The Use of Metacognitive Strategies and the Role of Social Network in Autonomous Learning in 21st Century
par Sunporn Eiammongkhonsakun (Srinakharinwirot University)
[article publié avec l’accord de l’auteur]
9th ICED Conference 2012
Across Globe Higher Education Learning and Teaching
23-25 July 2012 Bangkok, Thailand
This article aims to explain the systematic learning strategies in the autonomous learning of student-centered learning principles by using metacognitive theories. To achieve this, students have to understand the class assignments they receive, consider related background knowledge, lay out their plans, find solutions for problems they encounter to achieve the activities’ goal, and integrate the knowledge and experiences they obtain with the new knowledge they will gain next time. All of these will help students achieve learning autonomy. Metacognitive theories encourage students to have freedom of thought to manage their learning autonomously within the course objectives designed by their teachers. Moreover, regarding the technological advancement in the 21st century, social network seems to be one of the tools to help students attain learning autonomy. Therefore, this article will discuss the role of social network, i.e. Facebook, as a tool to help those students, especially Asian students, who are too shy to express their opinions in front of their peers and teachers. However, one thing teachers might have to take into consideration is whether the use of social network will decrease students’ participation in class or not, and how to solve this problem when technology is merely a classroom that teachers and students can share but can never have a direct interaction.
In the 21st century, information and communication technology (ICT) has constantly been developed and expanded to every population group in a very fast rate. To keep up with this change, we, the educators, need to readjust our teaching plans and strategies in order to motivate our learners and to encourage them to adjust themselves creatively and effectively to this new learning context in order that they can create new bodies of knowledge by themselves. Therefore, the learning strategy of the 21st century can no longer be about memorizing everything in the textbooks since ICT has opened a window to a new era of leaning, where everyone can search for any kind of information through websites like Google or Wikipedia.
As a result, learners need to know how to select information that is beneficial to their study and is consistent with the leaning objectives. In order to do this, learners need to understand and be aware of the objectives of the assigned task before start searching for any information. This can be an unfamiliar process to learners who are used to the old learning style where teachers have already set the learning objectives.
The new learning style emphasizes on learners as the center of the true learning. Its purpose is to create knowledgeable and skilled learners. From direct experiences and researching, using metacognitive strategies and training learners to be interactive to one another before jumping to the conclusion that teachers need to solve the facing problems by themselves seem to decrease learners’ dependence on teachers and promote autonomous learning.
This article aims to present an overall picture of how academic institutes in Thailand create their own curriculum by adapting the Ministry of Education’s Basic Education Core Curriculum 2008 with the 21st century learning framework set by Partnership for 21st Century Skills. This is to show that Thai educators who are involved with education planning are aware of and are trying to promote this new type of 21st century learners. This article also attempts to explain metacognition theory that is related to learning cognition, i.e., learners awareness of what they know and don’t know, how learners can organize their working systematically, how learners can logically solve problems by themselves, and how learners can learn to work in groups to exchange their ideas and come up with new body of knowledge etc. However, since Asian learners are mostly reluctant to speak out in front of either their teachers or their classmates even though they have something to say, the use of one of the ICT tools, web 2.0, or what is widely known as social network, i.e. Facebook, comes in handy because it is popular among teenagers. If teachers are able to utilize this innovation in their teaching context, it can become a useful tool that can encourage interactions between teachers and learners and among learners themselves.
The 21st Educational System’s Framework
Partnership for 21st Century Skills has proposed the 21st century learning framework shown in
Fig 1: The 21st Century Student Outcomes and Support Systems
If we categorize the Thai Basic Education Core Curriculum 2008 implemented by the Ministry of Education to be used with primary and secondary school students according to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills framework, the results are as follows:
Table 1: The Ministry of Education’s 21st Century Curriculum According to Partnership for 21st
|21st century themes||
|Learning and innovationskills||
|Information, media and technology skills||
|Life and career skills||
|21st century supportsystems||21st century Curriculum and Teaching Strategies
Learner development activities are divided into three types as follow:
1. Counseling Activities
These activities are aimed at encouraging and developing learners to know themselves, know how to protect the environment, be able to make decisions, solve problems, set goals and make plans in regard to their education and future careers and adapt themselves appropriately. Furthermore, these activities will enable teachers to know and understand their students and therefore assist and advise parents regarding their participation in learner development.
2. Student Activities
These activities are aimed at instilling self-discipline, ability to lead and follow, teamwork, responsibility, problem-solving ability, appropriate decision-making, rationality, helpfulness and generosity, care, concern and unity. The activities are organized in accord with capacities, aptitudes and interests of learners, who practice the activities at all stages, i.e., study, analysis, planning, plan implementation, evaluation and improvement. Emphasis is given to teamwork as appropriate and consistent with learners’ maturity and school and local contexts.
