sus conocimientos metacognitivos para autorregular eficazmente su aprendizaje y,
a su vez, la regulacin que ejerce sobre su propio aprendizaje, puede llevarle a
adquirir nuevos conocimientos relacionados con la tarea y con sus propios recursos
como aprendiz.
A propsito del concepto de metacognicin, surge el interrogante Para qu
ocuparnos de la metacognicin?
La importancia de la metacognicin para la educacin radica en que todo nio es un
aprendiz que se halla constantemente ante nuevas tareas de aprendizaje. En estas
condiciones, lograr que los alumnos "aprendan a aprender", que lleguen a ser
capaces de aprender de forma autnoma y autorregulada se convierte en una
necesidad. Uno de los objetivos de la escuela debe ser, por tanto, ayudar a los
alumnos a convertirse en aprendices autnomos. El logro de este objetivo va
acompaado de otra nueva necesidad, la de "ensear a aprender".
En nuestras sociedades actuales no slo los nios tienen que estar aprendiendo
nuevas tareas de forma permanente, sino tambin los adultos, a quienes
constantemente se les presentan situaciones problemticas no previstas que deben
Pozo (1996) afirma que la adquisicin de nuevas estrategias para aprender es una
de las nuevas exigencias formativas que nuestras sociedades estn generando. Esta
nueva demanda est siendo reconocida y recogida en las Reformas Educativas que
se estn llevando a cabo en diferentes pases de Europa y Latinoamrica. As, por
ejemplo, el Documento Curricular Base para la Enseanza Obligatoria en Espaa
expresa que es necesario que el alumno tome conciencia de los procesos que utiliza
en la elaboracin de conocimiento, facilitndole la reflexin metacognitiva sobre las

habilidades de conocimiento, los procesos cognitivos, el control y la planificacin de

la propia actuacin y la de otros, la toma de decisiones y la comprobacin de
resultados (MEC 1989).
En la Reforma Educacional chilena, los temas y contenidos transversales se refieren
a dimensiones valricas y cognitivas. En cuanto a lo valrico, un aspecto se
relaciona con el desarrollo de la personalidad integrada emocionalmente,
equilibrada y capaz de conocer los cdigos del mundo en que vive; otro est ligado
a la capacidad y voluntad para regular la conducta y, el ltimo, corresponde a
aspectos vinculados a la capacidad de interaccin social y de responsabilidad en la
convivencia con los otros. Respecto de lo cognitivo, la transversalidad se relaciona
con el desarrollo del pensamiento que apunta a fortalecer aquellas habilidades
cognitivas vinculadas preferentemente al aprender a aprender, la resolucin de
problemas, la comunicacin, la lectura crtica y reflexiva, la produccin de ideas, el
anlisis y la reflexin en torno a las consecuencias de los propios actos. Todo esto,
con el propsito de fortalecer en los estudiantes las capacidades que intervienen en
el juicio y la accin moral, con el fin de que sean capaces de orientarse de forma
autnoma en situaciones de conflicto de valores y tomar posturas y decisiones de
las que se hagan responsables (Magendzo 2003).
Ms directamente en relacin con el mbito cientfico, la Reforma Educacional
chilena afirma que: el ejercicio de la indagacin e investigacin mejora la capacidad
de tomar decisiones informadas y razonadas en asuntos personales y de orden
pblico que, a menudo, requieren conocimientos elementales sobre ciencia y
tecnologa. Todos los estudiantes deben tener la oportunidad de experimentar
positivamente lo que significa aprender y entender algo cientficamente... Sentir
que contribuyen a la formulacin de problemas y definicin de las etapas y medios
posibles para dilucidarlos, les llevar a adquirir mayor confianza y certeza de que
pueden realizar su propio camino... Aprender a aprender es crucial para continuar
leyendo, aprendiendo y estudiando a medida que aparezcan las necesidades y las
oportunidades (Ministerio de Educacin 2000, 2001).
Dado que la metacognicin tiene una estrecha relacin con las estrategias de
aprendizaje, abordaremos brevemente esta temtica.
La mayora de los autores (Weinstein y Mayer 1986; Nisbet y Schucksmith 1986;
Pozo 1990; Monereo et al.1994) se refieren a las estrategias cognitivas de
aprendizaje como "procedimientos o secuencias integradas de accin que
constituyen planes de accin que el sujeto selecciona entre diversas alternativas
con el fin de conseguir una meta fijada de aprendizaje".
Definiremos las estrategias metacognitivas de aprendizaje como "el conjunto de
acciones orientadas a conocer las propias operaciones y procesos mentales (qu),
saber utilizarlas (cmo) y saber readaptarlas y/o cambiarlas cuando as lo requieran
las metas propuestas" (Osses 2007).
Las estrategias cognitivas apuntan a aumentar y mejorar los productos de nuestra
actividad cognitiva, favoreciendo la codificacin y almacenamiento de informacin,