3. Activities for Social and Public Interest
These activities are aimed at encouraging learners to devote themselves and provide voluntary services for the benefit of society, their communities and local areas in accord with their interests, thus manifesting commitment, virtue, sacrifice for social causes and public- mindedness. They include voluntary services in various fields and those for public interest and concerns.
Even though this curriculum seems to meet the criteria of the Partnership for 21st century framework, what educators should give more attention to is the practicality of the implementation of this curriculum in the school. That is, after such an excellent planning, those who are involved should keep a close eye on the real result so that they could revise any ineffective measures. Jay McTighe and Elliott Seif  asked two interesting questions:
1. How can we effectively integrate a satisfying result for the 21st century with the existing jam-packed curriculum?
2. Which kind of education guidelines or school structures would or would not support the development of the satisfying results for the 21st century?
So, it is very essential that every educator work together to find the answers that would help create and improve education system and the learning process that is up-to-date. This will help create learners who will become valuable resources in the society. Besides the revision of the curriculum, which is a core structure of educational system, the instilling in the learners the skills and characters that will help them learn autonomously is also another important factor that educators should pay attention to. So the metacognition theory that both learners and educators can apply to encourage autonomous learning is proposed.
Metacognition is one of the sciences that scholars have taken into interest since the end of the 20st century. It is a theory that integrates various sciences together, i.e., linguistics, neurology, psychology, cognitive psychology, artificial intelligence, cognition, and contemplation. Its purpose is to give answers to questions like: “How do humans store the knowledge in their brains?;” “How do humans understand language?;” “How do humans understand what they see?;” what psychological processes involve in the interpretation, the cognition, the problem-solving and the strategizing, which are high-level mental processes that involve the control or the managing of the lower-level mental.
Before the 21st century, metacognition is not widely known in the field of education because it lacks clear explanation of the theory and indicators of metacognitive competences. There is also no serious and organized mutual understanding among scholars about this theory.
Metacognition science is a concept about human cognition; an invisible process which happens so fast that it is thought to happen automatically without going under thinking process. So, in the past, the educators had tried to study consequences resulted from this unaware-of-the-process cognition, the understanding level, problems that occurred, and their solutions etc.
In 1974, long before Flavell’s explanation [1976 : 232] of the theory becomes what most scholars refer to, Leclercq & Poumay [2004 : 3], with reference to Carver, divided the assessment of learners’ ability into two dimensions: Psychometric and edumetric. This made the educators start to see the way to develop metacognitive competences.
Flavell [1976 : 232] explains that metacognition is a person’s mental ability to be aware of his thinking process, things that resulted from his thinking process, and other things that might affect his thinking process, such as the characteristic of the data, that is useful for his knowledge acquisition. Metacognition composes of several processes but the main processes are: the controlling, the proceeding to the goal, and the assessment, with the awareness of factors that affects the cognitive process to achieve objectives of specific activities.
Lafortune and St Pierre  suggests the way to apply metacognition science in the classrooms by dividing it into three aspects: metacognitive knowledge, mental activities’ management and recognizability of mental activities. They explain that people who have metacognitive experience are the ones who are able to assess the situation of the tasks they are assigned to do, who are able to say whether the tasks are easy or difficult to understand, who are able to remember or find their ways to achieve the goals they have set. These people are considered to have metacognitive experience, that is, to have the ability of thinking’s reflexion while they are in the middle of the acquisition training activities and mental activities’ management.
There are three types of metacognitive knowledge: the self-knowledge such as knowing one’s own weak and strong points; the knowledge about the tasks ; and the knowledge about various strategies and about when to use which strategy to get the most out of the situation. Mental activities’ management is the ability to effectively choose and apply various strategies that are appropriate to the person’s context in doing different tasks, starting from activities planning, activities supervision and problem solving. Lafortune and St Pierre explain that the planning strategy occurs after learners have studied all the information. Task supervision strategy occurs while learners are examining what they have done to assess the working progress, the effectiveness of different strategies, and the satisfaction of the results. The problem solving occurs after the task supervision to decide whether to continue using the current strategy or to stop using it, or to change to another strategy after knowing the advantages and the disadvantages of the previous strategy. In the end, the recognizability of mental activities is very beneficial for the enhancement of metacognitive knowledge and for the development of thinking skills.