su recuperacin posterior y su utilizacin en la solucin de problemas. Las

estrategias metacognitivas, en cambio, se emplean para planificar, supervisar y
evaluar la aplicacin de las estrategias cognitivas. Se infiere, por tanto, que las
estrategias metacognitivas constituyen un apoyo para las estrategias cognitivas.
Respecto de estrategias cognitivas y metacognitivas, no podemos dejar de
mencionar un tema recurrente en las modernas perspectivas sobre la
metacognicin: se trata de la motivacin. En efecto, la investigacin cognitiva de
los ltimos aos enfatiza el progresivo reconocimiento del papel que desempean
las variables motivacionales y afectivas en el desempeo de las tareas cognitivas.
En esta lnea, la mayora de las propuestas recientes sobre el aprendizaje
autorregulado considera que ste depende no slo del conocimiento de las
estrategias especficas de la tarea y del control que se lleva a cabo sobre ellas, sino
tambin de la motivacin que tenga el sujeto por el aprendizaje (Paris y Winograd
1990; Pintrich y de Groot 1990; Alonso 1991, 1997). En consecuencia, para que el
conocimiento de las estrategias cognitivas y metacognitivas se transforme en
accin, tiene que ir acompaado de las intenciones o metas apropiadas y de un
patrn de creencias positivas sobre los propios recursos para llevarlas a cabo. De
estas afirmaciones se desprende que el aprendizaje autorregulado resulta del
concurso interactivo entre cognicin, metacognicin y motivacin.
A continuacin, plantearemos dos criterios que pueden orientar la enseanza de las
estrategias metacognitivas.
A) Segn el grado de conciencia sobre las estrategias (Burn 1990).

Entrenamiento ciego. Se llama as porque los estudiantes no perciben la

importancia de lo que se les solicita o la razn para hacerlo. Se les pide que
hagan una tarea de una forma determinada y no se les explica por qu razn
deben hacerla de ese modo. Los alumnos lo hacen, pero no visualizan si esa
forma de trabajar es mejor que otras. En consecuencia, no es fcil que la
apliquen cuando tengan la opcin de decidir cmo hacer el trabajo. De este
modo, la enseanza de las estrategias no conduce a su uso duradero. La
instruccin mecnica puede ser til para aprender pero no para "aprender a
aprender". No parece, entonces, que el entrenamiento ciego sea suficiente para
ayudar a los estudiantes que presentan ms dificultades para ser autnomos en
el aprendizaje.

Entrenamiento informado o razonado. Tiene lugar cuando a los estudiantes se

les pide que aprendan o trabajen de un modo determinado y, adems, se les
explica por qu deben hacerlo, resaltando su importancia y utilidad. La prctica
de las estrategias especficas de la tarea se acompaa de una informacin
explcita sobre la efectividad de las mismas, basndose en el argumento de que
las personas abandonan las estrategias cuando no se les ensea cmo
emplearlas, porque no saben lo suficiente sobre su funcionamiento cognitivo
como para apreciar su utilidad para el rendimiento, ni se dan cuenta de que
pueden ser tiles en diferentes situaciones. Si los estudiantes no poseen

informacin acerca de las situaciones, materiales y propsitos, es decir, sobre

las condiciones en las que es ms apropiado aplicarlas, probablemente harn
un uso indiscriminado de las mismas. Esto significa que una mayor conciencia
sobre estos aspectos de las estrategias puede contribuir tanto a su
permanencia como a su aplicacin flexible y no rutinaria.

Entrenamiento metacognitivo o en el control. En la instruccin metacognitiva se

avanza respecto de la instruccin razonada, en el sentido de que el profesor,
adems de explicar a los alumnos la utilidad de usar una estrategia concreta,
los induce a que ellos mismos lo comprueben, de modo que los lleva,
indirectamente, a tomar conciencia de su efectividad.

Esta modalidad de insercin de la dimensin metacognitiva en el proceso de

aprendizaje implica, en definitiva, ensear a los estudiantes a planificar, supervisar
y evaluar su ejecucin, lo cual favorece el uso espontneo y autnomo de las
estrategias y facilita su generalizacin a nuevos problemas, vinculndose, en esta
forma, la metacognicin, a la nocin de transferencia. Esto significa, en
consecuencia, que si aspiramos a que los alumnos aprendan a aprender, el mtodo
didctico ha de ser, el metacognitivo.
B) Segn el nivel de ayuda que ofrece el profesor o grado de autonoma que otorga
al alumno (Mateos 2001).
Una alternativa metodolgica que puede emplearse para lograr los objetivos de la
instruccin metacognitiva, inspirada bsicamente en la filosofa de la transferencia
gradual del control del aprendizaje, concibe al profesor en el papel de modelo y
gua de la actividad cognitiva y metacognitiva del alumno, llevndole poco a poco a
participar de un nivel creciente de competencia y, al mismo tiempo, retirando
paulatinamente el apoyo que proporciona hasta dejar el control del proceso en
manos del estudiante.
Esta metodologa de trabajo supone cuatro etapas:

Instruccin explcita. Mediante este tipo de instruccin, el profesor proporciona

a los alumnos de modo explcito, informacin sobre las estrategias que despus
van a ser practicadas. Esta informacin puede ofrecerse a travs de:
a) Explicacin directa, que debe dar cuenta explcitamente de las estrategias
que se van a ensear y de cada una de sus etapas. La explicacin debe
procurar conocimientos declarativos (saber qu), procedimentales (saber
cmo) y condicionales (saber cundo y por qu). Una mayor conciencia de
estos aspectos de las estrategias puede redundar en una aplicacin ms
flexible de las mismas.
b) Modelado cognitivo. En forma complementaria a la instruccin que se ofrece
a travs de la explicacin del profesor, ste puede modelar la actividad
cognitiva y metacognitiva que lleva a cabo durante la tarea. En este
modelado cognitivo se sustituyen las conductas observables a imitar,
caractersticas del modelado conductual, por acciones cognitivas que son
expresadas verbalmente por el modelo. Se trata de modelar, no slo las
acciones cognitivas implicadas en la tarea, sino tambin las actividades

metacognitivas de planificacin, supervisin y evaluacin de las primeras.


Prctica guiada. Esta prctica se realiza con la colaboracin del profesor quien
acta como gua que conduce y ayuda al alumno en el camino hacia la
autorregulacin. La caracterstica distintiva de esta prctica es el dilogo entre
profesor y alumno, cuyo fin es proporcionar al estudiante ayuda y gua
suficientes para alcanzar metas que quedan fuera de sus posibilidades sin esa

Prctica cooperativa. Proporciona una fuente adicional de andamiaje al

aprendizaje individual. Se lleva a cabo en el contexto de la interaccin con un
grupo de iguales que colaboran para completar una tarea. El control de la
actividad se traslada al grupo para distribuirse entre sus miembros.

Prctica individual. Para aumentar la responsabilidad del alumno se puede

proponer un trabajo individual que puede apoyarse mediante guas de
autointerrogacin, conteniendo las preguntas que uno mismo debe plantearse
para regular su propia actuacin durante la tarea.

A partir de los conceptos vertidos en este artculo, es posible afirmar que la metacognicin es un camino viable para lograr un desarrollo ms pleno de la autonoma
de los estudiantes, reflejndose ste, entre otros aspectos, en un aprendizaje que
trasciende el mbito escolar para proyectarse en la vida de los estudiantes, en un
"aprender a aprender".
A fin de potenciar el desarrollo de la metacognicin, es necesario formar alumnos
ms conscientes y autnomos en sus aprendizajes, sin olvidar el aspecto
motivacional y el contexto apropiado, en el desarrollo de las estrategias de
En esta direccin, es preciso destacar el papel decisivo que juegan los profesores en
el proceso. En efecto, para formar alumnos metacognitivos es necesario contar con
educadores metacognitivos. En pos del cumplimiento de esta meta, los docentes
deben adecuar sus prcticas pedaggicas en el aula, siendo conscientes de sus
potencialidades y limitaciones, planificando, controlando y evaluando, en primer
lugar, sus propias actuaciones docentes. Esta reflexin sobre su propio quehacer
educativo es, quizs, el camino ms prometedor para que los profesores lleguen a
regular de una manera eficaz sus estrategias de enseanza, y puedan aproximarse
al objetivo de "ensear a aprender" a sus estudiantes, orientando el proceso
educativo hacia una autonoma que les conduzca a "aprender a aprender" y
favorezca la transferencia de sus aprendizajes a la cotidianeidad de su vida