Hence, in each learning context, learners often acquire two roles at the same time: the task participant using cognitive strategies and the activity creator using metacognitive strategies (planning, assessing, and problem solving). Moreover, besides the different bodies of knowledge, teachers should at the same time give importance to the strategies to motivate their learners. Lafortune and St Pierre divide affectivity into five characteristics: attitude, emotion, motivation, attribution and self- confidence. In order to develop learners’ metacognitive competences, teachers should create tasks that encourage learners to freely use their own thinking process. For example, teachers can encourage group discussion or encourage learners to think of the condition of the tasks they are doing (i.e., the knowledge and ability involve in the activities), or encourage learners to examine the context of those tasks. Moreover, to promote autonomous learning, teachers should encourage communications among learners so that they have an opportunity to exchange their ideas and to come up with new bodies of knowledge that can replace old learning style of memorizing everything the teachers say. Teachers can also come up with recreation activities that help create learners’ motivation to learn. For the assessment of learners’ achievement, teachers can use coevaluation strategy by assessing both learners and teachers at the same time or use autoevaluation strategy with the more experienced learners.
Teachers may divide the development of metacognitive competences assessment into two aspects— activity process and level of understanding. By using open-ended questions, teachers may be able to inspire learners to think logically, so that they are able to examine and evaluate what they have learned and done. Below are the examples of metacognitive competences assessment.
Table 2: Metacognitive Competences Assessment
|Level of Understanding||
|• What do you think is difficult and why?• What can you understand very well and why?• Which part do you need to get back to for a better understanding and why?||Compare the results of the expectation of activity process with the actual activity. Explain and discuss the reasons why the results are different.|
|The ability to process group activity:How enthusiastic and how much the students are involved in sharing their ideas.|
|Survey whether learners have thought back about the working process and whether they do the self-assessment and how they do it.|
|Study how learners correct their mistakes and whether they record their mistakes after doing the self-assessment or not.|
To respond to the development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the 21st century, the application of social network like Facebook in the classroom is one of the modern and useful tools that will help motivate learners to participate in the class, especially Asian learners who are reluctant to speak out because they are afraid of embarrassing themselves.
Social network is the grouping of Internet users who have the same interest together. To use social network in the classroom can motivate learners to exchange their ideas with their teachers and classmates even though this exchange only occur in a virtual classroom where the teacher is not in their presence. It encourages learners to speak out, to improve their critical thinking skills, and to work together to create new bodies of knowledge instead of depending on teachers only.
At the present, the scholars are interested in using social network, especially Facebook. They focus on the analysis of learners’ motivation and the benefits teachers and learners will get from this innovation [B. Marchal ; 2009, M. D. Roblyer, M. McDaniel, M. Webb, J. Herman and J. V. Witty; 2010, N. Dogruer, I. Menevis and R. Eyyam ; 2011, A. Nadkarni & S. G. Hofmann ; 2012]. In his article, « Le microblogue ou miniblogue, outil d’interaction quasi simultanée entre apprenant et tuteur » , B. Marchal, who is one of the earlier educators who study the use of Web 2.0 or Facebook in Thai classroom, confirms the benefits of social network. He states that since, whether in a real or virtual classroom, there is always an interaction between teachers and learners and among learners themselves; social network is a very beneficial tool that offers immense resources and leads to the foundation of collective intelligence through each learner personal contribution.1
The first reason for this is the time constraint. In the present world of ICT, millions of information are available for learners to gain access to and they need to be able to choose them appropriately and fast. Moreover, the fact that learners are able to convey their thoughts in a few sentences through their mobile phones or notebooks is considered the true reflection from them. Also, learners these days read less and less. So for them to search for the information they want from Web 2.0, which is considered convenient and is the biggest resources, is the way to practice their reading strategies and skills. They learn to see and understand the big picture and then narrow their understanding down to specific information that they are looking for.
The application of social network in the classroom encourages autonomous learning. Learners are assigned to do continuous activities that teachers have already planned in advance. These activities come with different conditions and limitations to make learners practice how to plan, gather their thoughts, and solve the problems. Besides, in stead of the old style of learning through textbooks or teaching materials, working on Web 2.0 creates new, colorful and creative learning atmosphere and helps encourage learners to express their opinion. And since Web 2.0 is considered a networking activity, teachers can also persuade learners to find additional information from different websites and to consult with their classmates to work together in order to achieve their goals of learning.
1 Translation from French.
Overall, to practice metacognitive competence skills makes learners learn logically and systematically, thus encourage learners’ autonomy. So social network is considered one of the tools that help learners improve this important learning skill. However, this 21st century technology also plays two opposing roles that educators should be aware of. That is, while social network is a useful tool to encourage interactions between teachers and learners outside the classroom, it can also
discourage face-to-face interactions in the real classroom. Therefore, the encouragement of autonomous learning among Asian learners cannot stop at the use of ICT only. Educators still need to work together to come up with the real way to motivate learners to express their opinion. This is to help create autonomous learning environment where teachers are merely moderator and not sole knowledge transmitters.
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